An International Student of Literature in England.
Getting ready for my big move to England last year was a stressful experience. Although I’d already gone through the whole applying to university, student finance and accommodation process during the previous months (fortunately, I don’t need a Visa), opening a bank account, finding a mobile deal, registering for the NHS and applying for a National Insurance Number were important things I still needed to take care of as soon as possible. In the end, it was quite easy and everything went smoothly. But I was prepared. I’d made a lot of research about these things beforehand but missing some of these things could have happened easily.
Registering for the NHS and with a local medical centre or GP is compulsory for every student staying in the UK for over six months, whether they’re European or international. That means you’re eligible for free appointments and treatment if needed. I think I first heard about it in the emails UEA sent and I found some forms to fill out on the UEA medical centre website! They ask basic but important questions about vaccination, diseases you may have had and if you want to be a blood or organ donor. Once you’ve queued for ages and have returned the forms at the medical centre, you’ll receive a letter telling you your NHS number! It’s very important that you take it seriously and do it as soon as possible. It’s compulsory for students anyway.
National Insurance Number
I didn’t know what National Insurance Numbers existed in England nor that I’d need one. If you’ve never heard of NIN, it’s a number you absolutely need if you ever want to work in the UK, even if it’s only a part-time or student job that you get at UEA. To apply, you need to ring the application line and say you want to apply for a NIN. Once you’ve answered a few questions, you’ll get an appointment (mine was in Norwich Job Centre) where you bring a few documents, prove your identity and explain why you’re applying (just say you’re looking for a job). Since getting the letter with your number can take a few weeks, I highly recommend that you apply for it as soon as you’ve moved, even though you don’t necessarily plan to work while studying. You’ll always keep the same number so it could be useful in the future.
Opening a bank account seemed pretty scary and tough but it really wasn’t since I was eligible to get a student account. To open your account, all you need to do is to go to the closest branch and say you want to open an account. They’ll ask to see an ID, proof that you’re a student (ask your hub or something) and proof of residence (accommodation contract) and they will give you an appointment. All the foreign students are going to do the same thing so do this as soon as possible because banks are going to be very busy. Most banks offer great deals and gifts for students. You can see what they offer on their websites. Some give vouchers, free railcards… I didn’t get any of it with Barclays but the reason why I chose them is that there’s a branch on campus, on The Street. It made everything easier for me when I first moved in. If you’re less scared of exploring the city than me, then do it and get the railcard or Amazon voucher!
You’ll also really need a phone contract, and all the operators (EE, Three, O2, Giff Gaff, Virgin…) offer similar deals for similar prices. It really depends on you, what you need and on your budget. Also, I found mobile deals much more expensive than in France, so be prepared! Personally I’ve chosen Giff Gaff for two reasons: I’d got a free Giff Gaff SIM card in a gift box offered by UEA and they do a “cheap” Pay As You Go thing where you pay for a month at a time. It’s perfect for me since I don’t want to pay while I’m on holiday in France (several months in a year). I’d say Giff Gaff is the perfect compromise for international students! You can also get traditional 12 or 24 months contacts with or without a new mobile. So to sum up, choosing the right deal is important and entirely up to you.