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Advice for International Students Coming to the UK

Advice for International Students Coming to the UK

Here at Student Life Guide, we are committed to providing you with all the relevant information, and when it comes to international students who are coming from far and wide this September to enjoy a year abroad in Blighty, we definitely think it’s important to provide you with a guide to survival.

Here are some handy tips for university in the UK, along with some major differences you may find along the way…

Some cultural tips

The drinking culture

In the UK, you can legally drink when you’re 18, and although plenty of underage activity has gone on before this, heading off to university being legally allowed in any club is a positive from the whole uni experience. Which leads us onto my next point, British drinking culture. Everything you have read in the news is true, the majority of British students live and breathe for boozy night outs followed by some cheesy chips to top everything off. You name it, we can think of an inventive way to bring alcohol into the equation. From Rugby clubs who use the sport as an excuse to get ‘slaughtered’ on Athletics’ Union nights through to medics who famously ‘go hard’ due to their excessive work load-alcohol is just a way of life for British universities. Therefore, it may be a shock if your home country allows drinking only after 21, or if it just isn’t as engrained at the university you have come from. Although alcohol is very apparent in the UK, don’t feel pressured to dive into that and do what you feel comfortable with.

The tea obsession

Kettles in every student accommodation, endless options in Tesco’s, people offering you this hot beverage as soon as you walk into their room- the looks of horror on their faces as you comment that you ‘don’t really like it’. Yep, it’s going to happen.

The accents

The main thing to notice about university in the UK is the staggering diversity of people at them. Here, you will be introduced to the highly adaptive and diverse British accent, whether it’s Mancunian, Liverpudlian, Welsh, Scottish, Geordie or Brummie, you will soon be learning how to mimic your friend’s dialogue.

Everything is smaller

Basically, everything over here is smaller. The universities are smaller, the accommodation is shoe box size and even the cars seem to be shrunk.

The weather

Guess what?! It rains all the time, our summer’s only reach staggering, overwhelming temperatures of around 20 degrees and trust me- that is very rare! There is the plus side though that British fashion is great and varies hugely on university, with each one having it’s own distinctive style.

The food

The UK is a highly multicultural society, meaning that there are all sorts of foods available, whether you are off out for a meal with your new university friends or showing your family around your new city, there are endless culinary options. The UK also hosts budget supermarkets for penny saving students; such as Lidl and Aldi, these are probably the best to go to in comparison to stores such as Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsburys and ASDA.

University Life

Orientation Week

This week is usually dedicated to international students and aim to help you with any questions you may have, from settling you into your accommodation, familiarising you with the city and your academic studies and helping you to meet people within your first week. Orientation week is also a great way to get settled, as it occurs before everyone else arrives, the purpose of it is to be help you feel comfortable and ready for the year!

Fresher’s Week

This is the best week of university! Basically, after orientation week, the rest of the students will move into the university, and during the first week before lectures and university start, there will be countless events held across your chosen city. From nights out through to group day time activities, pub quizzes, movie nights, raves, discos, paint parties, foam parties, zoo themed parties, festivals, fairs, freebies, treasure hunts- the list goes on! Look forward to a week of fun! Here is a Student Life Guide article telling you all the hottest fresher’s events happening this September 2017!

The language

If English is not your first language then you may be interested in taking English lessons at university, these are usually offered for free to international students and may be a great way to make you feel much more comfortable during your time at university.

Singular degree options

In the UK, you have to specialise in one subject for university. There are options for split degrees, yet the majority of people tend to steer towards just the one. Of course, this is different from other countries, who do not expect a major to be chosen until second year. Some people prefer the British system, preferring to study over here because of this, but for some students, the whole concept can be baffling so make sure that you read up on it.

The lack of fraternity and sororities

If you have come from the US, you will soon realise that the UK just doesn’t do the whole sorority and fraternity thing. Houses aren’t determined by your society and mainly our orientation week is simply called fresher’s, where people dress up as zoo animals and go to all night raves with 90p vodka mixers. You will be in mixed accommodation, most likely, unless you specifically specify or search for single gender dorms.

Getting about and accommodation

Public transport

As opposed to the USA, for instance, where everyone can drive by 16, the UK instead has a complex and rather expensive public transport system. Although confusing at times, it’s great for day trips. You can be hopping all over the country each weekend, as well as hopping onto inner city buses to get around or to university. It may be handy to get yourself a student railcard for your time in the UK, as using the 16-25 railcard will mean that you can get rail journeys at a discounted price, meaning that travel is much more affordable.

Remember to try to travel as much as possible! The UK is very diverse and beautiful, from Northern Ireland to the Scottish Highlands. You can also take the opportunity of being in the UK to travel to other European destinations, which are all fairly accessible from the UK, places such as Italy, Spain and France are only a couple of hours away by plane! The UK also offer countless affordable flights.

Some added extras!

  • TV shows; key shows to look out for are The Great British Bake Off, I’m A Celebrity get me out of here, Big Brother and X Factor- they are typical cult television shows over here.
  • Traditions! There are of course some similarities with your home and the UK, they may be Christmas or Easter, but there are some celebrations specific to the UK and that may sound a little strange! Bonfire Night is a night in November when everyone gathers together for fireworks and the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up parliament back in the 1600s… Don’t ask.

Here are some handy websites to also have a look at, concerning moving to the UK for study

Student Pad! They offer some in depth guides! The topics range from your time applying for university all the way through to university life! http://www.studentpad.co.uk/student-guide/international-guide

A must! The Complete University Guide https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/international/international-students-the-facts/


Whatever happens- have fun and enjoy the culture shock! Hopefully these tips, from food through to trains, have been of some help for you on your travels.

Good luck and see you next week!

Elizabeth Whittingham Elizabeth is a history graduate currently working in content and communications.