Study UK: Your pre-departure checklist
Most students heading to the UK this year are just about a month away from flying out. While the stress of the admissions is behind them, visas, packing and preparing to leave can throw up a number of questions and apprehensions. What should you pack and what should you leave behind?
Which airport should you land at and how will you get to the university?
What is the method of teaching and how difficult will it be to adapt?
These are just some of the issues Rupal Parikh, of the British Council, addressed at the pre-departure briefing for students in Mumbai on July 19.
A quick look at what was recommended:
Accommodations in the UK
As soon as you receive an offer letter from your university, write to the university to find out about the various kinds of accommodations available to you as an international student. Some of the options are on-campus accommodations, rented flats and family accommodations.
It is recommended that you opt for the on-campus accommodations since firstly international students are given preference for these. Another reason is that you are away from your family and you will feel a certain amount of homesickness. Being with other students who are also coping with being away from home will help you adjust to your new life faster.
If you decide to rent a flat, you will need to sign a tenancy agreement which is a legally binding document. Most rental accomodations will come fully furnished, however you will need to pay an advance and pay the monthly electricity and water bills which can be quite expensive, so it is a good idea to share accommodations with other students. Also, make sure your accommodations are close to your university to cut down on your travel expenses.
What to carry
During admissions season many airlines offer students a variety of benefits. One of these is allowing students to carry a certain amount of excess baggage free. Enquire with your airline the exact amount of excess baggage you are allowed.
If however you have an onward journey from your initial point of arrival, you should check with your carrier whether they will allow this excess baggage. If not, you might end up paying a lot of money.
- Valid passport with your student visa
- Air ticket
- Offer letter from the university
- All financial documentation you will require to submit to the university or immigration authorities
- All original certificates and other important documents
- Some warm clothing (but not a lot)
- Traveller's cheques and sufficient cash
- A list of everything you are carrying in your checked-in baggage. If there is a delay in the arrival of your baggage or in case your baggage is lost, you will need to know exactly what you have packed in order to claim for it.
- The name and number of a 24-hour contact at the university who you can call in case of an emergency
- Detailed directions to your university or accommodations.
- Make an additional set of your certificates and important documents and keep it in your checked-in baggage. This will be useful is you happen to lose your hand luggage.
- Travel light. Indian groceries, cooking utensils, masalas are easily available in the UK so use your baggage space for other necessities. Do not carry too many woollen or warm clothes. These are bulky and will occupy space that can be used for more important/useful things.
- A few family photographs
- An umbrella
- Good walking shoes.
- National attire. There will be occasions where you might need to or might like to wear traditional attire, so pack a set or two.
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Arriving in the UK
Once you arrive in the UK, the next step is getting to your university.
Before you leave, find out from the university you will be attending what is the time duration to reach the university and whether there is any onward travel involved in terms of taxis, trains or buses from the airport (the initial point of transit) you arrive at. You will need to arrange for this accordingly. Get exact directions and let your university know the date you will be arriving in the UK.
A lot of universities have 'meet and greet' policies where they will send someone from the university to pick up students. Check if your university offers this.
Besides the London airports -- Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Standsted, City -- the UK has 28 regional airports that you can choose from depending upon the location of your university. Find out from your university which the best regional airport to land at would be.
Try and avoid travelling on the weekend. The admissions offices in the UK usually do not work on Saturdays and Sundays. If you cannot avoid travelling on the weekend, inform the university of the time and date of your arrival so they can have someone expecting you at the university.
Get a 24-hour telephone contact of someone from the university. In case of an emergency, you should have a point of contact who you can inform and who may be able to assist you.
Opening a bank account
Opening a bank account in the UK can take about 2-3 weeks so you should make sure you have enough cash/traveller's cheques to tide you over.
If you happen to have a bank account with a multinational bank in India, they may have their branches in the UK. Every university will have bank outlets or ATMs readily available to students so you can use this facility to withdraw money using your debit card or credit card.
The documents you will require to open a bank account are:
- Your passport
- Letter of admission
- Address proof in the UK
- A letter of reference from your bank in India
When you arrive at the university, get yourself registered with a local medical practitioner and registered with the NHS (National Health Service) for your NHS card and NHS number. Registration with the NHS means that if you happen to fall sick and visit a doctor, you will not need to pay consultation charges. You will only need to the pay the flat subscription fee. Remember, no medication is available over the counter, you need to have a valid subscription for the purchase of all medicines.
Eyecare and dental care is not covered by the NHS so carry a spare set of spectacles or contact lens if you use these and complete any dental work you might require before flying out. It can be very expensive in the UK.
Studying in the UK
The system of teaching and learning in the UK is very different from the way it is in India. Give yourself time to adjust to the new method of instruction.
If you happen to have a problem of any sort, make sure you talk about it. Take it up with your professors or counsellors. Many universities assign an academic tutor to international students. You can speak to your about any problems you might have.
Do not bunk classes. That is looked down upon in the UK. Punctuality is also a must. You must attend all lectures unless you have a genuine reason not to.
Copy-pasting somebody else's work and passing it off as your own is known as plagiarism and is an offence in the UK. Universities use software that help them find out whether something has been plagiarised. Every college, every department will have its own style of referencing. Speak to your professors to find out the correct way to reference or quote your sources of information in your assignments.
Studying in the UK is more than just about attending lectures and handing in assignments. You are going there to be exposed to new experiences. So talk to people, make friends, network with fellow scholars and professors. Every university will have a number of clubs or societies for various interest groups. You do not have to participate in all of them but do join a few that interest you.
It is important to register with the local student union body. Every university will have one. This is where you will get your student identity card. This student ID will help you get discounts at various places while travelling, at theaters, at stores etc.