Tips to Help You Settle in as a Canadian Student in the United Kingdom
An international student at the University of York offers tips to help you adjust to studying in York.
Arriving in York (or in the UK in general) as an international student can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. New country, city, university, people…it can be a lot to take in. Having all the information in one place helps, so here’s some university tips to help you settle you in.
1. Packing woes
Packing is one of the most dreaded things about travelling and moving to a new country for university means you’ll be packing more than you normally would for a holiday. Make a detailed checklist of everything to bring. Check airport rules and baggage limitations for what you can and cannot pack in your carry-on and check-in luggage’s, as each airline does things differently.
2. Preparing to pack
Some people choose to ship things over in advance, but that can be costly. Consider how much luggage space you have and whether anyone will be travelling to the UK with you to help you move in. It’s good to not overpack, and to know what you can just buy when you arrive.
3. Take note of practical differences
You should bring a universal charger/adapter with you for your laptop, phone/tablet chargers. For clothes, while the UK has long winter periods, be prepared for any kind of weather.
An essential thing to have on you when you travel to the UK is a folder containing all your important documents (e.g. offer letter, documents used to apply for your visa like a TB certificate, vaccination history, accommodation letter etc.). If you’re on a student visa, you’ll be asked questions when you go to immigration, so it’s important to have these documents on hand.
4. Opening a bank account and budgeting
Get a UK bank account. The documents you need to prepare for this will depend on what bank you choose. There are several banks who have branches in the city centre that you can use. Most banks require you to begin the application process online before going to their branch in person. They normally ask for your BRP card, passport and a university bank letter (which you can request easily with e:Vision). I opened my account with Barclays, which had a straightforward application process.
You should bring a few weeks’ worth of cash with you in case there is a delay in opening your account. A good way of managing your money, is to use budgeting apps like Mint.
5. Getting essentials and items upon arrival
A lot of your essentials like kitchenware and bedding can be bought upon arrival. If you’re an international student, you’ll most likely be arriving to a bare dorm room with mainly your clothes and toiletries. I used UniKitOut to order my bedding items: pillows, duvet, bedsheets, etc. UniKitOut allows you to buy bedroom, kitchen and bathroom starter sets which can be delivered to your campus accommodation. You can also order things online, from places like Amazon and The Range.
6. Finding home comforts
For food, there’s a Nisa on Campus West and East. In the city centre there’s a Marks & Spencers alongside smaller corner shops such as Tesco Express and Sainsbury Local. In York there’s also an Aldi, Morrisons, Tesco, Co-Op and many more supermarkets. These supermarkets also offer home delivery, where you can book a time slot and have large amounts of groceries straight to your doorstep.
7. Registering with a GP
Access healthcare services whilst you’re in the UK. If you’re living on campus, there’s Unity Health on Campus East. Off-campus, many students use Unity Health or register with the Jorvik Gillygate Practice. For GPs, it’s important to do research and decide which best suits your medical needs.
8. Using York buses
In York, buses are the most common way of getting around. First Bus operates the 66 and 67 buses which allow you to travel between the two campuses and into town easily. The most common ticket types are singles (covering a one-way trip), return (two-way, to and from your destination) and day (allowing you to use any of the buses in the same company for the whole day). You can buy your tickets on the bus with either cash or card. If paying by cash, have the exact amount.
Use the official First Bus app to get tickets! After buying your ticket, activate it on the bus and scan the QR code. The app is also useful for checking bus arrival times, as well as which bus to use and stops to get off.
9. Using the trains
If you want to visit other areas of the UK, trains are the way to go! Train tickets can be costly, so make sure you get a railcard to get discount prices when you buy train tickets. Trainline is a centralised website you can use to buy train tickets.
10. Accessing student discounts and benefits
As a student, you’ll be given a student card which will grant you access to student discounts. There are sites or apps like Student Beans and UNiDAYS. These host a plethora of special discounts from food and drink to clothes.
Your student status also gives you access to Amazon Prime at half the usual price. You can sign up for a six-month free trial before deciding to commit to a subscription. The free delivery and discounted prices have helped me buy things I urgently need, especially over lockdown.
11. Use the support systems
Arriving in a new country is an exhausting experience, both physically and mentally. Knowing who to go to for help is useful in times of crisis. When you first start at York, you’ll be allocated a pastoral supervisor, who will be a member of staff in your department. You’ll meet with them at least once per term and they’ll be your first port of call for support. When living on campus, you can also turn to college tutors (postgraduate students living in your college).
There is also the Writing Centre and the Maths Skills Centre to help with academic support.
12. Join societies
Seek out familiar faces. If you’re missing home, join any social events by school societies. The International Students Association hosts regular events to allow international students to connect. Also, YorWorld Community, a Facebook group set up by the International Support Team shares important info.
13. Mental health support
If it’s difficult to cope with your mental health, there’s Nightline and Open Door. Nightline is a confidential listening service run by students, which does not offer advice but does lend an ear. Open Door is run by mental health practitioners and student wellbeing officers. It provides support for mental health for psychological difficulties.
14. Making York your home away from home
You may feel homesick surrounded by unfamiliar faces in a new environment. Decorate your room to alleviate some of the homesickness.
Homely items can make a bare dorm room seem cosier. Having a personal space to return to after classes makes you feel like York is your second home.
Arriving in the UK to study at university is no easy feat, you should feel proud of what you’ve achieved!
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