There are thousands of international students in the UK. More specifically, this number is steadily increasing every year. This is why we have decided to provide a few (dozen) tips for international students in the UK, to prepare them for the wonders they will experience while at this study destination, and ensure they are fully prepared for anything that might come their way. Are you an international student in the UK? Let’s go through these tips together!
First things first, according to the latest statistics, there are around 458,520 international students pursuing their degrees in UK universities. The UK government has estimated that 276,889 Tier 4, Sponsored Study Visas were granted in the year ending September 2019, which means 16% increase in comparison to last year. It is settled, the numbers are growing, and this means, you are not alone in this! Many other people have gone through this before, so all you need to do is follow through our tips and start studying!
Here are a few tips for international students in the UK:
1. Accommodation Options for International Students in the UK
Initially, you should have a general idea as to where you want to live. This will make it easier for you to narrow down the field of options and find accommodation quicker. Simply start browsing the internet, where you can find numerous websites offering housing in the UK. In addition, you can check the rent prices and, afterwards, compare and decide which place is more convenient for you. There are also numerous online student forums where you can ask people who have gone through the same things for advice.
You should also check if there are any dormitories available. There are usually not enough places for every student in university dormitories, however, there are private dormitories which offer budget-friendly prices and enough comfort. Before renting a flat, it is important you give priority to dormitories, since they are cheaper and offer similar conditions as university dorms.
Keep in mind, however, that the rent prices are higher in urban areas in comparison to the suburbs. But even if you do opt for housing in the suburbs, there are public transport options available you can use to get from one place to the other. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of London will cost you about £1,646 monthly. Meanwhile, you can find the same apartment in the suburbs for around £1,185. Now, it’s up to you whether you will choose to live in university dorms, private dorms, apartments, or get a room in private houses.
2. Tips on Safety for International Students in the UK
As a very popular tourist and study destination, many people wonder whether the UK is a safe place to live in. Generally, the UK is a safe country, ranked 45th as the safest among 163 countries. It has also been acknowledged with a high state of peace in the Global Peace Index 2019. However, just like in other generally safe countries, there are always things you should be cautious about. A few safety tips you should keep in mind when you land in the UK are:
Learn the emergency numbers: When you arrive in the UK, if you want to contact the Ambulance, Fire Department and Police, simply dial 999 or 112.
Get health insurance: Check with the health authorities to see whether any treatment is available for you in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS). If not, get health insurance before you head towards the UK.
Be cautious of pick-pocketing: Pick-pocketing is quite common in crowded places or urban areas. Make sure to remain attentive of your surroundings, and be careful if you notice any unusual behaviour, since pick-pockets often work in teams.
Avoid dark and empty streets: Make sure to avoid dark and empty streets when you are alone, especially during the night. Take a licensed cab or use public transport, since it’s always better to stay on the safe side.
3. Using Public Transport in the UK
The majority of the population use public transport in the UK. It is generally safe, efficient, and comprehensive. You can use different modes of public transport such as the railroad system, buses, or licensed taxis.
The railway system: In London, one of the most efficient ways to travel is through the underground or overground stations. The railway system in the UK is the oldest in the world, and different companies maintain the national and regional networks.
Coaches or buses: You can also use coaches or buses as a budget-friendly way of traveling around. And you will get a pretty nice view!
Taxis: Taxis are an easier alternative if you are traveling from one place to another with a luggage, or simply want to get somewhere faster. Always make sure you are using a licensed cab.
4. Working in the UK while being an International Student
The UK, although one of the most popular study destinations, is also quite demanding in terms of expenses. That is why many international students decide to work while also being enrolled in degree programmes. However, how much you are allowed to work or the rules you should abide by, all depend on your visa restrictions as well as the university you’re enrolled in. These working rules are only for students who come from a country outside of the EU/EEA, since citizens of EU/EEA or Switzerland do not need permission to work in the UK while studying. You can’t work in the UK without a Tier 4 (General 4) visa.
