No international student has the same story, and my journey to the UK to study is certainly a little different!
My best friend and I decided we wanted to experience studying abroad together. The biggest downfall is that we do not attend the same school. She attends Oxford Brookes (in Oxford), and I attend the University of Surrey (in Guildford). In doing some preliminary research, we encountered many people who encouraged to just live in the dorms at our respective schools and commit to see each other every weekend or something. But we were determined to live together! We utilized Google Maps, MapQuest, and distant friends who already live here in the UK to determine where it would be easiest for us to both commute from. We figured that Reading was the most convenient location as it is almost halfway between both of our schools.
We had been told that getting an apartment could be rather problematic for foreign students because of the lack of credit and initial lack of UK bank accounts. As such, we moved to the UK as soon as our Visas allowed us to. Once we arrived, we had to find a cheap place to live while we were searching for a permanent resident. Our initial plan was to stay in a hostel or Airbnb. Fortunately, we found some local members of our church (which has local branches globally) who were able to find us a cheap place to live during our search.
The apartment search is REALLY challenging. Back home, you could walk up to an apartment complex and just ask if they have any apartments available. Everything here goes through a letting agent. We had to siphon through a bunch of websites and make a lot of phone calls to set up appointments. Some places immediately rejected us because we were students. Others were wary because we didn’t have any local credit. There were some appointments we went to that were quite a distance from the train station, or didn’t have any appliances in them. It got a bit discouraging.
Finally, we found a place that fit our needs perfectly. We are relatively close to the train station, it came with all of the appliances, and it was within our budget! However, we did have to pay six months in advance because of our lack of UK credit. Our Across The Pond Advisors had informed us beforehand that we may have to do that, so we had already saved up, just in case.
The commute is a bit long. I take a train every day, and it’s about a 45-minute ride. And then I walk a mile to school. I could take a bus that will get me there in five minutes, but as I am living on a budget, I prefer to walk. I am somewhat enjoying the commute because I get a lot of reading done. Two months in and I’ve already finished The Brothers Karamazov and four or five Alex Cross novels.
It turns out that many of my classmates are also international students. About half of them live in the dorms, and half of us live off campus. One classmate lives in the dorms; he has his own room, but shares a bathroom with five others. And he shares the kitchen with fifteen other people. He doesn’t mind it too much, especially as he is living with other graduate students, who tend to be fairly clean! Another classmate of mine, lives off-campus. He found his house share on Facebook. He had a friend who was already living in the area who checked it out before my classmate agreed to take the place. He admits it was a little scary, but is happy with his house.
No matter where you live, there are some growing pains involved. But being able to experience a different world has been an amazing experience so far! If you’d like more information, feel free to contact one of the Across The Pond Advisors.