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

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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!