The Ultimate International Student Checklist: A UK University Departure Guide
So you’re planning to come to the UK to study, either as part of your course as a year abroad, or for the full undergraduate international
student experience. Leaving home and travelling abroad to live and study can be stressful, emotional but a potentially life changing experience.
You will likely be leaving friends and family behind to embark on a journey to an unknown country in order to broaden your horizons and study,
so before uprooting your life for months or even years, there are plenty of things to plan and consider before leaving home!
Confirm your place on the course
First things first, you will have had a formal offer or acceptance from the university, make sure that you are 100% confirmed on the right course
at the right university. Get in touch with the administrators or admissions office to get your place secured – you wouldn’t want to travel thousands of
miles only to find that you haven’t formally confirmed your place on the course! UCAS are a
great additional resource for general international student information.
More on general budgeting later, but paying tuition fees is clearly going to be crucial and it’s important that you know how much these will be, when they’re
due to be paid, if you can pay in instalments etc etc. You will normally have to pay the first instalment of the tuition fees in order to secure your
registration on the course. The UK Council for International Student Affairs have an excellent guide on this here.
All international students who will spend more than six months on a course of study in the UK, except those travelling on EU or EEA passports, will need to
gain permission to enter the UK as a student. Nationals of some countries will need a visa even if their course lasts less than six months. Each country will
have slightly different rules and regulations so please check with your local authority and the UK Border Agency
to ensure you are travelling and living legally.
Depending on the length and conditions of your course, you may be entitled to university accommodation. Some universities even have designated international
student accommodation blocks or areas, to help you integrate and settle into the university culture more easily. Check with your university to see if you are
entitled to a room on campus, and what the costs involved with this might be. Alternatively, for those students who prefer a more independent lifestyle or those
who cannot be offered a place in university accommodation, there is a range of accommodation available within the private sector. Be prepared to provide references
and a deposit to secure private accommodation. Most universities will have a list of trustworthy letting agencies in the local area and some sort of Student
Housing Centre, so if you’re stuck this should be your first port of call.
The larger halls of residence can be lively places with many opportunities for social activity, where as the smaller halls will be quieter and with fewer distrations.
The UK can be an expensive place to live, so it is helpful to research some of the living costs before you arrive. If you need to apply for entry clearance,
you will need to show evidence that you have enough money to support yourself and any dependants in the UK. It is difficult to predict exactly how much money you will
need as every student is different (see the International Student Calculator), but the following information is intended to give you some guidance based on a single
person living in self-catered accommodation. These costs do not include entertainment/socialising as this is an individual expense, but you should research these costs
yourself and decide how much you think you will need for these expenses. Naturally expenses will be significantly higher if you are accompanied by a dependant family member,
use a mobile phone extensively, socialise a lot, smoke or purchase a car. A lot of universities have pages on their websites which cover living costs in the local
area and compare to the national average, for example here.
Costs per week:
- Accommodation: GBP 79.80 - GBP 161.00 (depending on choice)
- Food: GBP 30 - 40
- Toiletries: GBP 5
- Telephone: GBP 5
- Travel: GBP 10
- TV licence: GBP 3
- Sports/societies: GBP 5
- Laundry: GBP 5
- Books/equipment: GBP 10
- Insurance: GBP 3
- Gifts: GBP 5
- Clothes/shoes: GBP 5
- Basic costs total: GBP 162.30 - GBP 254.01 approximately
Booking your flight
Once your place at the university is confirmed and you have obtained your visa or entry clearance if this is required, book your flight to the UK. Most international
flights to the UK arrive at either London Heathrow or London Gatwick, but some do arrive at Manchester or Glasgow. If you are arriving from a European destination there
will be more options to fly into a regional airport, which might be closer to your university destination. When choosing a flight, consider what time you will arrive in
the UK, the distance between the airport and your destination, and how you plan to travel there.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has a list of trusted transport and aviation partners to help you plan your journey.
Airlines have strict guidelines on the amount of luggage passengers can take on board an aircraft, so a cost effective and flexible way to transport personal belongings
overseas is to use a shipping service. Determine which essential items you will need in the UK, calculate how much size and weight these items will take, and then get a
number of quotes from shipping companies. Some shipping companies offer discounts for students so undertake your research carefully, excess baggage can be very expensive!
What to bring
Do not bring too much! You can buy bedding, towels, household items, crockery (plates, glasses etc.), hairdryer etc. after arrival in local supermarkets quite cheaply.
Students in the UK dress very casually (jeans and T-shirts) and you will be able to buy extra clothes in town and city centres. Bring a few reminders of home, e.g.
photographs of family and friends. Do not bring food. Bringing meat, milk and other animal products from outside the EU is banned by HM Revenue and Customs.
Insurance and Healthcare
We advise students to arrange travel insurance and cover for your personal property. We recommend that you get separate insurance for your personal belongings once
you arrive in the UK. If your course lasts less than six months, you will not be entitled to free healthcare under the National Health Service (NHS). There are exceptions;
for example, if you are from a country with which the UK has a bilateral healthcare agreement. If you need private healthcare insurance, you should arrange this before
you arrive in the UK.
Open a bank account
Why open a bank account?
Safety and security: It is not a good idea to carry lots of cash with you and a bank account will give you more security for your finances.
For visa purposes: If you need to extend your current visa or apply for a new visa you will need to show financial evidence to prove that you have enough money to live in the UK. Having a UK bank account helps you to do this quickly and easily.
Paying for tuition and accommodation fees: If you need to transfer money from your home country, it is much easier and safer if you have a bank account in the UK.
For a part-time job: Many businesses pay salaries directly into a bank account and there may be bank charges to pay this into an overseas account.
How to open a bank account
International students are temporary residents in the UK. This means that you may not have the same access to banking services as you do at home. Normally you
will only be able to open one student bank account.
To make it easier to open a bank account we suggest you:
- Start looking at bank accounts in the UK before you arrive so that you can decide which bank account you would like to open as soon as you arrive.
- Speak to your bank in your home country before you leave. Ask their advice about opening a bank account in the UK.
- Ask if your bank at home has a special relationship with a bank in the UK and whether they can help you with setting up an account or in any other way.
- Find out if you can use a cash card from your bank account in UK cash machines.
For visa purposes you are advised to open a bank account which can provide you with monthly paper statements. It is important to keep all your bank statements
whilst in the UK and make sure that you tell your bank if you change address.
And....Embrace the opportunity!
There are plenty of social clubs and activities you can get involved in whilst at University in the UK. A great way to get to know people is to go round the
Fresher's fair which are usually held on the end weekend of Fresher's week. These advertise all the clubs and societies the University has to offer and caters for
everyone's tastes. Most universities also have a Fresher's fair solely for International Students.