A brief introduction to Britain for international students

Living and studying in another country is an exciting process and finding out about the people and culture of your new home is one of the great things about the experience. 

However, it can't hurt to give yourself a head start, so we put our heads together with the BPP Student Advice Team and came up with some advice for new arrivals. 

Staying safe

The UK is generally a safe country. However, like everywhere else, crime is a possibility – so make sure you insure all your valuables before you leave and make copies of your passport, visa and Police Registration Certificate. 

When you arrive, don't leave your suitcase unattended at any point and keep your credit cards, cash, phone etc in separate places (not in the same bag). As you settle in, be careful with phones, tablets, cameras and so on – you shouldn't be afraid to use them, but be aware of your surroundings and use your common sense.

The weather: the UK's favourite topic

Britain's climate is generally quite mild, so packing lots of layers (including t-shirts, sweaters and at least one warm coat) is the best approach as it means you can be flexible. Be aware that although the weather isn't extreme (and can be lovely) it changes a lot, often very quickly, which can take some getting used to. It's all part of the experience and discussing the weather is a favourite British pastime, so it's a good way to get talking to your new classmates and colleagues. 

British society: what to expect

Britain has an open and tolerant society where many different religions, sexual orientations and viewpoints are accepted. Relationships and the way people act or dress in public may also be different to your home country. Don't be afraid to ask your British colleagues or classmates about these cultural differences, they'll be happy to guide you.

Punctuality is a big deal in Britain so try to be on time, and let people know if you'll be late to meet them. On a lighter note, the British are very particular about two other things: tea, and queuing. They love both, and like them to be done properly. You'll quickly pick up on the 'rules' but the trick is to enjoy tea breaks wherever possible (it's a good opportunity to chat to your new friends), and don't push into a line or queue – join at the back. Also stand on the right hand side of escalators in London unless you want to be shouted at by commuters. 


Speaking the language

If English isn't your first language you may find total immersion in it quite tiring at first, until you adjust. The UK has a huge range of regional accents that can also make it hard to understand people. Don't worry, the British are generally patient and helpful and won't mind repeating things or speaking more slowly. Just ask! 

Smoking and drinking

Smoking isn't permitted inside bars, clubs, public buildings or many public spaces (such as railway stations) in the UK, and many people don't allow it in their homes - always ask before lighting up. 

Drinking alcohol is legal for over 18s and going to the pub is a good way to experience British culture (especially if you want to see the normally reserved Brits relax a little, or want to try some of the country's famous beer), but there are many other great options for socialising (including theatre, cinema, live music and of course shopping!). You should never feel uncomfortable about not drinking, or feel forced into anything. Again, British society is very tolerant and people tend to respect others' views in this area. 

Britain's diversity also extends to its food: there's something for everyone. You'll have lots to explore and enjoy, from all over the world – it's not just fast food or fish and chips (although the national dish can be excellent when enjoyed at the seaside).

Immigration information

You'll need to maintain your student status while you're in the UK, so you might need to register with the police when you arrive and notify people if you leave the country. Your university will be able to give you advice, or visit the UK Border Agency website. 

city hall

Exploring Europe

If this is your first time in Europe you might want to travel outside of the UK and visit other countries. If you do there's a lot to enjoy, but make sure you check the visa requirements of the countries you want to go to, and keep your student identification documents with you. Your university's international office should be able to help with all travel queries. 

Have fun!

Britain is a beautiful country with a rich history and international students usually find studying here a rewarding experience, however eccentric the British may seem at first. “Studying abroad can be challenging, but it can also be life changing,” says a member of the BPP Student Advice Team. “In the UK you'll meet people from all over the world, experience the unique British culture and hopefully make friends and contacts for life. Enjoy it!”

Helpful sites: 
BPP international students information 
UK Council for International Student Affairs 
UK Border Agency