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What To Expect As An International Student In The United Kingdom

International students often find the biggest challenge in moving overseas to lead an independent life away from home. However, this experience simply does not comprise of an emotional barrier but also financial and mental preparation of changing societies. There are innumerable things that one needs to plan and coordinate to ensure a comfortable shifting and settling in. Beginning from pre-arrival preparations to managing expenses and finding affordable accommodation after arrival can be a tedious process. This article aims to highlight some crucial things to know and remember about moving to the United Kingdom as an international student.

Preparing For Arrival

After landing an offer of admission into a degree program in the UK the applicant needs to accept the offer to confirm his or her enrollment. As a response, the student would receive a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) reference number. This reference number is a 14-digit key that serves as proof of admission when applying for a student visa.

The student now needs to apply for the appropriate student visa to begin their preparation. If the program duration lasts up to 6 months one needs to apply for the Short-Term student visa while for courses that have longer duration the student can apply for the Tier 4 (General) student visa. It is important to note that the Short-Term student visa does not permit employment and the student is not allowed to work either part-time during the program or through campus placements.

The student visa applicant also needs to show proof of finance to ensure that they are capable of funding at least the first year of their degree program as well as have funds to cover their monthly expenses.

English Language skills proficiency is also required to receive a valid student visa.

Understanding The Education System

One of the most common things that any international student might find difficult to adjust to is the difference in the education system and academic culture at universities in the United Kingdom. The education system in the UK aims at the overall development of college students by promoting conceptual learning and the creative application of classroom concepts. Research and analysis-based projects are quite common and one might have to work on these projects individually or as part of a team. Group discussions, critical thinking, fun activities are some of the tools that professors use in their teaching techniques.

Post Arrival Fitting In

Apart from the education system, fitting in also includes becoming acquainted with numerous other things. The weather, food, and traveling network can be a little complicated to become habitual with right away.


Weather in the UK is very pleasant with warm summers and a cold and wet climate during winters. Rain and snowfall are some of the characteristic features of the weather in various parts of the United Kingdom.

Student Accommodation

The most primitive thing to figure out when moving to the United Kingdom is to arrange for accommodation during one’s stay. Most of the universities in the UK provide on-campus living facilities like International Student House which an applicant can apply for along with their enrollment formalities. It is a good idea to live near one’s campus to get accommodation at low rent and also save on daily travel expenses.


There are several options for a student to travel from one place to another. The most common modes of traveling include walking or cycling to reach the university campus. Apart from that students can opt for public transportation like bus service, subway or taxi. By contacting the student union, one might be able to secure travel passes with discounted rates for students to use public transportation.

Cuisine and Leisure Entertainment

A versatile array of cuisine specific food hubs and cafeterias are present in different parts of the UK. One can try different food cuisines to slowly become habitual to the kind of food available in any region of the UK. One can also visit various entertainment events like college events, concerts, movies, museums, bars and pubs, and more.

Culture Shock In A Different Country

Often referred to as a ‘Culture Shock’ new international students tend to feel uneasy in an environment that is so disparate than one’s usual surroundings. The cultural difference is evident not only in terms of the education system but also in leisure time activities and social gatherings and food or travel behaviours. Some pointers that can prove to be helpful in combating this problem include the following:

  1. Start interacting with other international students from one’s course or other programs. One might even find it helpful to seek guidance from the international student committees that are pretty common in most universities and graduate schools.

  2. Become part of student clubs and societies that engage in activities that one prefers. There are various dramatics, music, literary, dance, and even sports clubs in several universities that an international student can join.

  3. Stay polite and make sure to be kind and exhibit proper social etiquette with every person.

  4. Become familiar with the drinking culture of university students as they frequently visit bars and pubs in their leisure time.

  5. Smoking in public places is banned in the UK.

Living Cost For An International Student

The expenses incurred by any international student living in the United Kingdom does not conclude with paying the tuition fee for the graduate or undergraduate program. Apart from the college fee, there are numerous other expenses that one needs to figure out. Some of them may include:

  • Accommodation rent

  • Travel expenses by public transportation

  • Food expenses

  • Cost of entertainment and leisure activities, and more

Evidently, an international student would require about £1,015 per month or £12,180 a year (in case of living in London this cost can go up to £1,265 a month or £15,180 a year). For an Indian student, this would amount to a little over INR 1 lakh per month at the most (as per August 2020 exchange rate). There are a few things to simplify incurring these expenses.

Part-Time Work Opportunities

As per the United Kingdom guidelines, international students on Tier 4 (general) student visa are eligible to work before, during, and after their course as well as during the holidays. While studying the student can work up to 20 hours a week as a part-time employee in any field that the employer finds them qualified for. Moreover, before the course program begins or during holidays students can also work full-time or take up paid internships to enhance their resume. All income is subject to taxes as per the regulations decided by the government and one must stay informed about the same.

Student Bank Accounts

To evade frequent foreign currency charges while making payments it is a good idea to set up a student bank account with a UK bank. This would make it easier for an international student to manage their finances, pay bills, and track their expenses easily. The process to set up an account can be lengthy and it is a good idea to start looking for bank options and begin the process from one’s home country.

Final Thoughts

Moving to a new country can be hard but one can make this transition easier by keeping the above key points in mind. Planning the move in advance and creating a checklist of all the necessary things to be accomplished can help an international student begin to feel at home in their new surroundings quickly.


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