Leaving your loved ones to move to university can be a daunting task for any student, but can be an even bigger challenge for those who chose to move abroad and become an international student. Not only will you be faced with the typical challenges of student life, you will also have to deal with the additional challenges that come from being in a completely new country.
There are several things you need to tackle before you set off on your new educational journey as an international student that will help ease you into the British life. So, to give you a helping hand, we’ve listed some of the top tips to consider before arriving in your new country.
1. Get Your Visa Right
This may seem like a given, but it is so commonly overlooked that it needs to be mentioned! The last thing you want to do is not be able to get into the country and waste endless hours getting your immigration status in order. As a non-EU member, you’ll need to make sure you sort out your student visa well before you arrive. You will likely need to obtain a tier 4 visa for your study, unless your course is less than 6 months long, in which case you will be eligible for a Student Visitor Visa instead.
It is always best to check with an immigration service or speak to your chosen university’s student services team. You’ll find that most universities have international coordinators who are there to help you with the logistics of your paperwork, application and move as a whole.
2. Research! Research! Research!
You need to thoroughly research every detail of your move, including the area, the university and where you’ll be living. While it is important to get to know the local area, most international students find it is easier to adapt to UK life by joining societies and groups for international students. Whether it is online groups or forums, or actual clubs that you attend, they’re all great sources of information and support from people who’ve been in your shoes. Find local versions of your hobbies prior to your move as it will help settle you in a lot quicker.
When it comes to accommodation, if you’re not looking to move onto campus, you’ll need to identify places where you can stay locally with an easy commute. Ensure you look into what deposits you’ll need as well as I.D. in order to secure a place. If you’re looking to use a house share solution, you should meet your potential housemates first to see if you get on with them and would be happy to live with them.
3. Don’t Forget Your Finances
Aside from already knowing your financial situation and how you’ll be funding your study, you need to ensure you’ve got all of your bases covered. Each bank will offer a different rate and fee to transfer money to and from UK based accounts. They may also have offers that are specially catered for international students. 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 in a program 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. You might also qualify for bursaries, scholarships or specialist funding, so it is more than worth checking to see if you fit the application criteria for these.
4. Travelling and Calling Back Home
Settling in any new place can be hard, and at some point, homesickness will set in. It is at this point that you’ll want the ability to get in touch with your friends and family back home to get that support you need. The main UK phone networks have fantastic deals with international operators, meaning your existing phone will more than likely still function in the UK. This, however, is a more expensive option, as it is likely to be cheaper to pick up a UK SIM card and use apps like FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype to keep in touch with friends and family back in North America
This article was contributed by guest author Rebecca Harper.