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Student Life

Studying in the UK: Guide for International Students living in the UK

What is it like for international students living in the UK?

Moving to a new country can feel overwhelming, but fear not! We’re here to guide you through every step of your journey. Let’s dive right into what to expect when you arrive in the UK and discover some great tips to help you feel at home away from home.

What can you expect when you first arrive in the UK as an International Student?

When you first arrive in the UK the reality is probably going to be a little different to what you’ve imagined. Three things that are good to remember are:

  • It’s ok if it’s exactly how you imagined it would be.
  • You might have a culture shock. No matter how much research you do into the UK it usually doesn’t prevent a culture shock, you’ve moved somewhere completely different to what you’re used to so it’s ok if your brain needs a minute to catch-up. 
  • As humans we are adaptable and easily learn, which means you’ll soon learn the rules of your new environment. 

First impressions moving to the UK from international students living in Future Generations

  • “Everyone talks about the weather!” 
  • “I did think loughborough was quite small. When I’d visited the UK before coming to loughborough for my PHD I had been to places like London and lived in coventry so it was a bit of a shock to see how small loughborough really was”
  • “People don’t tend to make eye contact or smile which I found quite different when I initially visited the UK, I’m used to it now”
making friends as a student - future generation student residents

Student Accommodation and Housing when moving to the UK

When it comes to student accommodation in the UK, there are many different options you can choose from. We have a Guide on Student Accommodation that can help you better understand the differences and help you pick the right one for you. 

Quick tips for UK Student accommodation for international students:

  • Tip no. 1: Your accommodation can be a great place to meet people and bond over shared experiences. Future Generation for example hosts events that help you to get to know people who are in your accommodation. 
  • Tip no. 2: There are plenty of different accommodation options, so prioritise what is important to you, do your research and pick the accommodation that suits you. 
  • Tip no. 3: If you need help there are people ready to help you. Most universities will offer student support to go to if you’re struggling, ask them for advice. A lot of UK universities also offer room swap options so if your first pick isn’t right for you, there is an option to move particularly in the first term. 

How to manage your finances as a Student in the UK

Managing your money and having financial independence can be both exciting and daunting. For international students managing your finances can be a little more complicated especially when it comes to international transfers. There are however bank account options that can be good for international students in the UK. Some examples include: Natwest select account, Barclays current account and HSBC International Student account. 

Tips on managing financed from our international students:

  • Make a monthly budget for your spending and keep to it!
  • Remember you will have to pay for bills, rent and leisure activities so it can be a good idea to keep a sheet of your spending. 
  • A UK student bank account is a good idea. The exchange rates for using international cards is really high, so it’s better to have a UK bank account. It can sometimes take a long time to get or can be a bit of a hassle but it’s worth it. 

Top tip: The UK is currently experiencing a cost-of-living-crisis as a result of inflation which means everyday household items are more expensive than usual. This is something you may need to consider when planning for your budget in the UK. We have created a Student Budgeting Guide to help you pull yours together. 

Taking care of your Health & Wellbeing

Health & Wellbeing: It can be hard to stay on top of health and well-being as a student. Healthy food is expensive and finding time to do exercise is hard especially during exam seasons. UK universities are usually well equipped with many sports facilities and societies on site, making exercise easily accessible. Plus luxury student accommodations such as Future Generations offer plenty of additional facilities including an onsite gym right at your doorstep! 

Mental Health: Student life can be lonely especially when you’re away from home. Loneliness affects all students at one point or another and in those moments it’s important to have a support network that can help you get through it. Luckily there is help available, many universities offer a student support team that you can talk to, they’re happy to listen and help you.

Tips from students our international students:

  • “Talk to people, ask questions, because they’ll always be people willing to answer. I know people can be intimidating when they’re walking around but they’re actually very nice.”
  • “The UK is pretty diverse and so there’s probably someone who is from your country that you can talk to who can understand what you’re going through”
  • “Create yourself a community in the UK”

How manage homesickness

It’s normal to feel a little homesick while you’re adapting to the culture in the UK as it can be quite different. No matter how hard you try not to be it’s likely that at one point or another you will feel it. Finding small comforts such as a restaurant that reminds you of home or having someone to talk to can be a great way to ease the pain of being away from home. Student support teams can be open ears to guide you through. 

Moreover, as one of our students mentioned, the UK is quite diverse and you are likely to find people from your home country either through different university societies or even on your course. 

Rest assured humans are extremely adaptable and you will adapt in no time!

Tips from our international students:

  • “Keep yourself busy and make a schedule, I try to call my family while we’re both getting ready for the day”
  • “Homesickness is always at it’s worse just after you get back from visiting home, so take your time, you will be OK once you get back into things”
  • “Find places that remind you of home, like a restaurant or community”

How long does it take to complete a degree in the UK?

UK universities usually offer 3 year undergraduate courses with the exception of subjects such as Medical sciences, Architecture and Vet sciences. However, two things that might extend your course are: 

1: A year abroad: where you will have an opportunity to study for a year in a different country. 

2: A placement year: between your second and third year you will work in an industry relevant to your course. 

Usually for university courses in the UK the first year of university does not count towards your final grade and for that reason is more classed as a foundation year or introductory year. It is still important to work hard this year as it will provide you with the foundations that will ultimately facilitate academic success in your chosen subject. 

