If you’re planning to move to the United Kingdom for university this September, you won’t be alone. Research suggests that around half a million international students move to the UK every year to take advantage of our award-winning universities, and with great nightlife and culture to explore, there are so many ways to broaden your horizons outside the classroom.
But before you jump on the plane and make the move to the UK, have a read of this…
As soon as your place has been confirmed at university, organise your accommodation for the year ahead. Good quality student housing goes fast - so if you want to secure a modern and comfortable apartment or house share, you’ll need to be quick. Speak to your university and ask them for advice on the right housing for your needs, and consider making a visit to check out the accommodation if needs be. Some universities even offer accommodation for international students so that you can make friends and live with students in your position.
Although university-run accommodation means you’ll be living on campus and perhaps even have some of your meals cooked for you, accommodation off-site is often cheaper and affords you more flexibility. Decide whether you want to start university life in a relaxing manner or be thrown in at the deep end in a house share - both have their pros and cons.
Moving to the United Kingdom from another country can be daunting, and getting to grips with the culture and way of life won’t happen overnight. The good news is that university towns and cities are incredibly diverse, and you won’t be the only international student, but that doesn’t mean you can’t integrate and make British friends from day one. Check out your university website for tips on making acquaintances - some set up specific Facebook groups.
On a more literal note, life in the UK might be colder and wetter than what you’re used to, so be sure to pack lots of jumpers, coats, and trousers for when you’re travelling around town.
Next up, you’ll need to decide whether you want to take out a health insurance policy. Whilst the NHS is available to UK citizens for free, international students will need to pay for their treatment. The good news is that students from the EU or EEA only need to bring their EHIC - that’s European Health Insurance Card - to gain access to free or reduced-cost healthcare, but this may change post-Brexit. Speak to your university for advice on the specifics. If you are coming from outside of the EU, you’ll need to take out a full health insurance policy. It may be expensive, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind should you need medical attention.
Although most banks offer international payments, it makes sense to open a UK-based bank account. Not only will you save money on expensive foreign exchange and ATM charges, but you’ll find it easier to set up accounts for your bills and take advantage of your student discount. Unfortunately, setting up a bank account as an international student can take some time, and it’s not possible to do so without being in the United Kingdom and having a fixed address. Make this a top priority when you arrive and have all of your necessary details to hand - including passport, proof of address, and a bank statement from your home country.
Bear in mind that many international banks, including HSBC, will allow you to convert your existing account into a UK-based account for the duration of your studies, and some student accounts offer exciting perks such as free gym membership or discounts on meals out.
Unless you’re planning on staying in serviced apartments or halls of residence, the chances are that you’ll be living in a house with other people. This is a great way to immerse yourself into student life and make new friends, but it can come with challenges. One is that you’ll need to split the bills - everything from gas and electricity to broadband and water - between housemates. Although you could each pay for a particular service, the best thing is to look at a student bills package, where each member of your household pays a share of the bills. What’s more, some services, including Billing Better, offer free Amazon Prime membership.
There you have it - our top tips for starting university as an international student. Wherever you’re coming from, we wish you the very best of luck with your studies. Safe travels!