Three years of my life as an EU student of English Literature at the University of East Anglia,England.
So we are now well into the summer and you are probably starting to think more and more about your move to university. In about a month, you’ll be flying to the UK, leaving your family, your friends and probably everything you know. I know how exciting and yet stressful planning everything can be, but do not worry: it is an amazing opportunity and life-changing experience you won’t regret!
I was in your shoes two years ago. I was getting so excited to finally discover the university I’d been thinking and talking about for months! I didn’t get the chance to visit UEA before and I’d only found few photos and videos of the uni online. It’s not like France is far from England, like I’d never been to England, or like I was moving into a very different culture, but I remember feeling like I was going on a crazy adventure and doing something amazing. I was leaving home, I was going to be (more or less) independent!
Preparing things from a distance isn’t always easy so here are the most important things you need to know:
Packing can be a pain, especially when you’re going away for months but remember that there are shops in the UK! If you’re worried about spending too much,Primark offers very good prices on clothes and you can get so many different things (from kitchen stuff to toiletries) for £1 in Poundland!
So as a general rule I’d say don’t bring too many things with you! You don’t even need your entire wardrobe: what’s really important is to have warm clothes, a good coat, gloves, good shoes and an umbrella because it’s always raining. It’s also really important to bring items that can help you feel at home like posters, photographs or soft toys!
This point seems quite obvious but make sure you know how you’re going to get to your university and when you need to arrive. UEA organises a free shuttle from Norwich airport and also offers a coach service from Heathrow airport. I’m glad I used their service because it helped so much to meet international students who were in the same situation and who were as lost as I was after I landed. Moreover, they took us directly to the university and showed us where to go to get accommodation keys, etc. Alternatively, if you don’t have the choice or feel a bit more adventurous, you can use the National Express coach service or take the train!
I hope that if you’ve already booked your plane tickets, you know where you’re going to live! If you’re going to stay in university accommodation, you might not have much information about what’s provided in flats and it might also depend on your residence. At UEA, you’ll need to bring your own bedding, clothes hangers and desk lamp. There is a desk chair (a terrible one) and your flat should have a kettle but it may be disgusting.
I don’t know how I would have survived the first days if I hadn’t discovered the website UniKitOut! Basically, you can order lots of things such as bedding, pillows, duvet, hangers, and kitchen stuff and everything is delivered directly to your room the day you arrive! It is particularly convenient at UEA since mail isn’t delivered in your accommodation. Although UniKitOut isn’t cheap and the quality of their bedding isn’t amazing, it helped me so much. I’d recommend to only buy bedding there, and to get everything else in the city centre or online for less money!
UEA also organises a Pots and Pans sale during Arrival Weekend and Freshers’ Week so you can get lots of very cheap second-hand things. Otherwise, the last option is to do an Asda order: things will be delivered outside your residence (another thing I didn’t know before I arrived).
Having a bank account was one of the most stressful things for me, especially since I didn’t really know the banks that existed in the UK and I couldn’t find much information on their websites. But again, there was no need to worry so much because it is very simple! All you really need to do is to pick a bank (I don’t think it makes a big difference which), go and say you want to open an account, give them your passport and a proof of residence in the UK and you’re done! I chose Barclays because there’s a branch on campus.
If you’re a European student, it’s worth checking with your home bank if you can get some kind of convention which offers less taxes when transferring money abroad, to your account in the UK.
Another tricky thing when you don’t know the place where you’ve just arrived! I hope it’ll be helpful if I just make a list of the biggest shops in the UK that you can find in every city so you can look it up on Google Maps: Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Aldi…
Aldi is known for being super cheap, but Tesco and Asda do home delivery which can be really convenient at the start when you need to buy EVERYTHING!
If you’re a 21st century kid, chances are you’ll want and need a mobile! There are many different operators offering similar deals with brand new mobiles. WhatI do and recommend is to use the phone you already have (as long as it’s not SIM-locked) and to get a pay-as-you-go deal (Giff Gaff is the cheapest – you can order a SIM card online), especially if you’re going home during term holidays and in summer.
It’s good to be familiar with your course structure before term starts but you don’t always get much information before Freshers’ Week. In any case, you will know everything you need to know during the first week – so again, don’t worry! Make sure to check your university mailbox and to go to course-related events. And don’t buy books before you’re actually told to buy them! The reading lists you may find online haven’t always been updated.
I can’t stress enough the importance of feeling comfortable at university and to go to events so you can meet people! They might not become your best friends, you might never see them again, but you don’t want to feel lonely in a country you don’t know. So if I had ONE tip for you, it would be: go out, overcome your shyness, talk to people, have fun! Everybody’s really friendly, plus remember that we’re all in the same situation at first! 🙂 People don’t bite, usually.
Healthcare is super super important and you’re allowed to (and MUST) register with the NHS if you’re going to university for more than 6 months! Do it as soon as possible so it’s out of the way and we never know what might happen. There is a medical centre at UEA where you can register and get doctor appointments. Make sure to print and fill out the necessary documents that can be found online beforehand.
If you’re an EU student, it’s worth asking for a European healthcare card! Better safe than sorry…
Make sure you’ve got your Student Finance loan covered and that they have all the documents they need; join clubs and societies; bring adaptors for UK plugs; and leave home with a lot of cash in Pound and a bank card because that’s all you’ll have until you’ve opened your new bank account and received money on it!
I hope this was helpful! 🙂 Do not hesitate to comment below if there is anything else you’d like to ask, and thanks for visiting my blog!