5 student essentials in London… that absolutely HAVE to be done in week 1
The Week One guide for international students
- Orientation Week: Most students try and give this one a skip. They feel it’s a waste of time and money, given that you need to be in the city an entire week earlier than your course actually begins. Masters students, especially, think this one’s for the freshers and hence not worth the effort. But as a fellow student and well-wisher, let me tell you that I attended my orientation, and it was probably the wisest decision of my university life. Not only did I find out important information about safety, security and public transport in London, but it also gave me a chance to finish my enrolment process, which can otherwise be quite tedious. And once I had my university ID card, the student world became my oyster.
- Register with a GP: I cannot stress this enough. Once you have your ID card, let a letter from your faculty registry, and find a GP near you. If you’re overwhelmed by the process, follow the below link to the NHS “Find a GP” page:
Enter your postal code, find a sufficiently rated GP, call them (always call. They can be quite fussy about walk ins) and register. Make sure you finish this in week 1, because you never know when a medical emergency may strike! I have several friends here who didn’t have a GP available when they needed one, and have had to wait in hospital emergency rooms for as long as 4 hours before someone saw them. Trust me, DO it.
- Find a bank; open an account: There are tonnes of good banks offering loads of perks for student accounts. But read up and do your research, preferably before you get to London, or as soon as you do. Lloyd’s, HSBC, NatWest etc are some of your best bets, and fairly straightforward. Once you finish enrolment, your registry can give you a bank letter to get the process going.
HSBC, with whom I bank, took more than two weeks to open, and I was honestly quite disappointed. NatWest can open an account for you within 24–48 hours. Others like Lloyd’s will give you an an appointment but are quite swift too. Make sure you read the fine print and opt for only what you need. Don’t get drawn by promising words like “free overdraft facility” etc, because pause and think about whether you’re ever going to be in such a situation. I knew I wasn’t. Any how, once you have the account, you will have a debit card. From here on, getting your mobile number (if you haven’t already), phone, rent, netflix account etc becomes super easy.
- Student Oyster Card: For those of you living in London, who know you’re going to be using public transport fairly often, please, please register for a student Oyster card as soon as you have your student ID. This makes travel on buses, underground, overground etc up to 30% cheaper. See what zone you live in, see what zone you travel most to, and accordingly get yourself a weekly/monthly season pass. I save 10 pounds a week with my student Oyster. That’s approximately 3 extra pints of beer!
- Police verification, if your visa needs it: If you need to register with the police, your visa will say so. It will also specify by when this needs to be done. Do yourself a favour and go as early as possible, because it’s a time consuming process. I didn’t need it, but some of my friends who did, forgot about it for a while and then had summons from their college Tier4 visa offices. Not something you want to deal with when you’re bang in the middle of your semester.
So take my advice. Come into the city a week early and tick these 5 most essential tasks off your list. You’ll beat the rush and be prepared to take on the student world that awaits you. Trust me, you won’t regret it.