How are you assessed at University?

UK universities have a variety of testing methods that will be used to assess your progress. Usually degrees in the UK use a mixture of testing methods such as coursework, essays, take home exams and in person exams. Depending on your degree there will be different weighting towards each exam method, for example mathematical or financial degrees tend to be weighted more towards in person exams whereas humanities subjects such as History or Geography tend to be more weighted towards essays or coursework. Before you choose a subject or module it is good to check how you will be assessed so you can choose the subject or module that is suited to your preferred testing style. 

Top Tip: International students have their attendance monitored in line with student visa requirements. If you are going to miss a lecture or seminar let your lecturer know ahead of time so that your attendance is not negatively affected.

What can you expect for your University Social Life?

Don’t be put off by the UK’s binge drinking reputation! UK universities are well known for their drinking culture and that can be a bit of a culture shock when you first arrive, but that doesn’t mean that everyone at UK universities is looking to go clubbing and drinking every night. There is so much more to UK university socialising. 

All UK universities have a student union. The student union or “SU” is a place where you can explore all the societies and events specifically run by your university. Societies are vast and usually cover anything and everything. Some of the most popular societies are for interests such as sport, politics and culture. Societies can be set up by any student which means if you can’t find one that already exists you might be able to make one yourself. They can be a great way to meet like minded people and try new things that take you out of your comfort zone. 

There will also be plenty of social events set up by the universities for you to attend. One very well known event is freshers week, which gives you ample opportunities to meet fellow first year students on campus. There is usually an array of events set up specifically for socialising so it’s worth going along and checking it out. Events may also be set up by your accommodation. At places such as future generations there are new events everyday and once you become a resident you are free to look at each month’s event on our portal, you can even set one up yourself!

Tips from our students:

  • “My initial circle of friends came from the PHD office. I was lucky because my supervisor introduced me to a lot of people”
  • “I found a community in the UK from my degree”
  • “Be chatty and approachable on your first day so you can get to know people”
student life at future generation - student party

Exploring the UK and Travelling Abroad

One of the best things about the UK is how easy it is to explore. The UK is a relatively small country, which means in a matter of hours you can be in a completely different city than where you started. With its rich history and local culture the UK can be a great place to travel around in your free time. 5 Places you could visit are:

1. London, England – being the capital there are plenty of activities and places to visit!

2. Belfast, Northern Ireland – Though perhaps slightly further afield, Belfast is rich in the history and culture of both Ireland and the UK.  

3. Edinburgh, Scotland – rich in scottish history and sightseeing

4. The Lake District, England – England’s largest national park

5. Snowdonia, Wales – the rugged and highest mountain range in the UK

Many UK universities also offer study abroad programmes which can be a great way to explore the world. Studying abroad gives students the opportunity to study for one year in a different country. You can study almost anywhere so if this is something you are interested in, check with your university or course to see whether this could be an option. 

However much you prepare it’s always going to be a little bit of a shock when you first move. The most important thing to remember is you’re not alone and people are there to hear your questions and give you great tips to make your move as smooth as it can be.  

FAQs on navigating life in the UK as an International Student

Can International students settle in the UK?

Yes! You can apply to stay in the UK and work or look for work upon graduation via the UK government’s graduate route visa and the skilled worker visa . A graduate visa gives you two years to find a job post graduation which can then be extended by the skilled worker visa, find out more on gov.uk. There are many other options available so it is always good to look at the UK government website for more information. 

What do you need to do to become an international student in the UK?

You will need to acquire a student visa:

1. Go to the UK Government student visa webpage 

2. You will need a current passport or other valid travel document and a confirmation of acceptance for studies from your course provider in the UK

3. Pay the application fee

4. Ensure you have sufficient funds to cover your stay for at least 28 days. 

5. You may also need to provide: 

6. A valid ATAS certificate if your course or nationality require it 

7. Proof that your parent or guardian consent if you are under 188.

8. Proof of your relationship with your parent or guardian if you are under 18

9. Your tuberculosis test result

Can International Students use universal credit?

Unfortunately international students can’t usually claim universal credit. However there are scholarship and sponsorship programmes that you can apply for if you are studying in the UK which will allow you to receive funding. Check out this webpage to find out more. 

How hard is it to be an international student in the UK?

Each different country has a different educational system, UK universities tend to use practices to encourage independent learning, critical analysis and class participation which can be hard at first if this is something you’re not used to. However,  international students make up 24% of UK university students, so you won’t be alone on this journey. Sometimes it can help to share your experiences with people that are going through a similar thing and so it could be a good idea to reach out to other international students if you’re struggling.

What happens if an international student fails their exams?

It isn’t the end of the world! If you fail an exam you will have the opportunity to retake. If this is in semester 1 and you need to  repeat classes you are able to extend your visa if necessary. However, if you fail a final exam in summer you will need to go home. You will have the opportunity to resit the exam but you will need to apply for a short term visa and may have to apply for a new student visa. It’s a good idea to talk to an international student advisor about your options should this happen. 

Can international students work in the UK while studying?

Yes. Students on full time student visas are permitted to work in the UK while they study. After graduation you can also apply for a graduate visa which allows you time to find work should you wish to stay in the UK.