5 tips for international students moving to the UK

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Transitioning from high school to university is pretty tough. However, moving to a totally different country at the same time can make the experience even more difficult! I’m currently studying medicine at the University of Bristol, but my true home is 6,000 miles away – Thailand. I understand it’s hard to adapt to a new environment and culture, especially when you are a minority. That’s why I’m sharing my tips for international students moving to the UK.

1. Find your country’s society at your university

This can even begin months before you set foot in the UK – I joined the Bristol Thai Society Facebook group before moving. These people are your first point of contact if you want to know anything and basically become your family away from home. This can span from simple questions like how to find the best authentic restaurant in town, to more serious ones concerning visas or exam re-sits.

2. Pack some of your favourite snacks from home

My luggage is always at least 70% food. This way, if you’re ever feeling homesick, you’ll be able to have a little taste of home. However, make sure you don’t pack any liquid substances (such as soup), as it could ruin your luggage.

3. Google Maps your university area

Explore the area you’ll be living in by using Google Maps and Street View. Make a few notes in a notebook, writing down the nearest supermarket, various lecture buildings, the university’s Student Union, stationary shops, or interesting restaurants. When you actually arrive, the university will definitely provide lots of information to guide you around the area, but nothing beats your own handwriting if it’s a rainy day and you’re completely lost.

4. Be aware of the drinking culture

During the first week of university, I quickly realised that there was a clubbing event every single night. Not only is the drinking age in Thailand is 20, but drinking is simply not a core part of our culture and just due to my personality, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like partying (trust me, I’ve tried). But drinking is very popular in the UK and students are bombarded with deals (“2-4-1s every Tuesday!”, “Free drink on entry!” and “BYOB!”, which stands for Bring Your Own Bottle/Booze). It can feel very different to your own culture (especially if you’re Asian like me), but just like sharing food with friends, drinking is another way people bond. Just remember: don’t ever feel pressured to drink because everybody else is; you can have fun without alcohol and people in the UK are mostly very understanding if you say no to a drink.

5. Carry around some cash

OK, so you don’t need a suitcase stuffed with money, but it’s good to have a supply of cash with you during the first couple weeks (maybe £200-£300 maximum). This way, you’ll be able to purchase all the essentials you need to settle in, while you open up a UK bank account – the university’s Student Union can often help you with this, but the processing time can be slow, so make sure you’re prepared.