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Some of the most frequently asked questions on my personal facebook account and blog page is about the studies in the UK and the life here as a student. I’ve been debating a long time, whether I should write or not this post, but living in England for 4 years and going through 3 different Universities I believe makes me adequate enough to express my personal beliefs based on my experiences. Plus it will save me time from answering each message separately. So here we go, a guide on where to study in the UK, how to choose the right University, what you have to do before flying here and most importantly how your life as a student will be.
First thing first, have you decided what you want to study? If yes, that’s good, the beginning is half of everything! If you are still in deep thoughts, follow your instict and study what you like the most. Also pay attention at your skills and talents, these are very important and you should take them into consideration, when you decide about your studies and possibly your future job.
Now let’s move into the important stuff, how to choose the right University for you. Internet searching machines are your friends. Search for the University that offers the course you are mostly interested. Always aim for the high ranked Universities, it means that your supervisors or lecturers have published their research activity in peer reviewed Journals. In other words they have done excellent job at some time in their career and the knowledge you will gain through their lectures is worth paying fees. You can find the ranking of your chosen University online. I used this one here for the Universities worldwide and this one for the Universities in the UK. I wouldn’t tell you not to get enrolled in a University that it is not included in the first 50 Universities in the UK, but I would simply say that graduates from these Universities tend to get jobs more easily, and at the end of the day that’s the reason you are studying. Of course everything depends on your personal effort and will to succeed. Do not expect to get a job just because you have secured a place in a top University. You have to work really hard during your studies and even get some extra training after graduation in order to get a job. [On condition that you are studying to get a job and not because you are interested in the course].
After having found the best University to study have a look at the city/place it is located. Is it a naturally beautiful city or even better a touristic attraction? Does it have many Universities, parks, public facilities (e.g swimming pool, tennis court etc) or places to hang out (restaurants, clubs, pubs, cafes)? I would definitely recommend you to study in a University that is located in a beautiful city and not in a campus. Studying is difficult by it’s nature, you don’t have to live at the same time in a unpleasant place, it will make your life an awful lot more difficult. Some campuses are alright but there is nothing compared to a nice walk in the city after the end of your classes. Make sure that the city you will live your years as a student is worth staying and that there are many options/activities to do during your leisure time. Live life to the fullest and do not settle for the least.
Applying for the course you are interested is pretty much the same for all Universities. Just follow the instructions and make sure to have at least two academic references scanned and your personal statement letter explaining the reasons you would like to study the specific course. Some education agencies or foundations might do that job for you, on a certain cost of course, but I think it is better to do it by yourself and learn through the process.
So now you know where you want to study and you have done your research on the city you are planning to live, but there are some steps you have to do before moving in the UK (as a EU citizen unfortunately in this section I can only speak from the UK/EU student’s perspective):
-Practise your English and take an IELTS or TOEFL test. These are English qualification tests, requested by ALL Universities in the UK. It is one of the things the admission office will request you take in order to offer you a place to study. I gave the IELTS, as I found it a bit easier than the TOEFL but this is totally up to you. Most Universities will ask you for a 6.5 grade in your IELTS test and it can be achieved quite easily, so don’t get too anxious about it.
-In case you are applying for postgraduate studies, arrange an official translation for all your undegraduate degrees/diplomas. Scan the translated transcripts and also take the original copies with you, just in case the admission office requests them.
-Find a place to stay through the University accommodation page or by searching at online websites like Zoopla, Rightmove and Gumtree. There are many other websites, but these are the ones I have used.
-Make sure your passport has not expired. In case it has, you are lucky for being a European Union citizen, since you can travel to the UK with your id card. However, again from personal experience I would advice you to get a passport.
You’ve done all that and now you are ready to move! Congratulations, now let’s see how your life will be as a student in the UK. Your happiness will be somehow based on the friendships you will make along your way, the city you are staying and the course you are studying. Some courses need a lot of time to spend on your assignments and have all day long lectures, others are more flexible. That largely depends on the subject you chose to study and the ranking of your University. It is most likely that you will have to spend more time in the library than in the pub if you are an Edinburgh University student for example, than a student from a University not included in the UK ranking. Besides, there is a reason why ranking exists! Be proud if you made it to one of these Universities and never regret for not having so much free time to spend in the pub. Not a single minute spent in the library is wasted.
Moving from a foreign country and having English as your second language can be at sometimes difficult. You need to socialise and make friends that will support you and lift you up anytime you have a blue moment. One of the quickest ways to meet new people is to get registered in the University societies. There are many people that feel like you do during the first month in the University and are seeking for new friends. The societies are a good way to meet new people with common interests that are willing to explore the city with you.
Some of the most common things you will listen students complaining about is the weather and the food quality. Unfortunately the weather is something you cannot change or at some point predict. There might be days in a row that there will be a thick grey layer of clouds above your head and you will not be able to see a blue piece of sky. Don’t let it get you down! Do whatever it takes to be happy, work out, start a new hobby, meet with your friends to watch a movie or book tickets and fly to Paris for the weekend! There are some really cheap flights to Paris or you can always take the Eurostar train from London.
Regarding the food quality, you can find cheap fresh fruits and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market so be sure to check where is the closest one. Usually they run during weekends, so you should be able to do your shopping without skipping classes. Oh, and another good thing is that you will learn how to cook, otherwise you will spend all your money in the ready-to-eat foods from the supermarket, which is not a good thing for your health. So take your recipe books with you, trust me you will need them!
Last but not least, what to do the first day at the University. Get a map of the University buildings and go find the building of your school. Do not be hesitant to ask questions to staff members, they are there to help you and if you don’t understand their accent, ask them again. There is not a silly question and people are there to help you and make you feel comfortable. As for your outfit, keep it as simple as possible. Go for the old time classic jeans-sweatshirt-jacket-boots combination and take it from there.
This is all I can think at the moment to cover your questions. I am sure I will remember somethings and will add them later, but for a start you pretty much get the idea of being a student in the UK. My apologies for the International students, if you really want me to write an additional post about the steps you have to take as an International student, then please let me know in the comment section and I will ask some help of my friends. Feel free to comment, ask me anything you like or even give us your suggestions and opinion.
Thanks for reading and hope this has helped you a little bit.