By Suraj, Advanced Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham
As the date of the flight approaches, there can be a lot of anxiety and questions in your mind about this new place you are about to travel to – new people and an entirely new culture all very far from home. I made this transition just a while ago and felt the same way you are probably feeling right now. Well, I am happy to report that after having spent 5 months as an international student, I have never felt better about myself. It is going to be a challenge unlike anything before, but you are going to go through a metamorphic transformation and grow beautiful mental wings of fortitude like a butterfly.
The University of Birmingham is brilliant at helping each student – although it has 30,000 students, the university has excellent support staff that you can get in touch with quite quickly, I have always received quick resolutions from the finance team who were very supportive, and they even made accommodation to a special request I made to pay the fee in an instalment structure that worked for me. All I had to do was email, so rest assured just get in touch to accommodate any requests or answer any questions you might have. But it always helps to look at the huge number of resources the University has on its website, there is a special section for international students with loads of information about the steps that need to be taken after receiving an offer from the University.
Now that you have sorted all the administrative work (like getting your place reserved at the University), the next burning question is ‘where am I going to live?’. The website has a very special section dedicated for accommodation and the University has loads of student and partner accommodations that are very conveniently located near, so you would not be late to a single class. I even found that going on social media and trying to find student groups can help to find roommates who are taking up the same course or you might even make a friend in there! I wanted to live in private accommodation and was worried about searching for one as I was not even physically in the UK. To my joy, I found StudentPad which is a website where the private accommodations in liaison with the Guild of Students’ and the University are listed. Finding private accommodation was a breeze after finding StudentPad.
When you finally arrive, you can let the University know in advance and book a place in the coach that the University arranges from London and Birmingham airports. You will find student ambassadors ready to receive you and the University supports and takes care of you as soon as you set foot in the UK. When you are settled in nicely into your accommodation, there is an entire week where the university organizes various events to get to know your cohort and to have loads of fun. They even have lots of food and goodies that you can take home.
It may take a while for you to learn how to get around the city but I have found that Google Maps is the best way to find buses and trains that you would need to get to a certain location. The best part is that if you have your University Identity Card with you, you get to travel on the local buses for just a pound – so make the most of it whilst you are still a student! Birmingham is the second biggest city with something for everyone, there is a huge shopping centre in the city centre where you can almost find everything you may be looking for and it is just about a 20-minute bus ride from the university.
The best part about the UK is its people and you will quickly find that people here are usually warm and kind-hearted. I have walked up to many people and asked for help and almost always received help. The University Careers Network and lecturers are more than willing to sit down with you and help you and support you in every way possible. After people, the second-best part is the food there is something for everyone – Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, you name it, there is probably a restaurant that is specifically catered to that kind of cuisine.