Don’t believe everything you hear…
So you’re thinking about coming to university in the UK, but you’re worried about the awful weather, the sky-high crime rates or the terrible food. Stop! Don’t fall for the stereotypical misconceptions about life in the United Kingdom: the truth is very different. Here, we tackle some of the common myths you’ll come across.
Myth #1: “The weather will be terrible”
Truth: OK, let’s be honest – the UK doesn’t offer year-round sunshine, and we do get our fair share of rain. But one of the great things about the UK is that we have four distinct seasons, from bright sunny days in the summer to the golden shades of autumn and the sharp chill of winter. It does mean you’ll need clothes for all eventualities, but you’ll get to experience absolutely every type of weather while you’re here.
Myth #2: “Everyone drinks all day every day”
Truth: Sure, many students in the UK like a drink, but not as much (or as often) as you might think. In fact, a recent survey found that just half of 18-24 year olds had consumed alcohol within the previous week, and drinking among young people in the UK has been steadily declining over the years. If you want to participate in the student drinking culture, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so, but if you don’t, you’ll find lots of people choosing not to drink.
Myth #3: “There aren’t any jobs for students”
Truth: If you’re looking for part-time work, you should have no problem. University cities are crammed with job opportunities for students, including retail, restaurant, café and bar work and jobs at the Student Union. If you’re keen to get some work experience or to earn some extra money while you’re studying in the UK, prepare yourself by putting together your CV (résumé) to help you apply.
Myth #4: “Student accommodation is really expensive”
Truth: You’ll be able to find student accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes. If your priority is keeping costs down, consider sharing a room or looking for self-catered accommodation. If you’re happy to spend a bit more, you can find rooms with private ensuites and catering. Universities provide housing support for students – these departments will do their best to ensure you find a room within your budget.
Myth #5: “The food is awful”
Truth: The UK’s food scene is hugely multicultural, with food from all over the world easily available. If you miss the food from home, you’ll find many supermarkets have aisles dedicated to global food to help you stock up on your favourites. It’s true that some students do end up with some slightly bizarre eating habits (cold baked beans straight from the tin isn’t that unusual), but who knows – maybe you’ll develop a taste for those too!
Myth #6: “Day-to-day living will cost a lot of money”
Truth: Student discounts are widely available in the UK on everything from food to clothing and books to stationery. Grab yourself a student or NUS TOTUM card and you’ll quickly save some cash. You can also find discount supermarkets in most towns and cities.
Myth #7: “It’s hard to get around”
Truth: Some transport in the UK is expensive. Trains, in particular, can be pricey, but you can buy a 16-25 Railcard to save a third on most journeys. Coaches are a cheap way to travel long distances, and buses and trams are a cheap and easy way to get around cities – the driver can always help point you in the right direction. Some cities have on-street bike rental schemes if you prefer to explore on two wheels and get some exercise in.
Myth #8: “There’s a lot of crime in the UK”
Truth: While there is, of course, crime in the UK, most major cities also have a strong police presence, and overall crime levels have fallen in recent years. If you have a city in mind, take a look at the UK Police interactive crime map for a better idea of the crime levels in the area, or look at the crime statistics for each UK university.
Myth #9: “Fresher’s Week will be absolutely crazy”
Truth: Fresher’s Week CAN be crazy if that’s what you want, but it’s also totally possible to enjoy Fresher’s Week without drinking or going clubbing. Freshers’ Fair is a must visit, as you will have the opportunity to sign up for societies, and you can also look out for activities like film nights, quiz nights and campus tours to help you meet new people and suss out your new city.
Myth #10: “The reserved culture will make it hard to make friends”
Truth: The British have a reputation for being reserved, but most people will be friendly and polite if you talk to them. And remember – at uni everyone is keen to make friends, so you’ll find lots of people to talk to. There will also be lots of societies covering a wide range of activities, interests and even languages. Join in with some of these and you’ll meet people who enjoy the same things as you.
Myth #11: “It’ll be hard to explore the rest of Europe”
Truth: Some international students may worry that studying in the UK will make it harder to explore Europe than if they choose a country on the mainland, like France or Spain. But there are plenty of cheap airlines, like Ryanair, easyJet and Norwegian, that will get you to the rest of Europe and further afield without spending a fortune. You could also catch the Eurostar to France or Belgium, or hop on a coach for a super-cheap weekend on the continent.
Got any questions about studying in the UK? Head over to our International Lounge to discuss everything about studying abroad.