Are you an international student heading to the UK for university?
Congratulations on getting into university! I know starting university can be scary, especially away from home and somewhere with a totally different culture. We have compiled a list of advice to help you through this journey, from one international student to another!
Reading university reviews from fellow students who were once in your shoes will help you set realistic expectations about what your university is like. There is nothing more helpful right now than hearing how real students have found university life. In fact, prospective students say student reviews are the second most important source of information about a university. Check out the StudentCrowd homepage to find the most comprehensive reviews of UK universities. You can search reviews for all aspects of university life, including course, accommodation and location.
There are group chats for everything! The university and Students’ Union are there to ensure that you have a smooth transition so make sure you join group chats to find people who are in your flat, course or even the same city as you!
A lot of universities and Students’ Unions have dedicated networks and societies for international students. Join them and find like-minded individuals who might be from where you are or if you wish to learn more about various cultures! They tend to put on meet and greets and various activities throughout the year to help those who might be feeling a bit homesick.
Be sure to check your specific move-in date as it varies from hall-to-hall, and also check the quarantine restrictions. If you’re arriving from a red list country, you might need to quarantine in a managed hotel. If you’re arriving from an amber list country, you might be able to quarantine in halls. Your university might reimburse you for the costs of hotel quarantine or test costs, so make sure to check your university’s policies here.
Getting your documents ready is so important when you arrive at immigration. Double check the paperwork required for your country to ensure a smooth journey. Top tip: they may ask you which university you are attending, what course you will be doing and how are you getting there, so familiarise yourself with those bits of information! Also don’t forget to register with your local county’s police station as an international student within 7 days, as your visa letter advises.
Some paperwork may include but is not limited to:
- Visa application
- Proof of acceptance
- Valid passport
- Tuberculosis test results
- Biometric information
- Accommodation information
Accommodation providers usually supply a list of items that come with the flat/house. In university halls, they usually provide a kettle, ironing board and pillows, whereas private housing might not come with a kettle, microwave or toaster. Make sure to check the list so you don’t overpack when arriving from your home country. If you haven’t secured your accommodation yet, we can help! StudentCrowd lists every single accommodation available for every city and town in the UK. Check out the reviews to get the low-down on where other international students are staying and how they have found it. Watch these students talk about their own experiences of accommodation in the UK. Not sure about the different types of accommodation available? We explain everything here.
When it comes to travelling on the train and National Express buses, make sure to get a railcard and a coachcard for your age group as you can save ⅓ of the costs on journeys. UNiDAYS and Student Beans also provide free student discounts on shops and eateries such as Pizza Express, ASOS, Microsoft and more! All you have to do is sign up for free.
Undoubtedly, this adventure will be rocky at times, so it is very important to stay connected with your support network back home, no matter if they’re your parents, friends or family members. But know you’re not alone. Most likely, another international student is in the same boat as you are. Universities also provide support services for students if they wish to seek advice on homesickness and other situations.
University is the perfect chance to start fresh and broaden your horizons. Learn your university-specified lingo, as well as phrases in the English language that might be wacky! Go grab fish and chips from the chip shop on a Friday, or try out a Sunday roast. If you need extra support with the English language, whether that's constructing an essay or just improving your conversational English, there is an English centre in most universities to help you out!
It would make your life so much easier to have a UK bank account. The typical high street student bank accounts are provided by Santander, HSBC, NatWest, Halifax and some others. Student bank accounts usually come with perks or discounts when signing up.
You might need these documents (not an exclusive list):
- Visa application
- Proof of address: utility bill or letters from the university confirming your address
Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things! Everyone is in the same boat: everyone is a fresher or they have been a fresher. University is the time to explore outside your comfort zone, and guess what? If you don’t like that new thing, try another! There is always something to do on campus, whether that’s joining a social sports league or playing in a band.
Extra tip: don’t raise your hand to order at a restaurant. The person serving you will come to your table once you start looking around or look like you’re ready to order.
Most importantly, have fun! You know you have worked hard to get to where you are and this will be a life-changing experience. Make the most of it and who knows, you might be giving this advice to the next batch of freshers!
Author: Rachel Wan, Digital Marketing Placement Student