The basics
THE UK: Before you leave

10 top tips: before you start your UK studies

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Firstly, congratulations if you’ve been accepted to a UK university! While the hard part is over, it’s now time to prepare for your departure. Get organized before you leave so you can enjoy your time in the UK.


1. Look for international student events 

If you’re thinking of studying in the UK, you couldn’t be applying at a better time. The post-study work visa has just been extended for international students, enabling you to stay in the UK for up to two years after graduation. The UK wants to actively attract international students, as demonstrated by the trending hashtag, #youarewelcomehere. Universities in the UK are particularly keen to welcome students from all over the world and many host events for international students.



Some institutions have fairs for international students, including campus tours and buddy schemes where you can receive one on one advice from current students. It’s up to you to research what’s on before you arrive. You can find this information on university websites or on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Birmingham University, for example, has a week of events and introductions to help international students make friends and feel at ease.  


2. Sort out your insurance

As an international student moving to the UK, you’ll need to have both health and travel insurance. This will cover lost baggage, cancelled flights and any illnesses or accidents that might occur. Everybody thinks, “it probably won’t happen to me”. However, if you don’t have health or travel insurance you could end up spending a lot of money to cover the costs. So, buy insurance to avoid any nasty surprises.


Health insurance

EU students

As an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen you will need to have an EHIC card to access free UK healthcare services. You must obtain this card before you leave your home country. This will enable you to get free and/or reduced cost medical attention in the UK.


However, if the UK leaves the EU as a result of a no-deal Brexit, the EHIC card may not be valid. This will be dependent on agreements between specific countries, otherwise you may have to pay for your healthcare in the UK.


Non-EU students

If you are not an EU/EEA citizen, you can still receive access to full healthcare services in the UK. You must be studying a course that lasts for more than six months and you need to pay an immigration healthcare surcharge. This fee will form part of your visa application and is GBP 300 as of January 8th, 2019.


Travel insurance

You may think, “If I’ve got health insurance, why do I need travel insurance?”. Remember, each will provide you with different types of cover. With health insurance, you have access to more regular medical services for a longer period of time, whereas travel insurance is for more emergency related medical issues.



3. Get clued up on local travel options

Once you’ve got used to travelling around a city, you’ll probably find that navigating another city is completely different. Your travel options really depend on where you’ve chosen to study in the UK. In London for example, the city is well connected with underground trains, buses and over ground rail. However, if you’ve chosen a more rural university such as Keele, located in Staffordshire, you’ll need to know about the buses or trains that go into the city centre of Newcastle-under-Lyme. If the norm for you is living in a well-connected area, this could take some getting used to.


You can find bus timetables online or on your university’s website. Alternatively, you can download the CityMapper app which is widely used in 39 cities including London and Manchester. This app allows you to find the best routes around a city including cycling options. It is also advisable to purchase a 16-25 railcard during your studies as you can save up to 1/3 on travel fares. 


4. Find out about university support services

While university is a time for new experiences and opportunities, it also demands hard work and self-motivation. In order to do this, you need to feel supported and motivated. If at any time throughout your degree you feel overwhelmed or anxious, it’s important to let someone at your university know. That could be a friend, lecturer, a member of the university support team or students’ union.



Almost all universities have support services for their students which includes counselling, financial advice and help with housing. It’s always useful to find out a little about university support services.


Going to university means gaining independence and looking after yourself without the help of family. This could be difficult at first, particularly for international students’ moving to a new country. While it’s normal to feel like this at first, you should be more used to your surroundings within the first couple of months. So, make sure you are trying new things and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. This will help you gain more confidence by meeting new people and trying new things. Basically, try not to isolate yourself in your room as this will only lead you to feeling even worse.


5. Take all important documents with you

Before you start university, you need to make sure that you have all the necessary documents with you (or photocopies):

  • CV
  • Passport
  • Visa confirmation
  • Qualifications
  • Plane tickets
  • Boarding pass
  • Accommodation contract
  • Health and travel insurance
  • Bank account details

When you enroll at university, you’ll need to prove who you are with some of these documents. Your university will send you an email to let you know exactly what you need to bring. Or you can search the university website.


6. Join social media groups before you leave

One great way to introduce yourself to people in your student accommodation is via social media. Before you’ve even arrived, you can familiarize yourself with names and faces. Although, remember that social media is not always representative. These groups are often set up by the university which is a safer and more private way to chat as opposed to groups created by other students. Messaging on Facebook can be a good way to find out what dates people are moving in and what events they are attending for fresher’s week. Be careful when reaching out on social media and avoid sharing personal or confidential information.


7. Prepare for your first day

You might be feeling nervous about starting university. Not to worry, you’re not alone. Most students will be feeling exactly the same way. So, what can you do to prepare? Think about what you’re going to do once you’ve arrived in your student accommodation. Are you going for dinner with family? Will you attend a university event or stay home to meet your new flat mates? One top tip is to leave your bedroom door open while you’re unpacking so that your new housemates know you’ve arrived. This is a simple piece of advice that could help you to meet new people and give the right first impression. Making new friends at university is a great way to acclimatize to your new environment. 



8. Look into job vacancies

Studying abroad can be an expensive endeavour, so working part-time might be a necessity for you. As many students will be thinking the same thing, competition can be fierce, particularly for on-campus jobs. Check out any campus vacancies on your university website or UK job sites before leaving your home country. You can apply online before you leave, giving you the edge over other applicants. This way, you can hopefully get an interview before you’ve even landed in the UK.  This is also another great way to meet new people and broaden your social networks. Examples of roles you could apply for include:

  • Bar staff
  • Barista
  • Campus shop assistant
  • Book shop assistant
  • University ambassador


9. Set up a bank account

As you’re moving to the UK for your studies, we recommend opening a bank account in the country. This will make it easier to pay rent, bills and any other expenses without having to do bank transfers from your home account. Try to open a UK bank account before leaving to avoid sorting this out in your first few weeks of university. You’ll need some of the important documents as outlined in tip number five to prove your eligibility for a bank account. In addition, you’re going to need proof of enrollment which proves that you are a student. You might also be able to get an overdraft of up to GBP 2,000, which gives you some financial flexibility. You also won’t be asked to repay this amount for up to two years after university.


However, if your bank account is not set up before you arrive or you don’t have a bank card yet, take enough money to cover you for that period just in case.


10. Request/download your timetable

Many universities will allow access to timetables around the middle/end of August. This will give you an idea of how many hours you need to be in lectures and how much free time you’ll have. This may be helpful when it comes to planning for a part-time job, revising, socializing etc. Most universities have an online platform where you can upload your personal information and find your timetable. Other institutions will supply timetables only once you’ve enrolled either online or in person. If you’re worried about your timetable, you can send a message to the university via Facebook or email.



Once you've ticked these off your to-do list, you're pretty much all set to go! 

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