This is a guest post by Roman Winter, an aspiring freelance writer with a love for fashion, property and finance.
Moving away from the security of your family home to go to University can be a daunting prospect for any student, but it’s compounded tenfold when you’ve chosen to study as an international student in a foreign country. 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 are probably alien to you.
There are many things you can do before embarking on your journey as an international student that can help ease you into UK life. Here are what we consider as some of the top things to consider before you arrive in the UK.
5 Top And Best Tips For International Students Studying in UK
1. Ensure that you have the correct visa
Whilst this might seem like an obvious one, it’s something that is commonly overlooked and the last thing you want is to be stopped before you even set foot in the UK! If you’re coming to study from a country that is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), then you’re currently covered under Free Movement, but you’ll need to apply for a European Health Insurance Card to entitle you to access to the NHS. If, however, you’re applying to study in the UK from a country outside of this area, you’ll need to make sure your student visa is obtained well in advance of your arrival. Usually, you’ll need a tier 4 visa for most forms of study, but if your chosen course happens to be less than 6 months in duration then you may be eligible for a Student Visitor Visa instead. The easiest way to check this is to consult a specialist immigration service, or to speak to your course provider as many institutions now have international coordinators to help with the logistics of your move, and may even help with some of the paperwork for your visa application. You may also want to ask them about any additional paperwork you’ll need if you’re considering working in the UK while you study.
2. Do your research
Researching the town that you’ll be living and studying in is incredibly important, especially if you have applied to multiple places and are trying to decide. Whilst it’s important to integrate into the local area, you may want to find out if there are societies or groups within the area that are of your home nationality to help with your transition into UK life. These groups could be regular meetings, or they could just be an online group or forum, but they can provide excellent support directly from others who have been through the same experience, as well as giving guidance on cultural differences that you might not have considered. Finding local versions of your hobbies in advance can also help with getting you settled since you can continue with activities you enjoy. If you like football, find a local team to join, if you like dance then find a local class to attend – it’s extremely likely that there will be something available close to you where you can socialise with like minded people who have the same interests.
Again, this is a basic point that is so often missed. In line with your research, make sure you look into the areas on offer for accommodation. If you’re choosing not to live on campus in the student accommodation provided, you’ll need to find somewhere that’s close enough to your college or university or has easily accessible transport routes. An additional point to consider is whether the area is pleasant and has all the things you need in terms of amenities. When you’ve found somewhere suitable, make sure you have the relevant deposits in place to secure your living space in advance of your arrival to minimise the stress of moving. If you’re going to be sharing a house or apartment, ask your landlord or accommodation provider for an introduction to your prospective room mates in advance so that you can introduce and familiarise yourselves. As you’ll be looking to travel overseas, transferring your goods can be tricky as you’re most likely to need more than you can carry. Look to use baggage solutions that makes things easier for you so you get your belongings transported safety and cost effectively for when you do arrive.
4. Banking and financial matters
You will probably have considered your finances and how you’re going to fund your studies, but there are finer financial points that need to be considered. Different banks will offer varying rates and fees to transfer money in and out of UK based accounts. There may also be incentives on offer specifically for international students to entice you to open an account. You’ll need to make sure that these aren’t solely for new accounts and that you won’t encounter large fees further down the line, especially if you’re studying on a course that is due to last a number of years. Before you even get to that point, though, most UK banks have extremely stringent policies on opening an account as a foreign national, so make sure you have all the documentation that you’ll need. This usually includes your passport, proof of address both in the UK and at home, proof of your status as a student (such as acceptance letter) and proof of your income or means to sustain the account. There may also be support available in the form of bursaries, scholarships or funding so it’s worth checking if you fit the application criteria for these if they are available.
5. Calling and traveling home
When you’re still in the process of settling in, home sickness can kick in big time so you’ll need to make sure you have the means to get in touch with family and friends back home for emotional support. The main UK phone networks have deals with international operators, which means that your existing mobile phone will likely work in the UK. This can, however, be incredibly expensive as it often incurs additional charges. The best option is usually to take out a UK based mobile phone contract that has a good provision of data, which will allow you to use FaceTime on Apple products, or Skype on all internet enabled devices. Skype is a fantastic way to keep in touch, and is usually a preferred method of international communication as it’s easy to set up and use. There are, however, low cost international call operators such as Lebara, LycaMobile and RebTel that offer exceptional rates on international calling, some of which are from under 1p per minute of call time.