If you're an international student coming to study in the UK, there's a lot to look forward to: great student culture, a diverse society, a beautiful and historic country to explore...there are many exciting opportunities ahead.
To make sure you arrive safely and smoothly, here are some things to take care of before you head to the airport, with some help from the experts at BPP University.
The most time-consuming part of the arrival process is arranging a student visa, so it's a good idea to get started right away. Without the right visa you won't be able to enter the UK – it's an important thing to sort out.
Your university or college should be able to help you with all visa matters (BPP has lots of information for international students). You can also find out more from the UK Border Agency along with information on how to apply from both outside and inside the UK.
Alongside your visa application you might need some other important documents. Your university will be able to give you a complete list, but here are some examples:
- evidence of your qualifications. Original certificates only! (Definitely no hand-drawn ones.)
- certificates of language ability, if relevant
- financial documents (to show you can afford the course and support yourself in the UK for up to nine months)
If in doubt, get in touch with your university's international office.
Arriving in a strange country can be disorientating, so arranging for somewhere to stay for your first few weeks can really help you settle in (you may even be able to move straight into student accommodation). You'll be able to explore your new town or city, get to grips with the local transport and find out what your maximum number of cups of tea in a day is - very important when studying in the UK - all from a secure base.
Your university will be able to help with accommodation. BPP students have options including halls of residence and home stays (where you live with a family), but all institutions have their own arrangements; drop them a line, get something booked before you leave, and you'll arrive feeling confident.
Look after yourself
Obviously, we hope you have a safe and healthy time while you're in the UK. But it's worth making arrangements in case of emergencies. Start by getting a full health check around six weeks before you go, so you have time to identify any problems and start any medications you might require.
Although you'll be covered by the National Health Service in the UK if you're registered for a course lasting six months or longer, healthcare insurance is a good idea. All international students need cover that will pay the costs of returning home in an emergency, too.
You'll also need to insure your journey here and all your possessions during your stay. The UK is generally a safe country but theft or damage can happen anywhere, so make sure you're covered.
Once you've completed all the paperwork and double-checked everything with your university, you'll be able to start packing for your UK adventure. Be sure you have copies of all the documents you need, and don't forget your passport!
You'll also need access to money: if you have an international bank account, make sure you'll be able to use cash machines in the UK. If you'll be setting up an account here, bring cash (between £200-£500) for the first couple of weeks, along with some Travellers' Cheques, to cover your costs while you set up an account.
As for your suitcase, check whether you'll need to bring bed linen and towels for your accommodation, and whether or not not you need an adaptor for electrical appliances (the UK system is 240 volts and uses a three-pin plug).
Then it's all about packing for the weather: Britain loves to keep you guessing and it can rain at any time, so bring waterproof clothes and plenty of layers in case you get cold. It does get warm here, of course, but pack for the cold and you'll avoid any chilly surprises.
Finally, don't worry! You're not alone. Many other students are going through the same process and your university is there to help.
“We give our international students as much advice and support as we can,” says a member of the BPP admissions team. “The main thing to do is start planning early, then you'll have plenty of time to get everything sorted out and you can look forward to starting your student life here in the UK.”
BPP international students information
UK Council for International Student Affairs
UK Border Agency