5 tips for overseas students in the UK
First published 28 September 2018 • Updated 15 November 2018
Are you a student hoping to study in the UK? Here's a helpful introduction to life as an undergraduate here - including how to cope financially and enjoy everything the UK has to offer.
The UK is a very attractive destination for overseas students, and has been for decades. Its blend of culture and history with a modern, enterprising culture makes it fascinating for visitors from all parts of the world. However there are downsides, such as the high cost of living and the changing relationship with the EU (‘Brexit’) which has made things uncertain for many people.
Choosing to study in the UK is a big decision, but some advance knowledge will help you decide and give you more confidence. Our guide takes you through five simple tips to get you started.
1. Location, location, location
Think of the UK and you naturally think of its capital, London. It’s the overwhelming image presented in countless movies and TV shows.
Here’s the thing. There’s far more to Britain than that! From the Highlands of Scotland down to the beaches of Cornwall, the UK contains huge diversity of landscapes, peoples and experiences.
True, London is exciting, but it is also (in the words of the Londoners) ‘insanely expensive’! So if your finances are limited, you are better off choosing a location in the North or Midlands. Scotland is also worth checking out.
Not only is the price of food (and drink!) cheaper, living outside the capital can also mean better scenery and in some cases friendlier people! And of course you can still visit London affordably, such as by coach.
2. Brexit is coming
You may have heard of a little something called Brexit that is happening in March 2019? Britain is due to leave the EU, and this has many potential implications for overseas students.
It’s all a bit confusing! Because negotiations are ongoing, the exact deal for you hasn’t been sorted out yet. Here are the facts we do know…
As things stand, if you are an EU citizen you are entitled to UK-based student finance. This is good news, as it means you can take out a student loan.
After 2019 things could be different… we just can’t say how! It’s very possible that your fees would increase and you’d be subject to more regulations.
Another important thing to remember is an EHIC card. Health insurance is easily overlooked but arguably the most vital thing to have when abroad. Again, it’s impossible to say at this point whether these (or any equivalent) will be valid post-Brexit, but the likelihood is that they won’t be.
The best thing you can do is keep up to date with developments. You’ll still be able to study in the UK, but remember the terms of your stay could be altered post-Brexit.
3. Get a part time job
We’re thinking that one of the first things on your mind is going to be finding employment. Part-time work alongside lots of studying is a long-established fact of student life.
It’s never been easier. You can look for work on a range of websites, which cover everything from factory shifts to online copywriting. There are also jobs on campus. This isn’t to say the roles on offer are easy to find or particularly stable. However, zero hours contract work can be helpful for students.
We suggest you look into a part time job as early as possible, preferably before you travel to the UK, so you have something ready. Prepare yourself to be flexible and adaptable and you should find something suitable.
4. Cheap(er) travel
One thing that the UK is famous for is high travel costs. As native students will attest, getting around the country by train can be extremely expensive!
It doesn’t have to be this way. A 16-25 Railcard gives you a third off fares. Make sure that you use this £10 cashback offer to make the price of you railcard cheaper. Another vital tip is to book in advance, if you want lower train fares is booking in advance. And by ‘in advance’ we mean weeks or even months before you travel!
A good option for big savings in the London area is an Oyster card. Away from the capital, it’s useful to read up on what your local authority offers.
5. Student discounts
Luckily for you there are many discounts offered to students everywhere. The UK is no different, with a wide range of offers available.
Keep your eyes open! Scan online for the latest deals and take full advantage of your student status. An important step is get hold of an ISIC card. That’s an International Student Identity Card, available free for a year via the UK’s TOTUM card (through the National Union of Students). An ISIC card gives you money off food, drink, retail purchases and much more.
We hope these tips will make your life easier in a foreign country where everyone talks too fast in British accents you’ve never heard before!
If you found this useful, you might like to check out our guide for students living away from home.
Nick Green is communications manager at Unbiased, the UK's favourite place to find advice you can trust. He has been writing professionally on finance, business and many other topics for over 15 years.