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 by Lydia Chantler-Hicks
, posted on 1 Feb '19

6 Top Tips for International Masters Students in the UK

The UK may not be very large, but it’s one of the world’s most popular study abroad destinations for postgraduates.

There are plenty of great things about studying a Masters in the UK. Yet moving to any new country can also seem daunting.

These six simple pieces of advice will help to ensure you have a smooth transition to postgraduate study at a British university.

#1 Bring an umbrella

Although British people love to complain about the weather, the UK’s climate is actually quite moderate compared to the rest of the world. (We even get some sunshine and warmth in the summertime!).

However, we still advise you to invest in an umbrella. And a raincoat. And waterproof shoes.

While some countries have a dry season and a monsoon, in most parts of the British Isles it tends to just drizzle randomly throughout the year. Whether it’s Christmas Day or a warm summer afternoon, rain is always a possibility.

Although doesn’t rain quite as much as we make out, it is likely to do so at the most inconvenient moments. Like when you’re about to set off for a lecture, or when you’re rushing to hand in your neatly-bound postgraduate dissertation.

So come prepared: you can’t go wrong with a range of warm and cool (and waterproof) clothing.

#2 Organise your healthcare

This one’s important. The very last thing you want when you’re away from home is to become ill, and then face paying a huge amount of money for your treatment.

Hopefully, you will stay in perfect health throughout your studies. But just in case you need to see a medical professional while you’re in the UK, it’s important that you sort out your healthcare before you arrive.

Most healthcare in Britain is provided by the National Health Service (NHS). Some services are free for non-UK students, but others must be paid for.

Students from the EU & EEA

If you’re a European student, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should allow you to receive either free or subsidised healthcare while you’re in the UK.

You must bring evidence of your EHIC or visa with you to all hospital appointments. Otherwise, you may be asked to pay for treatment.

Other international students

If you’re studying in the UK for more than 6 months, you’ll need to pay an immigration health surcharge (HIS) as part of your Tier 4 visa application.

This surcharge gives you access to free healthcare services while in the UK, though there are some exceptions for non-urgent or expensive treatments.

Like most UK residents, you’ll still need to pay for prescriptions, dental treatment, and eye tests.

#3 Plan some sightseeing

The UK is a beautiful place (aside from the rain) with a long list of attractions for every student.

From the famous sights of London, to natural landmarks like the White Cliffs of Dover and Stonehenge, there’s plenty for everyone.

What’s more, you can travel to most places in the UK within one day by train or coach. You can search for trains using the National Rail website*, or check coach travel using services like National Express* or Megabus*.

So reward yourself for all your hard postgraduate work, by planning a few trips away during weekends or holidays, during your Masters studies.

If you’re lucky, your Students’ Union might organise trips to different cities and attractions. It’s worth checking SU box office listings, just in case.

#4 Don’t worry about the food

If you’re not from the UK, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we eat nothing but pies and fish and chips.

In fact, the UK boasts a wide variety of foods and has become something of a culinary hotspot.

Most towns and cities have international supermarkets and restaurants, where you can find food from countries across the world. Many major supermarkets also have international food aisles. So chances are, you’ll never be far from a taste of home.

Try some local specialties

UK food has a strong regional identity, with specific dishes originating from different parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So, no matter whereabouts in the country you’re studying, there will be regional dishes to try. Lancashire has the Lancashire hotpot, Yorkshire has the Yorkshire pudding, Cornwall has clotted cream and Cornish pasties, and Scotland has haggis and shortbread.

If in doubt, ask a UK student for recommendations.

The majority of restaurants also cater to dietary requirements by providing gluten-free and dairy-free dishes, as well as offering kosher and halal options.

#5 Sort out your phone

No matter how much you’re enjoying your British postgraduate experience, it’s likely that you will want to call home occasionally.

Your mobile phone might work perfectly in the UK. If you’re visiting from areas such as Japan or the Americas however, it may not.

If it doesn’t work, don’t worry! You can pick up a new UK phone cheaply.

Either way, you should probably pick up a new SIM card. Calling home or within the UK on a SIM card from another country is likely to be expensive.

When it comes to calling home, you can reduce your phone bill by using Skype, or free apps such as WhatsApp or Viber. If you have an iPhone, you can even use Facetime.

There are also several companies such as LycaMobile* and RebTel* which offer low-cost international calls. When shopping for a new phone, try using a comparison tool to find a great deal.

#6 Find somewhere to live

As a postgraduate student, you will have several accommodation options.

The best place to start is with your university. Your home university may help you to find accommodation in the UK. If not, UK universities are able to offer support to students looking for houses, and a list of local student-friendly estate agents.

University postgraduate halls are a great option, that is often popular amongst international students.

They are usually flats, which are shared with other postgraduate students. Bills are usually included in this type of housing, making it simple and easy to organise.

Halls can also be a great place to socialise, and meet other students from your university.

Editor's note:This blog was originally published on 12/10/2017. We've checked and updated it for current readers.

*The transport and telephone services mentioned here are presented as examples, only. We're sure they're as great as any others, but FindAMasters doesn't officially recommend any particular products or operators.

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