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THE UK: Destination Guides

The UK and you: A perfect union?

The UK stands out as a destination for international students and it's not only because of the high standard of education and institutions. We delve into what makes the UK so unique for students.

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There’s a distinct possibility that you’ve written down the UK on your list of possible destinations to study abroad in.  With top-ranked institutions, a high standard of education and degrees that stand you in good stead in the world of work, it is certainly attractive. However, as much as it is important to evaluate the practical aspects of studying in the UK, it can be important to explore some of the more unique aspects of the student experience and the lifestyle you may be able to enjoy. The UK is famed for being slightly quirky, culturally rich and socially dynamic. We take a look at what sets the UK apart from other destinations and if this may be the perfect place for you.


Extracurricular clubs and societies  


Moving and setting up a new life in another country isn’t easy. You’ll need time to find your bearings and settle in. Although university orientation programmes and tours can do a lot to make you feel at home, making friends and finding ways to engage socially are equally important.


This is one area in which UK universities excel and are also rather unique. Universities have a very well developed and diverse offering of clubs and societies that you’ll be able to join.


Joining one or more of these groups is a fantastic way to explore interests outside of your academic programme, not to mention the chance to meet new people and socialise. Of course, there are more traditional societies and clubs related to areas of study, hobbies, politics, and sport.


There will also be the chance to join volunteer or charity societies that work within the community or for a particular cause. Much will depend on how you want to spend some of your free time, and perhaps you have more niche interests. The UK has some of the most creative and original societies for university students including:


  • The tea society (for those who appreciate a good cup)
  • The humus society (for those dedicated to this chickpea-based snack)
  • The dinosaur society (for those with palaeontological interest)
  • The Lego society (you’re never too old)
  • Karaoke society (you may like a good pop song or two)
  • The Viking society (explore the lives of Scandinavia’s warriors)
  • Beekeeping society (you’ll get your own honey!)
  • Competitive eating (the Olympics of snacking)


As you can see there are a wide range of clubs and societies you could join, some with an obviously humorous element. Choosing a society or club should be based on your own preferences, how much it may cost, what you feel comfortable doing and the student lifestyle you want. The bonus of having an active student life is that such experiences are noticed by employers and can be valuable in showing different aspects of your personality and skills.


UK cultural attractions


The UK has a global reputation as a centre of history and culture. In fact, an average of 38 million tourists visit the country every year, visiting both well-known landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, and areas of outstanding beauty such as the Lake District and the New Forest. What makes the UK stand out is the sheer variety of options on offer from art to history, fashion to sport, and music to architecture.  


Much will depend on what grabs your attention, interests you and of course suits your budget. You’re bound to find something that’ll fit the bill. This can be free entrance to some of the best art galleries globally, where you can come face-to-face with a Picasso or Van Gogh or search for new culinary experiences in food markets.


Universities in the UK are also based in different settings, that offer distinctive attractions. There’s the hustle and bustle of London, Manchester or Birmingham with a vibrant nightlife or the quieter university towns, like Exeter and Oxford, that give you access to outdoor activities and many heritage sites.  


Don’t forget that the UK has an advanced public transport system that means you can travel fairly easily to many of the cities, towns and attractions. Some of the sights, sounds, activities and events that have garnered much attention from students include:


  • Glastonbury music festival
  • The university boat race
  • Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  • Changing of the guard (Buckingham palace)
  • City bus tours
  • River cruises
  • Museums
  • Hiking
  • Theatres
  • Castles (of course!)


UK social and cultural diversity


As an international student, you’ll be looking for a destination that is both welcoming and culturally diverse. The UK most certainly fits this bill. You’ll find cultures, languages and traditions from around the world and a vibrant international student community. International students account for around 20 per cent of all students at UK universities, which is over 450,000 people. This will open up opportunities to experience different perspectives, ideas, and insights at university and in wider society.


The UK is also considered to be a very tolerant society. For example, multiple religious faiths and faith-based communities co-exist in the country. There is a celebration of numerous cultural and religious events including Chinese New Year, St Patrick’s day, summer solstice, Diwali and Eid al-Fitr.


In addition, it’s more than likely if you’re looking for comfort food that reminds you of home you’ll be able to find it in the UK.  You can enjoy food from a multitude of cuisines such as Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Caribbean, Italian, and French, to name a few. You could also hear one of the over 300 languages that are regularly spoken in the UK. The country is certainly a hub of world cultures and influences.


British food and humour


Another element that sets the UK apart and something you may have to get used to is the British sense of humour. It can be difficult to understand if you’re not familiar with it and when you add regional accents in, it's even harder. There are a few things that you can look out for such as self-deprecation, satire and sarcasm.


People tend to poke fun at themselves and their experiences with self-deprecation, while sarcasm deliberately subverts meaning for effect. Satire makes use of irony, exaggeration and mockery to critique people, issues and institutions. All of these form part of the language of British humour.  Don’t worry if you need a bit of time to understand what it all means, it all adds to and enhances the experience.


Another novel part of studying in the UK is getting to try some of the local cuisines. It may not be for every taste or pallet, but you might find something you like. The most famous dish you’ll probably know well is fish and chips. However, there are a few others such as:


  • Bangers and mash (sausages with mashed potato and gravy)
  • Shepherd’s pie (lamb mince, vegetables, onion all topped by a potato covering)
  • Yorkshire pudding (savoury pudding made from eggs, flour, milk/water often served as part of a meal)
  • English breakfast (eggs, bacon, tomatoes, baked beans, sausages, mushrooms and toast)
  • Steak and kidney pie (beef, kidney, onion and gravy in pastry)
  • Scones with cream (baked small cakes with fruit served with jam and whipped/clotted cream)


Studying abroad is all about trying something different, if anything you’ll have some good stories to tell even if you don’t like the taste of the food.


With a better idea of some of the more unique aspects of studying in the UK, you might want to have a look at what costs to expect, how to research a university, popular postgraduate and undergraduate courses, and post-study work life. You can also make use of our course matcher tool to find a programme or degree.



Study in the UK


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