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Preparing for life in the UK

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'Before moving to the UK, get in touch with people who’ve been there: alumni of your university or your course are the best source of information about procedures, campus life, living costs, etc. They are your ‘secret agents’ giving you invaluable pieces of advice on the things you would never be able to find in the most detailed and useful guides on the subject. The university’s international office can usually provide you with a few names to contact in advance, but I’d say be proactive in this – ask friends and connect with as many insiders as possible.

'Every individual’s experience is unique, though, so collect opinions and compare what different people say on the same issue. Of course, even in this case what you will find out in reality may differ, but isn’t it exciting? This is an amazing part of the whole idea of studying in a foreign country and getting to know new things every day.'
Victoria Matey, 34, from Russia, MSc in International Events Management at the University of Surrey

'Read about as many universities as you can, and choose one not just for statistics, but for whether the course is right for you and located in an area you want to live in. Enjoy the experience; it is one of a kind.'
Marie Storheim Grongan, 21, from Norway, Creative Writing with Journalism at Kingston University

'My advice is to be prepared, especially financially – save up some money to help you (which I did not, regretfully), maybe find a part-time job. London is an expensive city to live in, but definitely worth the trouble. If you study in the city, find a nice apartment/flat or dorm a bit outside the centre; it is cheaper and the best part is that you are also close to the beautiful nature of the UK.

'If you know for sure that you want to go for an adventure in a big city, filled with energy and with people from all around the world, if you feel brave enough to take a big step in life and leave friends and family behind for a while (which will be a difficult test, but necessary), this journey could be something for you. If you are thinking about taking this enormous step, I strongly recommend that you do – take the step and be brave, go for it. After all, we only live once.'
Arvand Askari, 21, from Sweden and Iran, LLB Law at the University of Law

'First things first: Where to live? The majority, if not all the universities in the UK, will offer you different accommodation options, from university halls of residence to private apartments. It is important to remember your budget and focus on your key priorities. For instance, rather than having a gym or car park, your apartment/flat or bedroom must have a good internet connection, a study desk and chair, a good size bed and preferably, it should not be too far away from your Department or Faculty. A flat in a university hall will include bills, but you can find cheaper options if you are willing to rent a bedroom in a 6 or 8-bedroom house.'
Jose Angel Garcia Velazquez, 28, from Mexico, PhD in Politics at the University of Sheffield

'It was September 2012 when I flew from San Francisco to London for graduate school. Not even 36 hours later I was back on an aeroplane flying to America because of errors with my visa. I was enraged with myself for not preparing properly. I paid for my mistake, literally – the expedited visa was much more expensive. A week later, back at the airport with the essential documents, I left America again. I arrived in London ten hours before my first Kingston University lecture.'
Jheri Hardaway, 24, from America, MA Creative Writing at Kingston University

'The idea of stepping into a new phase in your life seems to be daunting enough, let alone doing it in a foreign country. However, I assure you studying abroad will be a worthwhile experience. Homesickness was a big factor in my first year, but you will get through it over time. Coming from Indonesia, a tropical country, I obviously needed a lot of time getting used to the unstable weather here in the UK. But after two years I even appreciate the beauty of the snow that you will definitely experience!'
Seruni Putri Soewondo, 20, from Indonesia, BA International Relations at the University of Birmingham

'Believing in yourself is the first step. Students across the world right now are writing personal statements, essays and other methods of applying for universities. They are also panicking because they don’t know what they want to do with their life and they have to pick a subject right now! Don’t panic. It’s never too late to decide what you want to do with your life – you could change your mind again when you’re 40 years old and this is perfectly fine. As a current university student myself, I am still keeping my options wide open for my life four years from now.'
Katrina Long, 19, from the UK, FdSc (Foundation Degree) Equine Science and Management at the University of the West of England

With thanks to Education UK’s 2012 Student Journalist competition winners.

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Take a look at the British Council's First steps guide for more advice before you travel, plus checklists to help you keep track of all the practical tasks you'll need to remember.

Download the guide here