10 things international students should know about studying in the UK

10 things international students should know about studying in the UK

This article about 10 things international students should know about studying in the UK was published by the Great British Mag content team on 3 January, 2022

Moving to the UK can be both exciting and challenging in equal measures. There is so much to figure out that sometimes it feels a tad overwhelming. If you’re thinking about applying for a course in the UK as an international student, here’s everything you need to know.

The cost of studying in the UK?

If you are dreaming of studying in the UK, but think it might be too expensive then the first thing to do is work out your budget and research all the expenses your will incur. Make sure you consider course fees, rent, food, NHS surcharge, mobile phone, internet, bank fees, transportation costs—local, trips, going home—socialising, books and other course materials.

A number of apps and online tools are available, including the International Student Calculator, to help you forecast how much your regular expenses will amount to. Also, bear in mind some towns and cities are cheaper to live in than others and you should consider this when choosing your university.

British humour

They say the best way to become someone’s friend is to make them laugh, but hitting the sweet spot with British humour can be quite difficult. One of the biggest types of British humour is sarcasm. If you’re not familiar with it, it can be quite difficult to pull off. It’s essentially saying one thing and often meaning the complete opposite. For example, if it’s raining outside, a sarcastic joke might be: ‘Lovely weather we’re having!’

Other forms of quintessentially British humour are through pantomimes, satire, slapstick (like Monty Python or The Benny Hill Show), understatement and making fun of the class system.

How to access healthcare

After you pay the National Health Service (NHS) surcharge, you’re entitled to access the country’s health service. This means you can see a doctor, receive emergency treatment and access compulsory psychiatric treatment for free. But be aware: not every treatment is covered by the NHS and you will still need to pay for prescriptions, vaccinations, dental care and optical care.

You can also get help if you’re having trouble with your mental health. Most universities and colleges have a free and confidential counselling service you can access, with professionally qualified counsellors. You can also discuss things like anxiety, stress and depression through an NHS doctor.

Student accommodation

Sorting out where you’re going to live in the UK can be a mammoth task, but it’s important to get it right. There are a few options you can choose from, including university-owned student accommodation, privately-rented student accommodation and renting a regular flat, studio or house and all have their pros and cons.

Working while studying

The student visa allows you to work while studying in the UK, but your weekly hours and the types of jobs you can hold will be restricted. Typically, you are permitted to work up to 20 hours a week but you should double-check this. The exact number of hours you’re allowed to work depends on a number of factors, so make sure to check the Home Office website and your visa.


One of the biggest cultural differences of being in the UK is the obsession British people have with being polite. One of the most common examples of this is saying sorry, even if you’re not necessarily apologising for something. For example, if you’re trying to ask a friend a question, you might say: ‘Sorry, can I ask you a question?’ Politeness also extends to things like queuing respectfully, as well as saying thank you or excuse me. This inoffensive way of communicating is a staple within UK culture.

Student travel

There are lots of ways to get around the UK, including trains, buses, ferries, trams, bikes, taxis and good old fashioned walking. For travelling around the UK, you can buy the 16-25 railcard for just £30. Once you have the railcard, you can purchase tickets for around the UK with a third off the regular adult price. If you’re going to be in London, our comprehensive transport guide will tell you everything you need to know.

What to organise before you arrive in the UK

There are loads of things you can organise pre-arrival to make your move less stressful. Here are just a few:

  • Open your UK bank account before you arrive. With the Card One Money account you can have an account open in minutes and a debit card posted to you within 48 hours after you arrive in the UK.
  • Accommodation: Check out Amber Student to find the right accommodation for your needs and budget and get £50 off your booking.
  • Arrange a UK phone number and SIM: Get a UK SIM with £5 credit posted to you for free anywhere in the world 

Student visas

In 2020 the UK government changed the visa process for students that want to move to the UK to study at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and the visa process has a number of pros and cons which you should familiarise yourself with. A different visa, called the short-term study visa, is required if you want to come to the UK to study for six to 11 months, and you are over 16 years old.

British university culture

University culture in the UK is unique and the backbone of student social life are societies and clubs run by the university’s student union. There are student societies for sports, politics, religion, entertainment, activism, gender/sexuality. In fact you can find a society or club for almost everything!

British students also like to chillout over a drink and having a pint in the local pub is a big part of socialising so you should familiarise your with British pub culture.

As for the education side of it, typical classes emphasise critical thinking and self-motivated learning, with some lecturers even encouraging you to call them by their first names. You may be expected to do lots of reading in your own time and depending on your subject, you may also have labs, practical workshops and work experience as part of your curriculum. While you’re ultimately at university to study and learn, it’s absolutely worth getting amongst the social scene too.

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