Keep in mind that all conditions (including the number of hours you can work) are printed in your Tier 4 Visa. There are certain jobs you are not allowed to do while being a student in the UK, such as being self-employed or work as a freelancer, get a full-time permanent job, initiate a business activity, or work as an entertainer. However, the jobs most common for students in the UK, are:
- Student Support Officer
- Sales Assistant
- Pizza Delivery Driver
- Personal Assistant
- Sport Facilities Worker
- Customer Assistant
- Admission Officer
- Facilities Assistant
6. Healthcare for International Students in the UK
The UK is home to one of the most popular health systems, known as the National Health Service (NHS). International students in the UK must be equipped with health insurance in order to benefit from the health care institutions in the UK without having to worry about medical costs. The health insurance you can acquire depends on the length of your study programme. More specifically, if you’re going to be in the UK for a period of more than 6 months, then you will be eligible for access to the National Health Service, meaning you will have the same healthcare benefits as the other residents of the UK. In addition, if your study programme is less than 6 months, then you will have to take out private health insurance before you leave your country.
When you enter the UK, you should be aware of the free-of-charge medical services you will benefit from if you have access to NHS. Some of them are:
- Consulting your GP (General Practitioner)
- Hospital treatment in Accident or Emergency services
- Hospital treatment recommended by your GP
- Maternity services
- Contraceptive services
Make sure you choose a GP practice and register with it as soon as you arrive in the UK. Choose one that is convenient for you (with regards to services, facilities, performance, and location). You can visit your GP for any health concerns you might have and they will advise you on what you should do.
7. Learning the UK Culture and Social Norms
Everyone entering a new country should initially get acquainted with their culture and social norms. Even though you can learn everything slowly once you start living in the UK, let’s go through some of the basics.
Punctuality: The first thing you should know is that the British are very punctual. Being late is considered odd and might even be perceived as rude. It is important to let the person know beforehand in case you’re going to be late.
Behaviour: The British highly respect the elders and the disabled. Meaning, if you are using public transport, it is important that you give up your seat to the elders or someone who is disabled. If you see a disabled person struggling, it is expected to ask them whether they need any help.
Privacy: The British are known to be value their privacy a lot. Therefore, it is essential that you think twice before asking any private questions since it might look like you’re prying.
Invitations: If you are invited into the house of a British person, it is normal that you bring a gift along, such as chocolate, flowers, or wine. In addition, if someone invites you to dinner in a restaurant, they are typically the ones who pay. Do not argue about the responsibility, rather you can ask them to dinner some other time and reciprocate.
Clothing: When it comes to clothing, the UK’s trends are quite similar to western clothing trends. You can find similar clothing styles across the UK. A typical clothing element of the British is the tweed jacket, closely resembling a suit jacket, but it is less formal and keeps you warm. In addition, Scotland is known for its famous national attire, the kilt.
Music: Artist from the UK have played an important role in the European and global music. Some of the most well-known British composers in classical music include the likes of Thomas Tallis, Benjamin Britten, Edward Elgar, William Byrd, and more. Oh, and the famous English rock band, The Beatles, was founded in Liverpool in the year 1960.
Food: Some of the most common foods in the UK include: Fish and chips, Eccles cake, Sunday Roast with Yorkshire pudding, Laverbread, Shepherd pie, Black pudding, Scotch eggs, and a whole lot more.
8. The Places You Should Visit While in the UK
Although the UK is full of destinations you can visit (there is something worth seeing in every corner), there are a few places you should definitely visit once you arrive in the UK and have some free time. Some of them include:
London: There is just so much to see in London. I mean, the Beatles Crosswalk, taking a double-decker tour, visiting the Leavesden Studios where the majority of Harry Potter movies were filmed. Need I say more?
Bristol: This is just such a beautiful destination, and it is also the birthplace of the famous contemporary artist, Banksy. You will find three of this artist’s murals in Bristol.
Canterbury: The Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it will definitely be worth your visit.
Liverpool: Home of two of the most famous English football teams, Everton and Liverpool. And it’s where The Beatles formed in 1960.
Stratford-upon-Avon: Now, wouldn’t you like to see the hometown of Shakespeare? It’s where you can find his grave-stone, his daughter’s home, and his mother’s childhood home.