The past year I’ve had the privilege of studying abroad at the University of Leeds. Being Dutch, it is not impossible (yet) to study in the UK, but it’s definitely not a cakewalk. After finishing my Bachelor degree in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, I had no idea what to do next. I didn’t really like the available masters in the Netherlands, so quickly started browsing different degrees abroad. I looked at English universities, as I’ve got a slight obsession with the UK and found out that there is a wide variety of university degrees available there. Luckily I got into the program I applied for. However, there are a couple of things to take into account when you’ve decided to move to England for your degree. Let me start by discussing those.
- If you value your degree, make sure the university you’re applying to has a good ranking. Unlike the Netherlands for example, where all universities are equally ranked, the UK knows a big difference in terms of quality for its universities. Times Higher Education and The Complete University Guide bring out a complete ranking every year. The higher the ranking, the more prestigious the university but also the more difficult to get in, and often the more expensive (though not by default).
- Check out if you’re eligible to study in the UK and check what the fees are for you specifically. As a European student you pay less tuition fees than an international student, however because of the Brexit this might change in the future. You can find this kind of information on the university websites.
- Find out what grants and scholarships you can get. Studying in the UK is hella expensive (at least, compared to most European countries), and you can use all the extra money you can get. Look at ones which are granted by your own country’s government, but also the ones that the English university of your choice offers. You might also be eligible for a student loan offered by the UK government but again, this depends on when you apply. I was very lucky to have been awarded the Dutch ‘VSB-fonds’.
- Please make sure you’ve checked that you are not missing out on any student funds you might be able to get from your own government. For example, I had to fill out an official document (and some other things), because the Dutch government had to approve of my chosen degree in England. After that was arranged, I was still able to receive my Dutch student loan.
- Applying for your chosen degree can be a bit of a hassle; they need your grades, previous diplomas/degrees etc., and the grading system might not be the same as in your country. Don’t worry, the student help desks are always very helpful. A simple phone call or email asking what they prefer (a manual conversion of your grades, or just your original grades) will do the trick.
Have you been accepted? Have you sorted out your finances? Good job! Welcome to a new adventure! Step 2 is finding a place to live, creating a social life and maybe even find a side job to help you with your monthly expenses.
- Finding a place to live can feel a bit daunting if you don’t have the ability (or don’t want) to live on campus. Don’t worry, you will find your place too. As a Master student, I was already a bit further in my academic career and therefore found myself having different priorities than most ‘freshers’. I thus didn’t want to risk a party household and decided to look for something for myself. I never regretted this decision, however, it is definitely possible to find something like that in a shared household too. Or even if you are actually looking for a party place, everything is possible if you put some effort into it. Websites like spareroom, zoopla and gumtree are helpful sites. However, the landlords on these websites are often not officially approved by the University itself. Definitely check out your university’s Student Union, they often have house hunting events and officially approved housing agents. Another tip: there are many Facebook housing groups, just look for the ones within your university. People team up in these groups to find places together.
- Now that you are settled, you’d like to go out and meet people. For some this is easy, for others (introverts like me) this may feel daunting. The one thing I recommend is to make sure you attend your course’s introduction day. In this way you will meet your peers in an informal way, rather than in a lecture or a seminar. You can also decide to join the Fresher’s week; even though these events are often based around freshers, it is a very easy way to meet people. My last and biggest recommendation is to join a society (or multiple!): at English universities, there is a wealth of student societies that you can join: from knitting to football to drama and Quidditch; there are even societies based around cultures. Get to know people while bonding over a common hobby!
- Of course it all depends on how full-on your courses are, and if you need the extra money, but for some it might be helpful to have a job on the side. I worked as a barista in a bookshop’s café for a couple of days during the week, which really helped me with paying my rent, integrating into the city life quickly and getting to know people my age. It was also a lot of fun! My university had a whole platform dedicated to student jobs (called Joblink), making it very easy to come into contact with places that could use a part-timer. Most English universities do, so definitely check that out. You can also just walk into town and drop off your CV in some shops or cafés that you like. Seeing someone in person is always better than simply emailing your CV.
Lastly, if you’re European and worried about what the Brexit might mean for you and your degree in the UK, don’t hesitate to call up your university and ask about it. They always want European students and are happy to explain to you what the possible effects might be for you personally.
That is all my advice so far! Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you might still have in the comments, I would love to help.
Would you like to study in the UK or are you thinking of going to university in England?