Being a student in the UK for the first time is an exciting yet difficult experience. You will be facing more than one challenge, sometimes all at the same time, but that is how successful leaders are trained. Casita has summarised below a few key things to make your life easier so that you can enjoy the cultural shock as part of your growing-up process.
The top of our list is to completely change your questioning mindset, no matter where you are from. In general, British people are very helpful but they tend to keep it inside till being asked. Nine times out of 10, you will be given an answer – and the other rare chance is when they don’t know but most will help you find a way to get the answer.
However mature you are in your home country, England itself is full of hidden rules and subtle expressions. The questions you will be asking can be as simple as where the supermarket is, or how to use an Oyster card or even a bank card! In the first few days after landing, just keep asking and you will be surprised by what this country can bring to you – it is really the cultural capital of this entire world.
Ranked second in our list is to get a SIM card, as soon as you arrive at your place or have settled down. It’s a big surprise even to us that main airports still don’t have a wide range of choices for SIM cards these days, so wait until you know where your room is, then walk down to the nearest shopping area and have a look around for a SIM. This will help you pick the appropriate deal (Internet, Texts, or Minutes) and you can fix any technical problems right there instead of being rushed in an airport.
For the first few days, Lebara is a popular choice as they offer a flat Pay-As-You-Go rate for both local and international calls, which is really clear cut and helps you get used to the mobile phone network while maintaining contact with your family. Switching to another network is pretty easy at no costs. Generally speaking, Lebara is the easiest to use and O2 has the best network coverage, while Three is the most value-for-money.
The next most crucial thing we would stress is getting to know the transportation system around your place, including the distance, time, and frequency of commute to your campus and the shopping centre (which train or bus to catch, how long it usually takes to get there, how often is one, any peak hours, where the bus stops are, how long is the walk, etc.). You should also be aware of the taxi fares and keep a few numbers handy, just in case a late night comes up without a plan or your grocery shopping turns out to be as big as a house removal!
Most cities in the UK have the university campus at a reasonable distance from the city centre, hence knowing all available means of transport can help you plan your first few weeks really well.
Local amenities include 24h supermarkets, restaurants, convenience stores, laundrettes, bank branches, sports centres, police stations, and hospitals. It’s imperative to know where these are and their opening hours because you will be living completely on your own with no parents cooking for you. The worst thing you would want is to catch a stomach ache or a cold at midnight and struggle to find ways to the nearest clinic.
Opening a bank account with one local bank (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, TSB, or Natwest) is a must if you live in the UK as a student, as this is probably the most card-based economy and carrying too much cash is never a good idea. Banks have their own requirements for account openers, but most will ask for a passport, visa, student letter, and confirmation of address. Double-check those with a local bank teller because you always have to book an appointment to open an account, which sometimes can take a few days to arrange. Mobile apps are now available for all banks; service quality is pretty similar and the most basic current accounts are often free of charge.
We here at Casita have all got many new starts in different continents around the world and one thing we know for sure is that every challenge will have a way out! It may be visible there or it may not, but it always exists. You could face millions of other obstacles not listed above, and if you feel unable to escape those traps, let Casita know!