What’s it like living and studying in the UK?

Living in Plymouth

Plymouth is a small city situated on the western edge of the county of Devon. It's size means it has all the benefits of a smaller place, including a compact central area with accommodation, shops and entertainment facilities all within easy walking distance.

Plymouth's status as a city means it has a distinctive cosmopolitan vibe and is a magnet for many different types of people, including tourists, students, workers and migrants. 

Many visitors to Plymouth are surprised by its continental feel and sense of community.

The University of Plymouth values its community of international students and we recognise the unique pressures faced by this group who move to the UK to study with us.

The University was ranked fourth in the Whatuni? Student Choice Awards 2018 in the international category and an important part of our support to international students is that we help make their transition to Plymouth a smooth one, allowing students to focus on enjoying life in the beautiful South West.

Living in the UK: do you need a guarantor?

Many landlords now require students (and particularly international students) to provide a guarantor as a condition of the housing contract. The guarantor – a third-party individual or organisation – guarantees to pay the landlord any rent which the student fails to pay and the cost of any damage for which the student is responsible and fails to pay. Landlords generally insist that a guarantor is UK-based.

Landlords for privately-rented shared houses will often not insist on you naming a guarantor, especially as for many international students, it is very difficult to identify someone who is UK-based to undertake this legal commitment. It is landlords of large-scale purpose-built housing developments in the private sector who are likely to require you to provide a guarantor. If you cannot provide one, they will probably require you to pay most, if not all of, the rent for the full contract before you move in. This is a considerable financial challenge for many students.

University of Plymouth cannot stand as guarantor for you. If you do need a guarantor and you are able to find one, it is important that your guarantor’s financial liability is limited to just your personal rent/damages.

The National Union of Students has prepared information about guarantors for students and institutions, and the Advicenow charity has a really useful films:

Studying in the UK, how does it differ from home?

When you get to the UK as an international student, studying may seem very different to studying at home.

Depending on what you’re studying, what level you’re studying at and where you’re studying you may be faced with having to do things differently than what you’re used to.

For example, you may be responsible for managing your own research and time, instead of being prescribed set work. You may have coursework to complete in your own time, or you may have a number of exams to test your understanding.

We recommend you look at this UKCISA page on Studying in the UK which explains the differences between lectures, seminars, course work and much more!

Culture shock

After the excitement of the first two weeks has worn off, it's very common to feel homesick and lonely. 

This is true not just for overseas students, but for British students too. 

So remember, if it happens to you, you really aren't alone.

You may experience mood changes and strong reactions, feel lost and irritated. 

It's important to understand that this reaction is normal and these feelings will reduce as your new surroundings become more familiar.

If you need someone to talk to, ISA is always happy to listen and offer support and suggestions to make adapting to the UK easier.

UKCISA Guide to Facing Culture Shock

Funding your studies

As an overseas fee payer, you must generally fund yourself completely, or apply in your own country for whatever educational funding may be available. There's very little financial assistance available for overseas students in the UK, however, you can find information on the University of Plymouth scholarships and bursaries.

You shouldn't travel to the UK or begin a course of study without making sure that you have enough money to cover all your academic fees and living expenses. 

It's very difficult to make arrangements for financial support once you've left your own country.

UK healthcare

Some treatment provided by the UK's National Health Service (NHS) is free for everyone, including accident and emergency services (but not follow-up treatment, or admission as an in-patient to hospital).

Most other healthcare is only free if you pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of your visa application for your period of immigration permission. However, if you are in the UK for a short period of less than 6 months on a visitor visa you may need to take out private medical insurance.  You may still choose to take out additional medical insurance to cover situations that would not be covered by the NHS, such as dental treatment, optician visits and repatriation in a medical emergency. Check out this great NHS webpage: UKCISA guide to health and healthcare

UK banking

It's important that you speak to your bank in your home country before leaving. 

Ask if they have a special relationship with a UK bank that may help you to set up an account. 

It's also a good idea to ask them if you can use your cash card in cash machines in the UK to access money from your home country account.

It can be useful to bring a bank statement, or a University letter addressed to your home country address, to help you open an account in the UK.

It can take up to three weeks to open a UK bank account, so make sure you have access to money for this period. 

Some banks also require a local address to open the account, so depending on which bank you choose, you'll have to pay rent and a deposit to secure your accommodation first.

Shopping and eating out in Plymouth

Join us on a guided tour of Plymouth to discover where to buy your groceries and homewares when you arrive. We will also give you some ideas for eating out and entertainment whilst living in the city.