My experience as an International Student – before arriving in the UK

Student using a laptop.

My name is Akash Kumar and I’m an international student from India currently in my second year doing computer science here at University of Reading. I came to the UK in late August 2021 when Covid was still affecting our lives in a major way. I completely understand the trepidation and anxiety you guys are currently going through, trust me I have been in the same boat.

In this blog, I have tried to highlight they key things you need to plan before arriving in the UK:

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) is a crucial document for international students planning to study in the UK. Issued by the UK university, the CAS letter confirms that a student has been accepted for a course of study. It’s essential for obtaining a Tier 4 (General) student visa, enabling students to legally study in the UK. 

 The CAS includes information about the student and their course, which the Home Office uses to process visa applications. Students should apply for their visa in their home country through the local British embassy or consulate, which typically houses the visa office. It’s important to apply early, as visa processing times can vary greatly. Remember, getting your CAS and visa are fundamental steps in your journey towards studying in the UK, so ensure you thoroughly understand and follow the correct processes.  

If you’re planning to study in the UK, it’s important to understand two key aspects: the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) and accommodation options. Both are key aspects of your journey as an international student in the UK and understanding them will help ensure a smooth transition:

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

The IHS is a fee that non-European Economic Area nationals who are coming to the UK for more than six months must pay to access the National Health Service (NHS). The charge is £470 per year for students and is usually paid as part of the visa application process. This allows international students to access the NHS in the same way as a UK resident, covering routine appointments, emergency treatments, and most types of non-elective surgeries. It’s crucial to note that the IHS does not cover certain services such as prescriptions, dental treatment, and eye tests, which are paid for separately. 

Choosing accommodation

Accommodation is another crucial aspect to consider when planning your studies in the UK. There are two main options: university accommodation and private housing. University accommodation, often referred to as “halls of residence,” is typically located on or near campus. These are fully furnished, often include utilities in the price, and provide a great opportunity to meet other students. They are managed by the university, providing a safe and supportive environment, especially for those new to the country. 

Private housing, on the other hand, offers more independence and can be a good option for students in their second year and beyond. This could be renting a room in a shared house, a private flat, or living with a host family. It’s important to remember that utility bills are usually not included in the rent, and you’ll also be responsible for managing your own food and cleaning. 

Whether you choose university accommodation or private housing, it’s important to start your search early and understand the terms of your rental agreement.

As an International Student myself, I know what you guys feel. Moving thousands of kilometres away from home to an alien country, environment and culture is daunting. Questions like “will I be able to fit in?”, are genuine, trust me when I say this that everything is going to be alright. From personal experience, I can safely say the UK will provide you with many opportunities and experiences.  

It’s essential to understand all aspects, from the Immigration Health Surcharge to accommodation options, to ensure a smooth transition. Do your research, ask questions, and make informed decisions. Remember, this is your adventure, and every challenge is an opportunity for growth.

We wish you all the best in your academic journey and beyond. Embrace the experience, make lasting memories, and most importantly, enjoy every moment of your time in the UK. Good luck! 

Check out our helpful International Student Checklist on Essentials for an overview of some of the important things you need to do both before and after you arrive in the UK.

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