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What to do when you first arrive in the UK

Posted 09 September 2013

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Moving to a new country can be considered to be one of the most daunting tasks. It is never easy to pack your life in two suitcases and find the courage to uproot yourself to move to a faraway land. For international students, this challenge is no less difficult. A student from a different country, or even a different continent, who sets foot on British soil for the first time is bound to be met with confusion. I was perplexed when I first arrived in the UK. There were plenty forms to fill in and many tasks to perform in order to settle in. This article aims to provide some of the most urgent tasks a new international student should put on top of his/her to-do list on the very first few days in the UK.

Moving to a new country can be considered to be one of the most daunting tasks. It is never easy to pack your life in two suitcases and find the courage to uproot yourself to move to a faraway land. For international students, this challenge is no less difficult. A student from a different country, or even a different continent, who sets foot on British soil for the first time is bound to be met with confusion. I was perplexed when I first arrived in the UK. There were plenty forms to fill in and many tasks to perform in order to settle in. This article aims to provide some of the most urgent tasks a new international student should put on top of his/her to-do list on the very first few days in the UK.

Get a UK phone number

This should be the first thing to do when you touch down at Heathrow. You of course would want to contact your family, and it is cheaper to do so using a UK mobile service. Many of the registrations that you are required to do will also ask for your contact numbers, and it is quite troublesome not to have one on hand. There are many service providers in the UK, Lycamobile and Giffgaff UK are very popular among international students as they offer bargain international calling charges. You can choose Pay As You Go, or a Monthly mobile contract, depends on how much you use your phone. You should do some research on which providers/packages suit you the most before you get on the plane, as it would help you save a lot of time. New students at Bellerbys: make sure you visit student services and ask for Lebara sim card which you can top up.

Set up a bank account

It is never wise to carry a large amount of cash with you. Therefore, international students who will be staying in the UK for 6 months or more should open a bank account as soon as possible. You should ideally choose a bank that has branches on campus or near your accommodation. There are plenty banks to choose from; some of the most popular for international students would be HSBC (which has branches in many countries), Lloyds TSB, NatWest, etc. It is worth bearing in mind that some banks may require a 3-month or more residency in the UK to be eligible to have a bank account. Some types of current account may carry a monthly charge, some are free. Therefore, it is advisable for you to do some research and/or ask for advices from your college’s student service before making a decision. To open a bank account, you will need to provide the bank with your passport, along with your letter of acceptance from your college/institution and proof of address (which can be easily obtained from your school’s student service). Most banks in the UK open from 9:00 to 16:00 (except on bank holidays) from Monday to Friday.

GPS registration

If your study in the UK lasts 6 months or more, you are entitled to receive free treatment from the British National Health Service (NHS) from the very beginning of your stay. This applies to both doctor’s examination and hospital treatment. If you are under 16, or under 18 and in full education, you are entitled to free NHS prescription and NHS eye test. NHS dental treatment however is not free. You will be reminded to register with a GP the very first day you come to school. GPs (General Practitioners) are the first point of contact when you are feeling unwell. Your college will provide you with a list of local GPs for you to choose from. To register with a GP, simply bring your passport, letter of enrolment as proof of your identity and proof of address.

Police registration

Students from certain countries are required to register with the police within 7 days of your arrival in the UK. To find out whether or not you are obliged to do so, check your visa or residence permit or entry clearance stamp. If you are in London, it is more than likely that you must register at Overseas Visitors Record Office. If you live outside London, you will be asked to register at a major local police station. You must bring your passport and 2 photographs of yourself.

Conclusion

These are the top most important items on your checklist. However, certain circumstances may ask for more tasks to be done before you can finally settle in. For example, if you live with a host family, you need to get a bus pass right away to save money, while students who live in college accommodation may not need to do so.

At Bellerbys, the Student Service staff are always available to answer all your queries. They offer support in almost every personal matters from medical registration to where to purchase your bus pass. Whatever and whenever you need, they endeavour to provide the best support regarding settling into life in the UK so that you can fully concentrate on your study.

Autumn Hoang

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