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Guide For Intending Students To The UK (2)

In December last year, I entered into a one-year off-peak period contract with 02 (one of UK‘s mobile phone companies). The contract is £25 per month. Phone retailer, the Carphone Warehouse, had lured me into it with 1,000-minute per month free evening calls, free phone and free £20.01.

Within the first one week, I made many calls to Nigeria, believing that they were free. By the time the bill came, I had incurred £75.26 just for the one week. This excluded the cost of the calling card normally used to make international calls. I misfired. Instead of dialling 0207 London access number, which is free for 02 contract customers within the free network minutes, I dialled another access number. That was why they charged me.

When I wanted to cancel the contract, Carphone Warehouse refused. They said I could only cancel it after three months, and that is if I took insurance cover, which was about £29.50 per quarter. I took the cover but later changed my mind and decided to maintain the contract.

My thinking was that after six months, I would migrate to £15 contract as they made me understand. In June, I went back to the Carphone Warehouse to effect this migration. They told me to contact 02 Customer Service. I did. But as the lady who attended to me put it, ”We don‘t have £15 contract.

The minimum we have is £20, and that will give you only 20-minute free UK calls per month.” From 1,000 free minutes to 20 minutes, I exclaimed.

Out of anger, I told her to still effect the migration. But when I calmed down the following day and wanted to revert to the original position, they told me it would no longer be 1,000, but 750 free minutes. This is my current position.

Recently, 02 introduced roaming for their customers. This means you can call any country from anywhere in the world with your mobile.

Having made a few direct international calls that attracted jumbo bills, I have since learnt my lessons. I cannot recommend any of the phone service providers. The type of service you should go for depends on the frequency of your calls. If you don‘t make much call, it may be better to go for pay-as-you-go service.

This gives you full control over what you spend on phone calls. There are phone shops and Internet cafes where you can also make international calls at reasonable rates. The best bet is to shop around and take the one that gives you the best deal. To avoid incurring much cost on phone calls, you may consider using more of emails.

Some students have Internet connections in their rooms. Most classrooms and libraries are also connected. If you have a laptop, it will be good if you bring it because you will submit almost all your assignments type-written.

Otherwise, there are enough computers in the classrooms and libraries. But nobody will do the typing for you. One area of interest to most students is opening a bank account. Most schools have HSBC, Barclays and NatWest branches on campus.

These banks have their advantages and disadvantages. While NatWest, for instance, charges no commission
for opening a new account, Barclays and HSBC do.

For HSBC, you pay either £5 per month or one charge of £50 when you open the account. For Barclays, you will be charged a £5 monthly fee if your bank balance drops below £2,000.

The minimum amount required to open the Barclays account is £2,000. You can open with any amount in HSBC and NatWest. Cardiff University gave us a list of the services these three large banks provide for customers.

If your university does a similar thing, that will be good. Otherwise, find out the current services and charges from the banks before you plunge in. Many have written asking how easy it is to bring their families. My answer is: it depends on your pocket and lifestyle. For one, bringing your family will be more expensive.

A single student needs about £700 per month to survive in the UK. This covers the cost of feeding, accommodation, leisure, travel, clothing and incidental expenses. For a family, this cost is almost double.

Your kids, aged 5-16, can attend public schools free as long as they have student dependent visa. You may have childcare option for those under-five years, but this is expensive.

The cost can be as much as £120 a week. You may wish to visit the websites of Daycare Trust at http://www.daycaretrust.org.uk or Child Care Link athttp://www.childcarelink.gov.uk for further guidance.

If your spouse is coming with you, things may be a bit better because he/she may be entitled to work and support the family. As a full-time student on not less than 12-month course, you are also allowed to work for 20 hours a week
during term time and any number of hours during holidays.

Just register with job agencies when you arrive and keep checking if they have jobs. The minimum wage per hour is £5.35. With the influx of East European citizens into the UK, getting jobs is becoming a bit more difficult. If you are the type who feels too big to wash plates or serve in a restaurant, then wait until you arrive.

Experience, they say, is the best teacher. If you plan to visit other European countries for a holiday, it is better you start the process on time. I wanted to pay a short visit to Germany before I finally come back to Nigeria. I made a phone call, as required, to book an appointment for visa interview.

The first date the recorded voice gave me was 22 September – one month from the date I made the call. The voice asked me to press 1 if the date was acceptable or 2 if I wanted a change. Feeling that the date was too far, I pressed 2 for a change. It extended it to 24 September. I pressed 2 again. It moved it to 26 September. It was when the date moved up to 27 September that I realised that this talking machine can only move forward. I stopped it then.

By this time, I had spent over £25. I am not too sure I am still going because those who are missing me at home want me back immediately. And each time I call these days, my children‘s refrain is, ”Daddy when are you coming back? We are missing you o!” I don‘t know if this is the handiwork of their mother. But then, that is another story entirely.

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

Culled from Sunday Punch, September 9, 2007.

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