Making the decision to move to another country to study is a huge step, and you’ll probably have a lot of questions about what your life will be like for the next three years or so. If you’re moving to an international student house in the UK in September, we’ve put together a few things you’ll need to know about your new living arrangements.
How much does it cost to live in an international student house?
Your university or college might have provided you with a placement on campus or within university accommodation, and they will have provided details about how much your living costs will be (you’ll probably be charged a single fee which will include your rent and an amount to cover bills). If you’re planning to find your own accommodation, you’ll need to factor in the following costs:
- Council Tax
- Utility bills (gas, electric, water)
- Contents insurance
- Phone and broadband charges (typically around £30 per month for the household)
These costs would be split equally between you and whoever lives with you, whereas if you live in university-provided accommodation the cost they set is the cost you’ll pay on your own.
Wherever you’re living, you’ll also have to pay for food and transport costs, over and above your bills.
There isn’t really a figure to give to you about how much it costs, because it all depends on the size and location of your accommodation, and the amount of gas, electricity and water you use. This will take some research on your part, though the international student support service at your university should be able to point you in the right direction.
What will it be like living as an international student?
In any shared student accommodation, you’ll have your own bedroom but might not have your own bathroom. There might be one bathroom (which in the UK is usually a single room containing the toilet, shower, sink and bath - and only occasionally a bidet) shared between several students. If it’s important to you to have your own bathroom, look for a bedroom with an en suite, which will usually command a higher rent.
Within an international student house, the bedrooms will usually be upstairs with the bathroom, whilst on the ground floor there will be a shared kitchen and communal living space. You’ll have privacy in your own bedroom, but for socialising and getting to know your housemates, the communal living area will be where you’ll probably spend much of your time in the evenings. In larger properties, there might be bedrooms and communal areas, kitchens and bathrooms on each floor.
It’s worth checking what appliances are installed in the shared kitchen, because not all student houses have fully-equipped kitchens. You might not have an oven, for example, only a hob and a microwave, and you might not have a dishwasher.
In any shared space, it’s important to set up a rota for cleaning shared belongings and utensils. You might all agree to wash up and stow away your own things, but tensions might be raised if there’s a feeling that someone isn’t as tidy as the rest of you. In the case of any disputes, speak with your international student service representative, housing office or wellbeing officer at your university who may be able to intervene or move you to alternative accommodation.
You don’t have to be best friends with your housemates, but you do have to get along, and if you’re not happy with the people you’ve been placed with then it’s important to speak with the university so that things can improve.
Settling into a new country with other international students
The other people in your house might be from the same country as you, or from elsewhere in the world. Either way, shared accommodation will give you lots of opportunities to socialise with people who are in the same situation as you - you’ll have plenty of support if you’re feeling homesick, and will no doubt offer the same to others in return.
You’ll all be able to explore your surroundings together and swap information about the best places to eat or study. English might be your only common language, if you’re in a multi-international student house and/or with UK students, so this will help to further improve your communication skills here.
The international student support service at your university will also provide extra opportunities to socialise by putting on various events to enhance the feeling that you’re part of the university community.
What happens during the holidays?
University terms usually last around 10-12 weeks, interspersed by holiday periods of between one and 12 weeks, where you don’t have to go to lectures or seminars, and you can enjoy a bit of time off from your studies. Most student accommodation charges cover a full academic year, meaning you’ll be paying for your room from when you start in September or October for a full 12 months, even if you go home for a few weeks over Christmas or in the summer.
It might be impractical or unaffordable for you to go home during the year, but you might be able to go for short breaks elsewhere in the UK to get to know the country. After you’ve graduated, you might decide to continue to live and work here, and it’s a good idea to get a feel for the different areas of the UK and start to think about whereabouts you’d like to live - does the hustle and bustle of London appeal, or do the cheaper house prices in the North seem more attractive?
If you do decide to go home or on holiday, bear in mind that student homes are often targeted by burglars at times when they know those properties are likely to be empty. Make sure you have adequate content insurance in place to cover the cost of replacing your belongings should the worst happen, and consider moving your belongings into a student storage unit for a few days or weeks while you’re away to keep them all safe and sound. International student storage
is very popular and is an affordable way to keep your belongings safe for a flexible amount of time.
Finding your way around
Your accommodation might be on campus, in which case your lecture halls will be a few minutes’ walk from your home. Otherwise, you might live some distance from your place of study and will need to check out the transport options available to get you to your lectures as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Hiring a car or taxi is an expensive option, and buying a car will set you back several thousands of pounds (a good second hand car will cost at least £4,000 and then you’ll need to pay for servicing and repairs, insurance and an MOT). Most students rely on public transport - buses, trains, and (in some cities) the Underground or trams. Most public transport costs are lower for students than for working adults, but you’ll need to make enquiries about student passes or railcards to take advantage of those lower prices.
You might feel lonely or homesick at times; you might feel like you’ll never fit in or find your way around. These are natural feelings, but they are short-term. You’ll soon get used to living in the UK and there’s plenty of technology to enable you to keep in touch with your friends and family at home. Most students make life-long friends at university, and you’ll soon find your own tribe of like-minded people amongst the people you live and/or study with. Embrace the local community and cultures whilst keeping your own traditions and comforts, and you’ll soon settle in.