Part 2 - Arriving in the UK

22:24 Unknown 3 Comments

Arriving and moving around a foreign country can be a daunting experience. I was fortunate to have seniors who helped me in my first week. Here are some tips to help ease your arrival in the UK.

1. Arriving at the airport

Most international students will arrive at Heathrow Airport. Upon arrival, people who hold non-EU passports will present a completed landing card (usually handed out in the plane) and passport with the temporary visa at the border control. Fill in this card on the plane to save time later.
Plan your travel wisely to allow at least half an hour wait at the international border control line. During busy times, the wait in the line will take at least an hour.

You can apply to join the Registered Traveller Service if you are a passport holder from:
Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan or the USA. With this privilege, you can use the ePassport gate and the UK/EU entry lanes, and no landing card is needed. For more information, refer here.

The border control queue 

2. Getting from the airport to Oxford

Heathrow airport : Sign up for the meet and greet service so you can be guided by the student helpers at the airport. Get the blue Airline bus from the Central Bus Station bus stand 15 or Terminal 5 bus stand 10. A single ticket costs £23 (only cash payment on board). 

Gatwick airport : Get the Airline bus from stands 1/2 (South Terminal) or stands 4/5 (North Terminal)

Stansted airport : Get national express bus no. 737. 

An alternative mode of transport is train. 
Student helpers for the meet and greet at the Heathrow airport

3. Arriving in Oxford 

If you are arriving in Oxford during Arrivals Weekend (17-18 September), disembark the Airline bus at the Thornhill Park and Ride stop. There, you can take the free U6 bus to your hall of residence. 

Most hall contracts start on 17th September. You could move in up to a week earlier (starting 11th September) if you submit a request to the accommodation department. If you are arriving at the hall of residence by car, remember to book your parking slot.

4. Moving in to your room

After getting your key from the accommodation office, you should check the room for any problems and report to the office immediately. 

Food and living supplies can be bought from the shops in Cowley, Headington or city centre. With your inclusive BrookesKey (pink bus card), you have unlimited travel on the U1, U1X, U4, U5 and U5X buses. Alternatively, you could get affordable used bicycles on Gumtree or new bicycles from the shops. There is also a free bike doctor service
U1 bus serves between Harcourt Hill campus and Wheatley Campus

5. Freshers/Induction Week 

The most important thing to do when you first reach the university is to go to the Student Central to get your biometric card and finalize your student forms. You will then attend your induction/enrolment session.

Freshers Fair will take place on 23rd September. This is a great opportunity for you to sign up for societies, meet people and get unlimited freebies. Freshers Week is packed with exciting activities which will help you feel more welcomed.

If you are around in Oxford on 10-11 September, check out the Oxford Open Doors event. You can visit some of the Oxford University colleges for free.

Freshers Week - Great time to meet new friends and bond with your housemates

The differences in culture and lifestyle can be a source of distress to international students. For example, some students may feel slightly uncomfortable and unfamiliar to drinking (alcohol). With time, you will adapt and get used to your new life.   

Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity for you to step outside your comfort zone and expose yourself to exciting possibilities and challenges. It is good to keep an open mind, at the same, always be vigilant and responsible for your decisions.

See you in September ! For more information, refer here.


Studying & settling in the UK as an international student - Part 1

20:41 Unknown 0 Comments

Oxford Brookes University (Image source: apsu)

A month to go before students from all around the globe start to flood the universities. I had my own harrowing experience back in September 2011 when I reached England all by myself, looking like a shepherd herding my 3 huge bags. So, I would like to share my own experiences in studying and settling in the UK. This is Part 1- Preparing to go to the UK.

(a) Course
For Architecture, you have to do some reading recommended by the university. These materials may be used later in the theoretical modules. It helps to have some knowledge about the architecture in UK as a huge part of your studies will be based on the English/European architecture.

Bring drawing and model making tools (technical pens, blades, drafting paper, sketchbooks, etc.) as these materials are costly here. Unless you have enough baggage allowance, you can buy heavier items such as portfolio cases, cutting boards and papers in the shops here. Broad Canvas and The Works offer great discounts.

(b) Accommodation
For first years, I recommend living in the halls. You build up social skills, independence, responsibility and respect. The price may be higher compared to living in a shared house, but the experience is priceless. For second year onward, I suggest renting a house with a group of friends.
Clive Booth Hall with shared kitchen

(c) Living materials
If you are from an Asian family like me, expect your luggage to be loaded with lots of herbs, spices and goodies. It may seem like a hassle at first because these foods weigh a lot, but you will be eternally grateful to yourself and your parents for your/their wisdom. Nothing can comfort you better on a gloomy winter than a bowl of tomyum syiokness. Or when you are sick of pasta and broccoli, a packet of Penang White Curry Mee will lift your spirits! Craving is a serious epidemic among international students here not to be taken lightly! Thanks to a picture of nasi lemak posted by someone in Malaysia on Facebook, the C syndrome starts and lasts for what feels like an eternity till it is satisfied. When you run out of home food, just pop into the Asian shops in town. My rule of thumb is bring foods that you will crave for in the next 5 months.

Thong Heng Asian mart in Headington

Winter clothes/duvet are expensive in tropical countries. Bring a few pairs of long sleeves to layer up (it's a little chilly in September when you arrive) because you can get cheaper ones that are more suited to the English weather from the shops here such as Primark.

A small rice cooker helps a great deal when you are too busy to cook luxuriously. You can get other kitchen utensils for a cheap price at Argos, Robert Dyas and Poundland.

(d) Finance
Bring some GBP to last you for a month or so. Setting up a bank account in the UK may take some time, meanwhile you need hard cash to buy food and pay rent/transport. Keep your local currency too.

(e) Mental
If you had lived in a western country or studied in an international school, the transition is almost seamless. But for me, it was a gigantic leap from what I was accustomed to, to what was alien to me -extreme courtesy, invisibility of the sun throughout the day, eccentric vocabulary & lightning speed walking.

Homesickness can be overcome by letting your emotions out alone or to a friend. It will wear off in a jiffy when you are occupied by studies and good friends. If you had lived in another city away from family, then you should be mentally strong to live thousands of miles away from home.

I wish you all a great time getting ready to come to the UK! You are privileged to study in a beautiful, amazing country, be excited!

Stay tune for Part 2 - Arriving in the UK!