Surrey meets Africa

An insight into life at Surrey from three current African students

Moving to the UK – The FULL Experience… (+TIPS)

It is okay to feel lonely, okay to not fit in immediately, and okay to seek help.

Moving to the UK was one of those experiences that will be etched in my memory for eternity… it signified the beginning of my adulthood. A wise friend of mine once advised that this stage in life is where we cast our mould… a mould that we would fill over the rest of our life.

Mine is only just beginning to take form…

I remember waving my parents off as I disappeared into the international departures line at the airport. It was a simple goodbye, nothing too emotional. At the time, the sadness of moving away from home was clouded by excitement of living on my own in a far-away country. I was travelling on my own… just me against the world.

I also remember when the plane turbines began roaring, how fear and panic finally hit me and I wanted out of the whole experience immediately… It all seemed too daunting…

This is the actual text- message I sent to my friend whilst on the plane…on the verge of tears… *Seating here inside the plane, I realise what I have ahead of me…

 

My flight was close to 10 hours. In that time I had managed to calm myself down. (I had been listening to Chloe x Halle’s song, ‘Grown’. It was an anthem to everything moving to the UK was symbolising… it had become my anthem)

Later, I came to learn that fear is all part of the experience. It is okay to feel lonely, okay to not fit in immediately, and okay to seek help.

*TIP*: Speaking of flights, I cannot stress this enough. Remember to book your flight to the UK months in advance. September – October is a peak period and prices really shoot-up. If you plan on going back home during the December winter-break, it is also a good idea to book your return ticket early, (booking as early as October can save you a couple hundred pounds).


When it comes to packing, remember…pack light. Speaking from experience, it is a real pain having to reshuffle your bag on the airport floor in baggage drop-off… the alternative of course would be coughing up some hundreds of dollars for a few extra kilos. To save yourself the hustle… PACK LIGHT and keep within the weight restrictions.

In your hand luggage:

  1. Travel Documents (valid passport etc.)
  2. UKVI Decision letter
  3. CAS Document (printed out).
  4. Bank statements (or other evidence of funding for your tuition fees and living costs)
  5. TB Certificate ( and other necessary health certificates)
  6. Money (In pounds – enough to sustain you for the first couple of weeks before you get your bank account set-up. You might also find having some few dollars useful if you have long connection times.)
  7. Travel insurance policy and emergency numbers (in the UK and from home).
  8. Warm jumper and raincoat (weather in the UK can be irregular)

Dress in comfortable clothes on departure day. You might find it useful to pack an extra shirt to change into.

In your suitcase:

If your packing experience was anything like mine, you have heard many frightening stories about the unforgiving winters… the blood curdling storms and the perpetual rain…

You might be tempted to fill you suitcases with several jackets and boots – your armour during the merciless winter period…

It IS advisable to pack enough warm clothes, although, I would not recommend packing too many; for reasons other than the obvious, warm clothes from home are probably not good enough for the cold weather here.

Consider packing some selection of light clothes that can be worn in layers. This is especially useful when you are indoors or when the weather gets warmer e.g. during spring time.

My more fashion-forward peers would say, ‘pack wardrobe essentials’ and this is also true. Items such as a smart blazer, suit, smart gown, might also be useful for some events and job interviews.

*TIP*: Once you are here, INVEST in a good waterproof winter-coat (with a hood) and in a good pair of boots/ walking shoes .

One is enough. The boots are also particularly useful when the ground is icy.

At the end of the day, if you do forget anything, note that,  you can always buy more clothing items in the UK for reasonable prices.

 

Also remember to pack bedding (duvet, pillow, mattress topper etc.) for your Uni- bed ( single or double, depending on what you were allotted). Alternatively, you can order these from the surrey online shop when the time comes. Bedroom items like hangers are also useful.

Utensils are another important thing to consider because the university does not provide these. I began my university experience with one spoon, one plate, one fork, one cup, one pan, one knife… this is no surprise for a student, but gradually, your stockpile grows.

*TIP*: Have a little money in hand for quick meals before you settle in. Get something to eat on the way from the airport, and bring some take-away with you to your dorm. I remember getting so hungry on moving day, being too tired and groggy from the long flight, and having no idea where to begin looking for food… that was rough!

All things considered, the university has a really supportive environment; you can always get help if need be.

*TIP* : In terms of stationary, do not invest in too much before hand, wait to see what is actually needed in the class (university and school operate differently, I learnt this the hard way 🙂 . Furthermore, you can always find textbooks for cheap from students who took the same courses in the past (the Uni- facebook group is a good place to find students selling text books they do not need anymore.)

 

These are all tips I have collected from my university experience but you can check out the university’s international pre-departure guide https://www.surrey.ac.uk/international-pre-departure-guide/before-you-leave/what-to-pack  for more

 

That is all for now folks,

Best,

Anne

 

House Hunting… the Beginning (+ TIPS)

There is something about exam season… it changes you.

The university is in a hive of activity,  rushing students everywhere, finding study spaces is like going on treasure quests, the professors are the most popular kids on the block and burning the midnight oil absorbing all the semester’s work is commonplace. (The atmosphere is a bit like the 2.0 version of mid-semester buzz).

Exam season is almost over though and reading week is drawing near. The university is getting sparser day-by-day as students go home for a rest, but, I have to admit though, it has not been quite the distressing period for me as well. The many tasks I had put off for after the exams are now coming to haunt me -my number one ghost… finding accommodation for next year.

At the moment, I live in the university student accommodation. It is dawning on me gradually that, boy, do I have it good here. I have the room I want in a clean and beautiful environment, just a 10-minute-walk away from the Tesco Superstore, just a 20-minute-walk away from the University and… this is a big one… all my bills are paid to one place (i.e. internet, water, rent, electricity etc.) under an affordable student price.

My problem is that, finding a place that would match up to this is proving harder than expected.

I am coming to learn that, especially for an international student, there are some things you need to note if you do decide to embark on a house-hunting adventure. (I have just these main points now but I will be updating this list as I find out more information)

  1. Lease periods for most houses go for a full year (including summer months).

I mention this because, if you are anything like me, and you do not go back home often (for reasons such as home is in a different far-away country), you want to spend your longest holiday, the summer, at home. Nevertheless, you need to be prepared to pay rent regardless when the time comes around.

Of course, there are ways to manoeuvre around this i.e. finding another tenant to take your place for the summer period… but, it is never that easy.

Like all things though, this is not always the case; not all contracts are the same.

 

  1. You might need a UK guarantor.

This is just a person based in the UK who will be the landlord’s insurance policy against tenant default. If you have one, great. If not… I can understand your predicament.

Again, not all landlords are the same, and some might ask you to pay e.g. three months’ rent instead as a security, if you do not have a guarantor. In most cases however, you do need one.

 

One of the things I like about the university is -they look out for us international kids. They can be prepared to be your guarantor if you meet with the student services office in good time.

 

 

My house – hunting adventure just began though, and I am learning more and more but that’s all for now folks, stay tuned for more…

Best, Anne

You might want to check out the university guide on moving to the private sector : https://www.surrey.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-01/renting-guide-2017-18.pdf

 

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Last week was my first week back in the UK after a wonderfully sunny holiday in South Africa. Just before heading back, I was reminded of the joys of living with housemates. They said they were heading to Tescos to do a week’s shop and asked if I wanted to join the meal-plan for the […]


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