Settling in

Students in the garden at Wimbledon School of English, London

The first few weeks

When you arrive in the UK you'll find lots of support to help you settle in.

Most UK schools, colleges and universities hold a welcome event for international students, with a speech by a member of staff and a meal or party. This is a great way to get to know other people who – like you – are new to the UK.

You might also be able to join an orientation session, where you are guided around the campus and local town. Many universities and colleges have an 'orientation week' or 'welcome week' for international students, usually organised by the international office or Students' Union. This includes support with opening a bank account, registering with the police, registering with a doctor or dentist, details about local shops and other useful information.

At the beginning of term, most universities hold a Freshers' Week to welcome new students ('fresher' is an informal term for new undergraduate students). Expect lots of parties and events. At the Freshers' Fair, all the sport, art and social groups at your campus look for new members. You can find out what's on and join any that interest you.

What is 'orientation'?

'At UK colleges and universities, orientation weeks are usually held before classes start, and are a great way to introduce you to your new surroundings and the new people you will be sharing your student experience with. You will be provided with information and advice to help you make the most of your time in the UK.

'Information can be on healthcare, immigration rules, welfare, opening a bank account, and police registration. There will also be social events to help you meet new friends and introduce you to the surrounding areas, such as social evenings, talks, campus and local tours.'

~ Ellen Marriott, International Officer at the University of Hertfordshire

Practical tasks

As well as these social activities, there are lots of practical matters you need to attend to when you first arrive, such as registering with the police (if required), and registering with a doctor. Please see our Practical advice section for more details.

The British Council's First steps guide also has handy checklists to help you get everything done before you arrive, and in your first few weeks in the UK. 

Start feeling at home

                                                                                                              (Photo © Loughborough University)

Moving to a new country can be the adventure of a lifetime – a chance to meet new friends, explore new landscapes and experience a whole new culture.

But it can be tough too. You might miss your family and friends back home or feel a sense of ‘culture shock’. Don’t worry. Feelings like this are perfectly normal, and there is a lot you can do to help yourself.

  • First, accept that it's natural to feel a bit homesick or anxious when you're in a new place. There will be a period of adjustment, but it will be worth it in the end. Take a look at Finding your feet to find out more about the stages of culture shock.

  • One of the best ways to feel at home is to start making friends. Luckily, there will be lots of other students who, like you, are new to the area and are keen to make friends. Have a look at our Making friends article for some tips.

  • If you miss spending time with people from your culture, why not join an international society? Most schools, colleges and universities have such a society where you can find friendship and support. Remember, though, that you will get more out of your time in the UK and improve your English if you mix widely with all cultures and don’t just stay with people from home.

There are many other weird and wonderful student societies – whether you want to discuss politics, learn how to bake, raise money for charity, join a band, or even play football with robots!

  • Sport is a great way to lift your spirits. Most schools, colleges and universities have lots of clubs you can join, such as a hiking club, cycling group, dance class or amateur football team. Have a look on notice boards around your campus to see what is on offer.

  • If you need advice or support – or you simply want to talk to someone who is sympathetic – have a look at our article Getting support. Staff at your school, college or university are there to help.

  • The UK Council for International Student Affairs has lots more advice about settling in – find out more on their website.

Get advice from other students

Even before you arrive in the UK, you can find out what other students and alumni experienced. There is plenty of advice and encouragement from international students in our Student experiences section, and you can also read students' tips on: