Besides picking a program, the hardest part about studying abroad in London is deciding when to come. Of course, I’m an overachiever so I studied abroad in London all four seasons so you didn’t have to. The good news is that they’re all good times, obviously. But here’s how ‘the best time to study abroad in London’ breaks down.
If your school is on the quarter system, you may have a winter term. This would be sometime from December through February. Now, you’re not going to get amazing weather in London that time of year, but London winters do tend to be mild, so it’s unlikely you’ll be stuck under 3 feet of snow either. It will get also get dark very early in the day, around 3pm in the depths of winter.
That being said, London leaves up its Christmas decorations a bit into January, and London at Christmas is the place to be. Hyde Park hosts their annual “Winter Wonderland” festival, the Southbank turns into a Christmas market, Oxford Street is all lit up, and you can experience Christmas shopping at Harrods!
You may also see a bit of snow, especially if you’re here in January or February. While it may not be ideal for sightseeing in your shorts and tank top, it will give you an excuse to pull out your city chic winter fashion and spend a lot of time in pubs keeping warm.
The Spring Semester for most schools is January or February to April or May. Spring was my favorite time of year to study abroad in London, as the days continued getting lighter and warmer. It will still very much be winter when you arrive, but by April the parks should start to be in bloom and if you’re lucky enough to stay until May, the flowers are gorgeous across the city.
The city wakes up a little in the Spring, coming out of that winter hibernation, and more outdoor activities and festivals are held around town. You’ll have your full choice of attractions and museums as everything should be open as normal.
And if you take a trip out into the countryside, you can experience the wonder that is baby lamb season! Cute lambs all around (to play with, not to eat. Don’t be horrible).
London in the summer will give you the best weather, hands down. There are tons of things to do in London in the summer, especially in August.
While there may be a few scorching days here and there, summers are also (usually) pleasantly warm during the day and mild at night (and let’s face it, what British people consider scorching is anytime the sun is close to being out.) Day trips to the coast are actually worthwhile for a few months, as opposed to being a sad reminder of how cold the water is.
Summer in London also has a wide variety of music festivals you can’t get any other time of year, and the Buckingham Palace opens its doors to visitors starting in late July for a few months only. ‘Pop-up’ shops and restaurants are common, and the city goes crazy over Wimbledon and other summer sports.
The downside to studying abroad in the summer is that it can get crowded with tourists, and you will also probably have to experience the tube during rush hour on a hot day which is the closest this city gets to hell on earth.
“Fall” isn’t used in the UK as much as “autumn,” but it’s all the same! This semester usually starts in September and goes until right before Christmas. It will be opposite of Spring term, so you’ll get good weather and longer days when you get here and it will get increasingly colder and darker.
That being said, you’ll also get to experience London’s Christmas spirit before you go, so while the weather might not be amazing, the festivities will! You can also enjoy Fireworks (or Bonfire) night in November, a UK holiday celebrated with bonfires, cook-outs, and fireworks.
This can be a tough semester to be abroad because it means returning to school in the spring during the same school year. Going from living the London life to living your normal college life can be shocking, and even more so when you are jumping into the year midstream. But London has plenty of Thanksgiving celebrations for Americans looking for them, and the photos you’ll get of the parks in the fall will be incredible enough to make up for any downsides.