This post is more personal than any others. I got inspired by the amount of messages I received from people living abroad asking very interesting questions – so how is it to study in England?! I’m rushing to answer all your burning questions today!
Why and when did I decide to move to England?
Polish high schools used to take 3 years and during my 2nd year I realised I didn’t get from my school what I expected. Despite it being the best school in the region, the teachers were not supportive mentally and educationally. I was also an eventer at that time and it was difficult for me to find any motivation to study, when the attitude of my teachers was more like “exams or horses Ewelina, you chose”. So this is when I started planning out a different future for myself. Back then I wouldn’t have dreamt about going to university as I thought I was not bright enough and didn’t want to study some meaningless courses which wouldn’t get me a job anyway. Thanks to one of my old friends, who did IB (International Baccalaureate) in England I got in touch with the school she attended. 3 months later I got an acceptance letter, left Polish school and started IB in one of the colleges in Cambridge. My English wasn’t good and I have never been in a plane before, but heeey… I loved the adventure and to this day I still think it was the best life decision I have ever made. After finishing IB I applied to University of Nottingham, from which I graduated a week ago.
Studying at the English universities.
You can find hundreds of universities in England. When you decide to study there chose one, in which you will benefit more than if you stayed in your own country. The best unis are enrolled in so-called Russel Group. They get a lot of funding; their level of education needs to meet tough requirements and the quality of the university experience should reflect high employability of graduates. The list of Russel Group institutions you can find here. When applying, use UCAS website, were you can find many statistics or useful information and compare universities between each other. Remember, that in the UK the application process starts quite early (at the beginning of high school’s final year), so you have to make up your mind before your final exams. After your application gets successfully reviewed you will obtain conditional or unconditional offer and if you comply with the requirements, you are granted a place at uni. For people from outside EU – many of you asked me for the entry requirements for students from India, Iran or some African countries – I am not the best person to ask, I advise you to contact the admissions team (via phone or mail), who will be more than happy to answer all your country-specific questions.
In case of my course experience, I will definitely publish another post dedicated only to that matter. When you ask me what you should study, I am afraid I cannot answer that question because I cannot allow myself to be responsible for your life choices. You need to really do a lot of research to see what course you would be able to stick to for the next 3 or 4 years, so please please please do not let anyone to make that decision for you. It is you life and yours only. To clear out the confusion about the courses, have a look at the entry requirements, the choice of modules you get every year and the length of the course – all available on the course page of every university. Try to google what does a life of a particular field graduate looks like – potential jobs/salaries/length of education. You can also jump to the government page to find out possible career paths in the UK.
The process of studying
Studying in England is expensive. If you are from EU, you can (at least for now) apply for a student loan for undergraduates to cover your fees. If you get it in your first year, you only need to sign the new contracts in the following years without applying again. You start repaying the loan after you graduate if your salary is exceeding the national average yearly salary. If you don’t reach that amount for 30 years after graduation – you don’t need to repay it at all. This may seem like a convoluted system, nevertheless it is a sort of promise from the universities that after graduation you are going to get a good job with a decent salary. High uni fees and relatively expensive living costs make the decision to study in England way more serious than in other countries. Here not everyone goes to uni (like it is the case in some countries with free higher education). Good quality courses at well-known universities are taking time, a lot of work and they are difficult indeed. You need to show a lot of independent work and be ready to do many essays and courseworks on alongside studying your normal material. In my opinion this is a very attractive feature of studying in England. People who decide to study should be 100% dedicated and passionate about the subject, so the level of the whole course is relatively high, preparing you for amazing job opportunities in future…
…Talking about the future
If you study because you have got this very clear idea of what you want to do next – English unis would be perfect for you. During your course you will be shown many options and opportunities which would help you to achieve your career goals. Universities very often have their own employment offices, where they can check your CV, practise interviews, advertise graduate schemes and summer internships. In addition, in most big UK cities, you will be able to work part-time alongside your studies because the managers of the shops, bars and restaurants are quite flexible with working hours. In case of employability services, I can definitely recommend UoN as the university which cares not only about your studies but also about your employment in future.
Probably it all depends on the university itself, but the contact between the student and lecturer is generally very good. They reply to emails and answer questions with a lot of enthusiasm. You can see they love what they do (at least the scientists I have met). You almost feel like a client, probably because you spend fortune on your course every year. At least when you are not happy with the quality of lecturing or the examination, you can always complain. Your comment will be taken seriously and considered thoughtfully. Unis also have the welfare officers, who make sure you get enough support when dealing with difficult situations, stress, sickness or disability. They all really care how you feel and what your experiences are. Moreover, every single uni will have many societies and sport clubs, trips and whole lot of other events organised so you can get to know new people all the time.
During your first year you are probably going to live in halls with shared bathroom and kitchen. In second year, you move to the shared houses with a bunch of friends you met in your first year. In third year you realise that some people are not suitable to live with so you rent a smaller house with only close friends, so you can focus on studying more than partying 😉 When you look for the accommodation, remember that the best houses get booked in December/January and you should balance the closeness of your flat or house to the campus as well as city centre, where you probably are going to work part-time.
To summarise, I placed a few of “I wish I knew before I moved to UK” points:
Seriously do not hesitate to ask anyone about anything, Britons are absolutely the nicest people in Europe and they are always happy to help you out. Emailing and phoning also works the same way. Through asking I found out so many life-saving tips, I would have to write a separate blog post to fit them all.
British houses are quite cold during winter. Before renting a new place check if there is no dump behind furniture or at the celling. Believe me, it’s extremely difficult to remove mould effectively and you don’t want to breathe it in for a year. In general tenants have some rights (law-wise), nevertheless most of the landlords would rather offer you to move out before the contract finishes than deal with your complaints. It’s because that have more people who want to rent than the rooms available in town.
Place to find free furniture and appliances: freecycle.org
Bank which I can recommend for a student account: Barclays
Mobile network with a lot of data and bargain prices: 3Three
And if you don’t have any obligatory internships during your university course, I would advise you to find some yourself over the summer. It looks great on your CV and gives you many future opportunities (which you will definitely need by the time you reach your 3rd year).
If you liked this post and you have more questions which I haven’t answered – please pop them in the comment section below or ask via email: email@example.com