What was it like to arrive in the UK? Was the visa easy or more complicated?
I arrived at Glasgow International Airport early in the morning on a cloudy day in August. Passengers from my flight seemed to be the only ones in queue for immigration. I had gathered up all my documents, but was still feeling uneasy about customs.
The application process for my visa had been a little different. I had a grandmother who was born in Scotland, and I was from a commonwealth country so I was able to apply for a UK Ancestry visa, which would allow me to study, work, and live in the UK for up to 5 years. My plan is to study my PGDE with Strathclyde in Scotland, then remain in the UK to practise teaching.
Gathering up the documentation for that visa had been a long process. I needed to collect birth certificates, marriage licenses, proof of funds, and book an appointment at a visa center in Ottawa (the nearest centre to me) to send off for my visa. I have a real appreciation for what a service like Across the Pond can offer for students going through the visa process.
I was a little nervous about the immigration check for my visa; I was unsure if it would be as complicated. Luckily the agent working the desk at the time was very kind and patient. My ATP Student Advisor had already let me know what to expect, so I had my documentation ready and showed him my CAS letter and my student accommodation agreement. He asked me a couple questions about my plans for Scotland, and then I was on my way!
What was Welcome Week/Orientation like? Did you find it helpful? What was the most helpful aspect of the event(s)? What was the most enjoyable?
My programme started earlier than most to accommodate the student teacher placement schedule. I arrived at the mostly quiet student halls, but had great assistance getting set up. The regular orientation activities wouldn’t be ready for another week or two so I met up with my flatmates and other members of the residence to talk about the course and make new friends.
Once orientation week started, there were loads of events going on around the city. Some of these fairs on campus had lots of good info about events in the city (and lots of discounts!) as well as info that was helpful for international students: like opening a student bank account and getting a cell phone plan.
There were lots of events for on-campus residences as well, like free breakfast and pizza meet ups and getting to know your residence team and meet fellow students.
It was so easy to meet others while living in student halls, and we quickly made plans for events and trips like those listed on Eventbrite.
What has been the most enjoyable part so far?
I’ve had some opportunities now to make little excursions on the weekend to places outside Glasgow. So far I’ve made it to Edinburgh (sadly just after the Fringe Festival), and spent some time hiking and exploring the city. I’m looking forward to more kinds of excursions like this, and seeing more of Scotland.
Do you have any recommendations for students arriving next Autumn?
I initially thought because I had experience living abroad and adjusting to a new country that the move over to the UK wouldn’t be too much of a culture shock, but I found that going through the visa process and arriving in a new country still was a pretty new and exciting experience for me, even if I spoke the language here! I really appreciated the assistance preparing for my arrival, so I would recommend new students to seek out any advice from their ATP Student Advisors.
The other side of that is: I found I was very supported by my university once I arrived here. The student halls have been great and the Welcome Week events made me feel pretty comfortable navigating the city, and travelling beyond.