The UK is famous for its history. Modern architecture can be found allover the country mixed with medieval castles. The UK is very rich in culture and offers a lot to do for international students; from museums and cinemas to sports stadia and amusement parks. The UK is considered to be a melting pot of different cultures which makes it so diverse in its customs and habits. Rest assured that you will be entering into a welcoming society that has a multicultural atmosphere from all its many international citizens.
The most important cultural aspects of the country are through literature, cinema, theatre and philosophy. Not only that, but the UK has had a large and influencing role in the fields of science and technology and have produced so many scientists who have changed the course of history such as the great physicist Isaac Newton, Darwin and other renowned scientists.
The social, cultural and economic conditions in the country have been affected by the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom. This has led to considerable political and economic influence in many countries around the world, which in turn has led to the country's language spread to many countries around the world. The United Kingdom is considered to be a great cultural power that London was named the World Cultural Capital.
The UK is notably one of the best places to live in. But, like any other country, it has its own set of customs, culture, and way of doing things, which may differ from a student’s home country and require some learning and getting used to. We have put together some details about life in the UK to help students plan ahead and adjust into the country more easily.
Students are strongly encouraged to arrange their accommodations prior to their arrival. There are generally three options for accommodations: on-campus residence, homestay, and off-campus housing (private rentals).
On-Campus Residence Halls
Students can find residence options offered by a university, along with the residence application deadline on the school’s website or by contacting the school directly. Many foreign students, and out-of-town domestic students, choose to live in residence halls during their first year instead of making off-campus arrangements to make their transition easier. Campus residences are furnished, and often also include cleaning and meals. On-Campus housing is an excellent way for students to make friends and immerse into the college/university experience in a supportive and structured environment.
Another great way to connect with locals is through the homestay program. Students can also choose to live with a British family, who becomes their “host”. The “host” family is screened by a professional agency. One popular agency is UK Homestay. There are many other options that students can consider as well. Some British universities may even have a preferred homestay agency that they work with. Students can research this on their school’s website or by searching “name of school” and “homestay” on Google.
Students also have the option of renting an apartment or a room outside of school. Some schools have facilities that help students find a place, known as off-campus housing assistance. Students can find housing on websites like Student Housing UK, Student Accommodation UK and The Student Housing Company, or by searching on Facebook. When searching, use keywords like “(name of school) student housing” or “(name of school) rentals”. For temporary housing, students can also consider staying at a hotel or Airbnb, many of which offer discounts for extended stays. Please note that this is an expensive option and should only be used as a last resort.
Transportation services play a big factor in choosing where to live. If a student is considering living off-campus, they should research ahead to ensure the commute to and from campus will be convenient.
The UK has a robust public transportation system, which makes it easy for students and other commuters to get around cities. All major towns in the UK have reliable, affordable public bus networks. The National Rail is a network of 10,072 route miles (16,116 km) in Great Britain and 189 route miles (303 km) in Northern Ireland. Urban rail networks exist in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle, making it easy for commuters and students to get from major city to major city. In London, the famous Underground, or “The Tube”, is a below-ground subway system that serves the city. Additionally, London has overground trains and light rail transit. As a student, there are discounts available to ride either the bus or train. For instance, the Oyster card entitles full-time students to a 30% discount on the adult fare. Daily, Monthly, or Yearly passes are available for purchase.
Cars and Driving
The UK has a large network of roads and highways, making long distance travel by car possible between most places. Driving occurs on the left side of the road, and the majority of vehicles have steering wheels on the right side. Automatic transmission is also far more common than manual (stick-shift) transmission. In the UK, driving regulations and licenses are managed federally, and can differ from country to country. Regulations differ for foreign students and visitors, varying by the driver’s country of origin and length of stay. Here are few basic regulations:
- If a student’s license is from the European Economic Area (the EU), they may use their license in the UK without any restrictions. Note that this may change once the UK leaves the EU in 2020.
- If a student’s license is from one of the 15 non- EU designated countries, it can be used for up to 12 months from the time they became a UK resident. After that, students can apply to exchange their license for a British license.
- If a student holds another kind of international license, they can drive for up to 12 months with it. After that, students will need to take a driving test in the UK.
We recommend that students consult with the UK Driving Test Centre to verify the specific regulations that apply to them before they begin driving. In addition to a driving license, all drivers must also have vehicle insurance before they get behind the wheel.
Adjusting to life in the UK
The British welcome foreign students with open arms, and hundreds of thousands of international students study in the UK happily and safely. However, it is natural to feel homesick from time to time. Universities in the UK provide a wide range of support services to make students study experience easy and stress-free. These include: language and academic support; designated international student advisers; on-arrival reception and orientation programs; student housing; employment services; prayer and worship rooms; on-campus banking, shopping and food outlets; and, clubs, societies, and sport and fitness facilities. There are also many activities on campus to help international students get to know other students, make friends and explore their new city and country. At most universities, the first week is the “Freshers Week” or Orientation Week. It consists of several events and sessions designed to help students become familiar with their surroundings, and meet fellow students in a social setting. Students also get opportunities to sign up, join and get involved with different student clubs during Freshers Week. Although attendance is usually optional, we recommend students take advantage of this orientation week to help them transition to student living in the UK. Students should take the time to explore their neighborhood and attend local events, while remembering to stay in touch with their own culture and their family back home and embracing the best of both worlds.
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