For any international student moving to UK, it can be a little daunting. Having gone through the same process not too long ago, we decided to put together a list of things we wish we knew before arriving in Manchester!
- Communicate, Communicate and Communicate
While online research is important, it’s better to speak to someone who is already living in Manchester. If you don’t know anyone, don’t be afraid to contact the University or Student Counsellor to ask about the things outside your course or about the city in general.
Things like public transportation costs, safe neighbourhoods, recommended places to eat will help you plan your time and budget better.
- Choose your Accommodation Wisely
University accommodation is a good idea for first few months as it will give you a chance to meet new people and network. Once you have settled in and know the city better, moving to a flat with friends is also an option worth considering.
You can use our free app called PLACE (http://placepropertyapp.com) to find nice and cheap apartments based on commute distance from the University.
The public transportation network in UK is excellent but can be a little expensive especially if you are an international student paying from your own pocket. Further, as a student, you may have to visit London often for job fairs, conferences and those odd ball interviews. Here is what we suggest to simplify your choices –
If you are travelling locally, bus is your best option and you can get yourself a student bus pass. StageCoach, 24 hour bus service in Manchester, also has its yearly pass called UniRider which is a cheap option to travel throughout the year.
First Greater Manchester offers free Metroshuttle services that link important points in the city centre such as Piccadilly, Victoria and Oxford Road stations with Chinatown, Deansgate, Salford Central, and Albert Square. There are three routes, numbered 1, 2 and 3, coloured orange, green and purple respectively. They run every 5–10 minutes and complement the Metrolink and National Rail services.
If you are travelling between cities, coaches are a cheaper alternative to trains, but they can take almost double the travel time to arrive. Megabus is the cheapest option with fares starting at £1 but they tend to be very busy. If that’s the case, then try National Express as they offer the largest coach network in the UK.
Trains are the most preferred way to get around the UK and is the most comfortable too!
Get yourself a student rail card as soon as you land in Manchester. It provides students with one third rebate on the normal fare. Further, if you book in advance, you can save as much as 80% off.
If you are in London then the tube is often the fastest way to get around. Also, for travel in London, take a look at the Oyster card. It is by far the cheapest option.
- Cheap International Calls
“Hey Mom! I am here. Talk soon!” and you are charged £5 for that. Now we don’t want that, do we?
We suggest it is best to get one of those PAYG sim cards which are available at the airport and practically every supermarket on Oxford Road. In terms of network coverage, O2 and Vodafone have decent coverage while giffgaff (uses O2’s network) is the cheapest one.
For calling back home, there are hosts of low cost options, such as LycaMobile, Lebara and RebTel offering around 1-2p a minute.
- Sort out your Bank Account
It’s advisable to apply for a Student Bank Account if you are going to be in the country for more than couple of months. There are many advantages to it –
- Bank Statements acts as a Proof of Address especially if you need Schengen Visa to travel across Europe
- Proof of Income
- Benefits such as interest free overdraft of up to £2,000
- Keeps your money safe
You will need a confirmation letter from your University/School proving your student status. It is advisable to apply well ahead in time as from personal experience, it usually takes long to receive the debit card and pin.
- Register with a General Practitioner (GP)
It is strongly recommended that you register with a doctor as soon as possible after you arrive in Manchester so that you can access healthcare as quickly as possible if you become ill or injured.
You can find most of the details about Registering with GP on this page
- It’s Raining Again!
Manchester’s cold and wet weather is no big secret. A good and sturdy umbrella would be your best friend in Manchester. A pair of waterproof boots wouldn’t hurt either. Most importantly, be mindful of the commute distance between University and your accommodation because study hours at university can be long and Manchester’s weather can be a spoiler (most times) for those long lovely walks to and after school.
Again, you can use PLACE to find an apartment based on commute distance from the University.
- Working part time in Manchester
As a rule, the EU is more flexible for allowing working than outside of it. The best approach could be to check with your student representative or counsellor at the Uni who can guide you better on an individual basis. Alternatively, you can also check out the more generic official guidelines at UK Council for International Student Affairs.
- Preparing for Manchester
Manchester, the city is arguably the most ethnically diverse in Europe and, possibly, second only to New York in the world.
While you will be able to find many students who share similar background and beliefs as yours, we recommend that you make the maximum of this opportunity to learn and understand other cultures.
Also, the city boasts of array of restaurants and night clubs. The Gay Village in Manchester is very popular evident by the number of pubs, bars and clubs dotted around Canal Street. Most of them are straight friendly which underlines the welcoming open-minded attitude Mancunians are famed for.
Northen Quarters, Deansgate Locks and Quay Street are famous for its high end Pubs and Night Clubs whereas areas such as Fallowfield, Rusholme and Oxford Road are more popular among students as cheap options to party.
Everything (except food joints and supermarkets) closes by 6 pm in Manchester so it’s better to rush during your lunch break to get that beer soaked iPhone of yours repaired!
(Useful Tip: If it ever comes down to that, switch it off immediately and take it to one of those cheap electronic repair stores in Rusholme).
- Last, don’t forget to book that Transport from the Airport to your Accommodation!
Usually, Taxi Transfers from Airport to City Centre are quite expensive. You can save a lot if you plan well ahead in time. The cheapest way to reach City Centre is to take a train to Piccadilly or Oxford Station but considering that you will have substantial luggage with you, it’s better to book an Uber in advance. Even better, you can share your Uber ride if you are travelling with a friend.
The author is MBA graduate (Class of 2014) from Manchester Business School, University of Manchester and was last seen in one of the bars around Oxford Road.
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