University Life

/ 3 years ago /

 Article by Stephanie Fung

What international students should know about starting University

This post was written by an external contributor. The first term of university can be a tough time for international students, so Stephanie Fung gives her life hacks to help you get to grips with the UK as quick as possible…

Starting university is an incredibly exciting adventure, full of opportunities and new places for you to explore. However, for international students thousands of miles away from home, it can be equally nerve-wracking. If you’re feeling stressed out about dealing with so much change in a foreign clime, here’s a list of top tips that will help you get settled in. Buckle up, ‘cos it’s going to be one heck of a ride.

Bank Account

international students budgeting

One of the least exciting but most important parts of beginning university in the UK is sorting out your finances, especially if it is your first time studying in the UK. Sometimes, all the partying, online shopping and late-night pizza nights get out of hand and you are left with nothing. Therefore, it is definitely useful to get a good student bank account!

Banks such as Barclays and NatWest have the best overdraft facilities and, believe me, these are the ones you should be going for. You don’t want to be hit with a £10 charge for dipping in that overdraft a.k.a the student lifeline. So do your research! With the right bank account, you will be able to keep track of your finances more clearly, and spend your money more wisely.

Student perks

Student Oyster and Railcard

One of the most exciting things about studying abroad is being able to explore everything the UK has to offer, from the beaches of Cornwall, the beautiful sceneries of the Lake District to the hiking trails of Scotland. With a 16-25 Railcard, for £30 a year, you will be able to travel around the UK and get 1/3 off any Standard Anytime, Off-Peak, Standard Advanced and First Class Advanced train tickets!

If you’re  studying in London, you should also consider applying for the Student Oyster card for £20, which gives you a 30% discount off the price of adult-rate Travelcards and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets. You can also add the Railcard discount to the Student Oyster card (if you have both) and get a 34% discount on off-peak pay as you go fares and off-peak daily caps. Bargain!


Bless whoever invented Unidays, because it has saved many students’ wallets. When you register with Unidays with your University email, you will be entitled to exclusive student discounts from top brands ranging from Topshop and ASOS, to electronics such as Apple and Microsoft.

NUS Extra Card

For £12 a year or £32 for 3 years, the NUS extra card gives you exclusive discounts on many brands such as ASOS, Co-op or Odeon that can be worth up to £500 a year. If you have a student bank account with Lloyds or Bank of Scotland, you will also be eligible for a free NUS Extra Card for one year! What are you waiting for?

Get stuck in

international students freshers

Some of you might be a little nervous about your first term of uni because of all the stories you hear about people going out to drink, club and party every night, and those who don’t join in being deemed ‘party poopers’. But just remember being a fresher isn’t all about drinking and partying, it’s also about joining fun and exciting societies, making new friends and getting to know a new city.

I know it can be challenging, especially to those who may be shyer than others, to get out there and socialise with complete strangers, but trust me, it will all be worth it! You should really utilise your time well during first term, making the most of all the opportunities offered. Many universities, for example, will organise trips to the city centre to help you familiarise yourself with the area you’ll be studying in for the next three to four years.

Working in the UK

If you intend to stay in the UK post-graduation to work, start gaining work experience through placements and internships, and do your research on applying for a Tier 2 Work Visa as soon as possible. Three years might feel like a long time, but trust me, it passes by like lightening.

Understanding how the work visa works is important, as not every company can or are willing to sponsor international students. Again, research is so important and if in doubt, talk to your university career adviser who is not only experienced but will also be able to give you constructive advice and help with your applications.

Websites such as Student Circus are incredibly helpful, and will guide you towards the companies and schemes that will sponsor a Tier 2 Working Visa. And don’t forget to use Debut to keep on track of all the latest internships, placements and graduate jobs!

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