Top Tips to Prepare for Your First Term at a UK University

by Scott Elliott

Studying abroad can be the adventure of a lifetime, but it can also be very stressful to prepare for, both in terms of studying, and fitting in with your peers. Below are the top 5 tips I have for students preparing for their first term in the UK that I wish someone had told me when I started my own adventure.

Oxford Brookes University
Colourful student-designed walkways, Oxford Brookes University

Don’t bring your own paper or binders
This may seem like a silly example, but it is something that surprised me when I first arrived on campus in England. British standard is to use A4 paper, which is slightly narrower and taller than the 8 ½ x 11 letter-sized paper Canadians will be used to, and they use 2- or 4-ring binders, so the holes will be punched differently. This means that British paper won’t fit quite right inside Canadian binders, and vice versa. Not a huge deal, perhaps, but it’s best to buy your stationary in the UK.

Join the International (or specifically Canadian) Student Society
All of our partner universities in the UK have International Student Societies, which is a great place to meet people from all over the world, who will be experiencing life in the UK for the first time as well. This can be an invaluable tool for building a support network of peers in the same boat as you, and can help with your inevitable feelings of homesickness. Some universities have student societies specifically for Canadians, such as the Canadian Law Society at the University of Leicester.

Join other student interest societies
Universities have an almost endless number of student interest groups, including everything from academic programs (like the Law Society, Engineering Society, etc), political and campaigning, cultural, enterprising, faith, and recreational (like Harry Potter clubs, board and video game clubs, and wine tasting clubs). These are a great way to meet students that have the same interests as you, and can expand your university experience away from the purely academic.  As an example of the breadth of options, check out Queen Mary University of London’s student society list.

Second Cup, Southampton
The Second Cup in Southampton is a familiar place for Canadians to enjoy a cuppa.

Find a quiet place to study
Obviously, while studying abroad, the academic parts of your adventure are very important. Studying in the UK is very different from studying in Canada, as the programs are more heavily weighted on independent study and research. This means finding a distraction free place to study is paramount. You could stay in your dorm room, or hole up in the library, but don’t discount local coffee shops with free wifi, especially if you’re meeting up with classmates to compare notes or work on projects.

Take the time to sightsee and travel
Studying in the UK can be a once in a lifetime adventure, don’t spend it cooped up in the library! Exploring your neighbourhood, city or the whole UK is not only an exciting experience, it can help with your feelings of homesickness, by making you more familiar and at home with your surroundings. You’ll find hundreds of interesting things to see and do in the UK, and may even find a few hidden gems off the beaten path!

V&A Museum, Dundee
V & A Museum, Dundee

I hope those tips helped you get ready to study in the UK! If you have any other questions or concerns about studying in the UK please contact one of our Advisors.