In this post I share with you 10 arrival tips that, from my own experience, are useful especially for Chinese students living abroad for the first time. You may think it’s difficult to get settle into an English-speaking country that you’re totally unfamiliar with. But I guarantee you, being an international student in the UK is easy and pleasant if you get off to a good start – no matter whether you are an undergraduate who will stay here for three or four years, or you are pursuing postgraduate study for only one year.
Remember to Confirm Your Offer
If you have got an unconditional offer, congratulations! You can simply accept it once you’ve decided which university you want to study with. If you have a conditional offer, you have to meet the conditions before your place is confirmed. Remember to submit your final results and accept the offer before the deadline. Only when you have an unconditional firm offer do you have a secure place to study with the university.
Get Done with the Student Visa
Hmm… here comes the most troublesome part of your departure preparations: getting a student visa.
You apply for your visa online but after that you need to go to a ‘visa appointment’. There are visa offices in only 12 cities in China and you book the appointment online after submitting your application.
For your appointment, bring all necessary documents with you, especially your passport, a printed copy of your CAS email, and the Tuberculosis Certificate (you need to go for testing before applying for your visa, the test costs ¥550).
After your appointment, it may take 14 days before you hear back. Don’t panic if your visa application is rejected (extremely low chance that it will). Find out what is missing and resubmit your documents as soon as possible. Here is the official UK visa application website in Chinese where you can get more information.
Sort Out Your Student Room
Find a comfortable place where you’ll be happy to live and study for the next year. There should be university accommodation available – most universities offer it for at least first year international students. Check the university website for more information.
Make sure everything is done before leaving China, then you can enjoy yourself once you arrive the UK. But if you’re renting a private room or flat outside campus, get advice from your university. Be careful as there are many scams and fraud targeting international students who are looking to rent.
Bring Your Documents with You
This is an extremely important step: when travelling to the UK, bring all the important documents and take them with you in your hand luggage on your flight. When you get to the airport here, the immigration officer might ask you to provide your documents, like your offer letter, Chinese degree certificate and IELTS certificate. Your Chinese ID Card is not required.
Just bring enough necessities for the first few days if you have limited space in your luggage. Don’t pay for extra luggage or to have things shipped. You can buy a few new things here as the price difference to China is very small.
There are also lots of supermarkets selling food and other necessities at quite affordable prices. And of course there are Chinese restaurants and Chinese supermarkets in most cities in the UK, where you can get the food and enjoy the tastes from your sweet home country.
Get Registered and Connected
Now, there are few important things you need to settle as soon as possible when you arrive in the UK. Find out from your university when enrolment is for your course. Also, remember to book an appointment to register with the police (your student visa requires it) and to register with a GP (a doctor). Usually, there is a health centre at the university itself where you can do this. Finally, get your UK phone SIM card – you could buy this ahead at a lower price online from Taobao.
Budget Your Life
When you get to the UK, open a student bank account (and put most of your cash into the account), there are a variety of banks you can choose from. It is wiser and easier to use your card most of the time as card payments are much more widely accepted here compared to China. Pay your school fees before the deadline as otherwise you won’t be able to enrol. You could do it via credit or debit card, however, a bank draft (only Bank of China) is recommended given the lower commission charges.
Go to Freshers’ Week at your university and attend activities – as many as possible. Join societies and get involved in the student life. I know it may be difficult for most Chinese students to speak up in an English-speaking country, but believe me, you will be part of the university soon as long as you are confident to speak English and open to making friends.
Once settled, get to know your surroundings and find out the way to the lecture theatres and seminar rooms.
Approach Somebody for Help
Of course, at some point during your degree you might have some problems with your life and study. Go to your course tutors if you are confused about university life or course choices. And book an appointment to go and see your GP if you are feeling unwell. Find out from your university about international student support. Also, remember that you can always contact Chinese Embassy in the case of emergencies.
Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself
And yes! University is a totally new chapter of your life, so do enjoy it. As they say, ‘study hard, play hard’. Go out and check new things out that the university and new city have to offer. Most importantly, remember to stay healthy and to get help if you’re not feeling comfortable. Good luck and enjoy!
Before I go, have you heard of pre-departure events?
Credit: University of Edinburgh, YouTube
Finally, I was pleased to attend the departure meeting held by my university, where officers came to China to give us useful suggestions. If your university has this kind of meeting, do attend it. The tips they provide will be very relevant and helpful. They will tell you about various things like travel, accommodation, healthcare, banking, etc. If you can’t go to the briefing, don’t panic – and follow the tips here, I hope you’ll find them helpful as well.
Meet me, Manchun!
Born in China, I moved to Singapore for secondary education as a scholar when I was 15. And currently, I am a year 1 economics and finance undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh.
I love food, music and photography. Feel free to contact me if you want to share your story with me or if you need any help as an international student.