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Guide For Intending Students To The UK (1)

In my undergraduate days in the late 80’s, students had a slang called October rush. It had to do with clever moves by male students to woo new female undergraduates.

The idea was to be the first to hook the beautiful girls before others could develop an interest. Then, universities used to start new sessions in October. And there was still some form of stability in the academic calendar.

Today, I don’t know if they call it May, July or August rush. Whatever, this is September, the month the new academic year starts in the UK; the month many Nigerian students will migrate to acquire British education. My concern here is not about wooing of girls.

It is the rush by supermarkets, restaurants, mobile phone and sundry service providers to woo student customers in the United Kingdom. It is about some things you should beware of when you arrive this Queen’s land. How time flies. It is almost one year since I came on an academic journey in Cardiff. Within this period, I have learnt some lessons.

I had narrated most of them on this page. But because many intending students have made enquiries about life in the UK, I wish to restate some of them. My assumption is that you already have your visa or entry clearance. The first thing you should note is that there is no need coming with many clothes.

You may never wear half of them. What students wear here are mostly jeans and T-shirts. I came with a big travelling bag packed full with many trousers and shirts. Up until today, I never wore any of them. During winter, you wear winter jacket and other warm clothing.

All this you can get cheap in some supermarkets such as Primark and Tesco. You can still bring some traditional dresses because you will need them during summer and for social outings.

The key point here is to travel light. This is to avoid paying for excess baggage. You also need to give room for gifts and other items you will likely buy on your return trip. As you prepare for your travel, there are certain documents you need to have in your hand luggage.

Your passport with entry clearance or visa is one of them. You also need to have a copy of your chest X-ray report, an air ticket, an offer letter from your school and any other document relating to your travel and school enrolment. Immigration officials will demand these items at the airport in the UK. If you don’t have them, your journey will be delayed. When you arrive in the UK, tread with caution. Immigration officials may single you out for thorough checking. Don’t quarrel with them.

They are doing their job and may just want to be sure that you are not one of those drug couriers or advance fee fraudsters that have unfortunately soiled Nigeria’s image abroad. Some schools provide free transport for new students from the airport to student houses on certain days. If your school provides such a service, it is advisable you plan your journey to fall within any of those days. It saves you money and travel headaches especially if you are a first time visitor.

If such a service is not available, then look for a coach that shuttles your area. Some of them have their terminals at the airport. Just make enquiries at the information desk at the airport, they will give you directions. There are taxis, but you only patronise them if your destination is close to the airport. They can be very expensive.

Once you settle down, go and get two or three pots and food storage
bows. Don’t bother about stoves. Your landlord would have already provided gas and electric cookers, including fridges and freezers. If you don’t know how to cook, begin to learn it now.

It is far cheaper to cook than to patronise restaurants or fast food outlets. If you ask around, it is likely there are African shops where you can buy your local foodstuffs in your area. In Cardiff, African shops are on City Road. You will see such items as garri, yam, beans, rice and semolina. These items are slightly more expensive than local British food.

So, it will be good if you could bring some foodstuffs from home. But avoid bringing meat and meat related products because they are banned. You will get meat cheaper in the UK. Just budget between £80 and £100 for feeding every month. One thing you will notice as you arrive is that many companies will invade your school distributing leaflets and flyers advertising their products and services. Most shops and supermarkets give generous discounts to woo customers.

Some will even sell certain items half price or 70 per cent off the original price. Some will urge you to buy one and take one free. But look well before you leap. It may be that the item they are giving you at half price is costlier than what you will get in some other shops. Note that you don’t haggle over prices here.

You can do window-shopping first before you determine what to buy and where to buy it. There are price tags on most goods so you don’t have to ask for the prices. Some big supermarkets like Marks and Spencer and Next can be expensive. But they usually do summer, winter, Christmas and clearance sales.

Keep your ears open for these sales because prices will naturally come down. If you don’t have much money to spend on clothes, a charity shop is the place to be. They sell clean second-hand clothes at very cheap prices. You can find them almost at every city in the UK.

One area in which you need to exercise extreme care is in finding a suitable accommodation. Most universities offer accommodation to new students at reasonable rates. But instead of paying monthly, you may be required to pay on a quarterly basis. The type of accommodation you get depends on your choice and pocket.

There are flats, en-suite and single bedroom apartments. You do not need a flat except your family is coming with you. The rent for a one-bedroom flat is between £350 and £400 per month. Going for en-suite means you desire some privacy because you will have your own toilet and bathroom. You can budget about £300 per month for this. If you are in a single study room, it means you will most likely share bathroom with others. This will cost you between £200 and £250 per month.

Bear in mind that these rates may be higher in London than in other UK cities. If you have any relation to squat with for a week or two, it may be better not to enter into any contract until you get to the UK. This gives you chance to scout around for cheaper alternatives within the private sector. If you don’t have anywhere to squat, please go with the university accommodation. It saves you a lot of headache. Also note that once you sign a contract for accommodation, it is very difficult to cancel it. You will be required to pay your rent until the end of the contract. Even when you relocate to another place, you are still liable to pay your rent unless you are able to find someone to replace you.


–  CASMIR IGBOKWE        e-mail: casmir.igbokwe@theunion.com.ng       SMS only: 08111813075




.Culled from Sunday Punch, 2 Sep 2007

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