Moving to a new country to start university can be a daunting prospect. Not only are you faced with all the same challenges as every other student (Will I like my course? Will I find friends easily? Can I cope with the workload?), you also have to combat the additional trials and tribulations that come with being in a country where the customs, language and food may be unfamiliar to you.
It can however, be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. You’ll meet lots of new people, gain insight into a new culture, and experience lots of new things.
Before we get into details, it’s worth pointing out that you should do as much of your own research as you can before you move. The more information you have, the easier your transition will be.
If you have any friends, family, or friends-of-friends already living in the UK or who have studied there before, they should be your first port of call. Ask them as many questions as they can handle, and anything you’re still unsure about, don’t be afraid to contact your university directly. If all else fails, try google!
Here are our top ten tips to help you prepare for your new adventure.
Making sure you have the correct visa should be a top priority. Obtaining the correct visa can take a long time, so be prepared for this and start the process early.
At the moment, students coming from the EU don’t need a visa to study in the UK. However, this could change as a result of the UK voting to leave the European Union. So, make sure to keep an eye on any changes regarding this.
If you are coming from a non-EU country, it’s likely you’ll need what is called a Tier 4 Student Visa. For more information on this type of visa, visit https://www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa.
The best place for international students to go when looking for accommodation is the university itself. They understand that international students might find this process more difficult, and usually have information guides and dedicated staff for this very purpose.
It might be a good idea to live in university accommodation during your first year. This sort of shared living can be ideal as you are able to make friends through shared living spaces and kitchen facilities, but will also have your own privacy with a lock on your door if you need space.
If you prefer to look for accommodation away from the student campus, the university will be able to point you in the right direction, and give you contact details for local student lettings companies.
For more advice on finding the right accommodation for you, look out for our guide to viewing student accommodation coming soon!
Hopefully, you won’t need to worry about access to healthcare during your stay. However, it’s always good to know how to access healthcare, just in case.
If you are from Europe, you should have (or be able to obtain) a European Health Insurance Card from your own country. This will entitle you to free or reduced healthcare under the National Health Service.
If you are coming from a non-EU country, you will need to ensure you have health insurance before you arrive in the UK. Once you have insurance, you will be able to ask your university about local doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. We suggest you find this information out as soon as you arrive, so that you don’t get stuck if you need urgent care.
We recommend that you try to set up a bank account in the UK for the duration of your stay. This will make paying for things much less stressful and it will avoid any foreign currency charges.
In order to set up a bank account in the UK, make sure you have the following things ready:
- Identification – a passport is usually required.
- Proof of address – both from back home and within this country. Documents such as bills are acceptable.
- Proof of income – this may mean a credit check and interview to establish you will be able to maintain the account.
- Proof of your student status –usually, the confirmation letter from your university is enough.
Student bank accounts are a great option, as they offer numerous benefits including an interest free overdraft of up to £2,000. Not all banks offer student bank accounts to international students, but you’ll still be able to open a regular current account.
You should make sure to check the stipulations of your visa. This will tell you whether your visa allows you to work alongside your studies or not.
Usually, if you’re from a non-EU country, you are able to work up to 20-hours per week. However, the terms of student visas are subject to changes all the time, so it’s worth keeping up to date with the rules.
If you’re from an EU country, you are usually free to work as many hours as you wish. However, given the decision to leave the European Union, this may change as of 2018.
6. Using your phone
Obviously you’ll want to use your phone to keep in touch with friends and family back home, and to contact your new friends at university.
It’s likely that your current phone will work in the UK. However, it’s worth checking this out before you leave home. For example, if you are coming from Japan or South America, your phone may not work in the UK.
If your phone doesn’t work it could be worth investing in a new one. Alternatively, you can just get a new SIM card for your current phone. New Pay As You Go (PAYG) SIM cards can usually be ordered online and are completely free. Alternatively, you can visit a local phone shop when you arrive.
Our top tip for saving money is to use free calling apps like Whatsapp, Skype, FaceTime, and Viber.
7. Getting around
Getting around in a new country can be a daunting prospect.
If you are travelling locally, look into getting a student bus pass, as travelling by bus is likely the best, and most cost-effective way, of getting around. Stagecoach, a bus company in the UK, offer a year long pass called a UniRider. For more information, visit https://www.stagecoachbus.com/promos-and-offers/national/unirider.
If you are travelling further afield, coach and train are your best options. If you are considering the train, try to book tickets online as early as possible as they become more expensive the closer you get to your departure date. Coaches are cheaper than trains, but they take longer. The Megabus have journey’s starting at £1 though, so it could be a good option!
If you need assistance, anyone working at local stations will be more than happy to help. Even the bus drivers themselves will let you know if they are going where you need to be.
8. Prepare for British weather
If you are coming from a country with a warm climate, don’t forget to pack warm clothes! The UK weather can be unpredictable, and can change from day to day. Even in summer it can get quite cold.
9. Get involved
Meeting new people can be difficult, especially when you are busy getting to grips with a new country.
We suggest getting involved with societies and clubs at your university. During Freshers’ week there will be a fair dedicated to university societies. This will have all the information about university clubs in one place, so it’s worth finding out when this will be.
Other ways of meeting new people can be to look for groups on Facebook, keeping an eye on the notice boards around your university, and chatting to people with whom you share lectures and seminars.
People in the UK are very friendly and open to meeting new people, so don’t be afraid to get talking. Remember, your fellow students are in the same boat as you, and they will be just as anxious to meet new friends as you are.
10. Be yourself and enjoy
Our final piece of advice is to simply be yourself and enjoy your time at university. If you have followed our advice so far, you’ll settle into your new life quickly and will be able to start enjoying yourself!
Do you need some advice on studying at a UK University? Check out our blog: ‘Top 10 Study Tips for International Students’.