So, term starts a few days from today, and at this point you’re probably thinking, ‘Well, this is it, there’s no turning back because I’m about to be launched into the sky for a few hours and when my feet are back on the ground, I’ll be on a different continent.’
‘UNLESS they just put you on a plane and actually just fly around in circles while everyone at the airport just changes the setting so it looks like you’re someplace new but it’s actually still the same place but with different plastic decorations.’
‘But they wouldn’t do that, right? No way! They wouldn’t give me pretzels if it wasn’t the real thing!’
Or you’re already in Leicester for International Welcome Week. Well, either way, have no fear! I give you the Ultimate International Student Checklist for you to check off as soon as you arrive in Leicester.
Visa Checkpoint: as soon as you’ve arrived in Leicester and have gotten somewhat settled, I suggest you check in at the Visa Checkpoint at the uni. You’ll need to bring your current passport and visa, and your offer letter or other emails or letters with your student number on it. If you’ve opted to pick up your Biometric Residence Permit at the university, they’ll give it to you there. The checkpoint is crucial to finishing your registration as a student and letting the UK government know that you are, in fact, studying in the UK on your student visa. Last year, at the visa checkpoint, I got my student card and Biometric card, I registered with the Victoria Park Health Centre (you are entitled to the National Health Service (NHS) because you paid for it when you got your visa), and picked up my proof of registration letter to give to whichever bank I ended up choosing. I waited almost an hour in the line, so get there early! There are a lot of international students at Leicester! This year, the location is in a different building so they’ll probably be doing it a little differently, but I’m sure you’ll get all the same stuff I did last year. And as soon as you finish registering, you can access your personal timetable. You have to go through the visa checkpoint every year, so I’ll see you there!
Buy essentials: my first night in Leicester, I went to Morrisons, the nearest grocery store, and bought myself some microwaveable food, but soon realised that I didn’t have a fork to eat it with. Don’t make the same, sad mistake I made. Buy everything you’ll need on the first day! Don’t forget those plates, bowls, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, and pots and pans! The uni has some student starter packs, as do many other companies. These include kitchen stuff, bathroom stuff, and bedroom stuff. They may be cheaper in the long run so they’re definitely something to look into, but you may want to do some adding and comparing prices before you buy a starter pack. Some starter packs to check out are: UniKitOut, Student Survival Kit, and Argos. Argos (more of a department store for all your essentials) doesn’t have student packs, per se, but they do have great deals if you buy certain things together.
Find a bank: do some research and decide which one is best one for you – you can even do it before you fly over to the UK. There is HSBC UK, so if you’re looking for a bank that has ties back in good ol’ North America, this may be the bank for you I’m with NatWest and I haven’t had any problems with them. I tried going to the Santander in the Students’ Union, but I didn’t feel comfortable with the guy who was helping me. He asked me if I’m from China after ‘reading’ over my application form, on which one of the first things it asks you to do is state is your citizenship (I’m Canadian). I’m sure his intentions were well-meaning, but it was enough to turn me off from doing business with him; after all, it was my first day ever in Leicester. Anyway, I went to NatWest the next day. It does take a few days for your account to be set up, so you might have to make do with carrying cash around with you and storing the rest of it safely in your bedroom.
Purchase a phone plan: this is super easy (and super cheap!!!!!) compared to Canadian phone plans! Keep in mind that if you’re bringing your non-UK phone to the UK, it has to be unlocked as this will allow you to use an international SIM card. If your phone is not unlocked, you could either get it unlocked from whichever carrier you’re with, or you could purchase a phone with your phone plan in the UK. For those who have unlocked phones, like myself, all you need to do is purchase a SIM-only plan. The SIM card itself is free and the plans are so reasonably priced! Some popular ones are Three, EE, O2, Lebara, and GiffGaff. I’m with GiffGaff and I’ve had absolutely no problems with them. The plans are monthly and there’s no contract, so you can end it any time. This is handy for when you go home for Christmas, Easter, and/or summer holiday and you’re only away for a few weeks or a few months. The GiffGaff plan I always get is £10 for 1GB of data, unlimited texts, and 500 minutes; if you call other GiffGaff users, you don’t use up any of your minutes. I wish phone plans were this wonderful in Canada!
Buy a bus pass: if you’re going to live in Oadby and plan to commute to uni, you’re going to need a bus pass. Paying a separate bus fare every time you take the bus will add up pretty quickly. Because I lived in City Living last year, I walked five minutes to uni every day, so I asked my current housemate, who lived in Oadby last year and bussed to uni every day, about the bus pass. Yes, that’s right, I’m getting you the inside scoop! She recommends that you only buy bus passes for Terms 1 and 2 (roughly October to March) because Term 3 (May and June), you’ll be revising so you won’t need to go to uni much. But, having said that, my housemate is quite productive studying in her own room, so if you study best in the library and you need to commute to uni for revision, definitely buy a bus pass for the whole academic year.
Find a gym: the uni gym membership can be a little bit expensive sitting at £123, £245, and £295 for three tiers of membership. The uni has two sports centres: one on campus and one in Oadby. The uni gym is really convenient, as you can go before or after class, or before and after class, or in between classes. Personally, I love the gym classes, especially yoga and Body Balance! You do have the option of pay-as-you-go, which is £4 per session, so if you don’t go to the gym enough to buy the membership, pay-as-you-go might be the best option for you. Having said that, there are lots of other gyms in the city. My friend raves about PureGym to me almost every chance she gets; she lives in The Summit so the Walnut St location is just a 3-5 minute walk for her. There are two locations in Leicester, one on Walnut St at £14.99 per month and one right by the train station at £19.99 per month, both on a monthly basis with no contract. Plus, if you sign up with UniDays (a site for student discounts, which I highly recommend you sign up for), you get 25% off. The Gym starts at £12.99 per month plus a £10 one-time fee and is right in the City Centre, which is a 25-minute walk from uni. There’s also a CrossFit gym about a 30-minute walk from the university, in the opposite direction of the City Centre. Whichever gym you choose, you are not obligated to stay at that gym for the whole year and this is not an exhaustive list. Definitely do some of your own research and see which one is the best price and the most convenient for you!
I hope this was helpful and hopefully, you’ve already thought about all this stuff. If I’m missing anything that you think is important, definitely leave me a comment and let me know. You’re going to have a great year!