Tips for international students

You may not know that the UK is roughly 6,579 miles away from Malaysia. My name is Mitzy and I am originally from Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and I moved to the UK six years ago to study.

Date: 22 March 2019

Johor Bahru is comparatively smaller than London – nothing overly exciting happens there, but there is an abundance of good and fresh food. People often ask me why I moved to the UK – when I tell them about the all-year-round tropical weather in Malaysia and the answer is always the same; I am here to pursue my studies.

London is an exciting city to live in, where you’ll also have the opportunity to meet many people from different backgrounds. This big city can sometimes have the potential to make you feel lonely if you don’t put yourself out there. If you are due to be an international student in the UK, here are a few things to look out for, based on my own experiences.

Renting a flat

If you’ve decided to rent with a letting agency, you’ll need to be prepared to pay a few administration fees on top of your rent and deposit.

Rent in London can seem a little expensive, but this is entirely dependent on which zone you live in. If you live further outside of central London then the cheaper your rent will be. Rent prices can also depend on whether or not the flat is furnished.

Be prepared to pay a deposit or some rent upfront. If you are going through an agency, it is worth noting that almost all will request that international students pay six months to a year’s rent upfront if you don’t have a guarantor in the UK.

Finding flatmates that you can trust to share chores around the house and have mutual respect for each other’s space is vital. You’ll want to feel safe and comfortable in your own home. If you’ve decided to share a home with people you’ve never properly met, it is important to set up an appointment to meet with them prior making your final decision. You could find out more about their daily habits, what sort of industries they are working in, which university they go to, and whether they party during the week or weekend. Don’t be afraid to get to know your future housemates more before moving in with them – they might be your friends for a lifetime.

Shall we get takeaway tonight?  

Many of my friends would get a takeaway every day because they find it difficult to juggle between their busy schedules and preparing food at home. There are many options for fast convenient food in London, for example: Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat offer cooked food delivered right to your doorstep.

I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do this often as the costs of eating out and ordering takeaways does add up. Instead, I would recommend cooking at home as often as possible and eating out or ordering takeaways at most twice a week.

If you feel too busy, running from place to place, then I would also highly recommend planning your meals throughout the week and doing meal prep. I’ll let you in on a secret, I spend about £100 a month on groceries – meal preps are healthy and you’ll save tonnes of cash!

Put yourself out there

After talking to a lot of friends who aren’t originally from London, I realised it can be easy for people to feel isolated or out of place in a city where exciting things are always happening. It is always important to put yourself out there and make the first move.

I would recommend perhaps joining a sports team, a society or the gym. Go to the pottery class that you’ve always wanted to but haven’t ever got round to doing or join a photography class on Airbnb – these are great ways to make friends. It is always great to meet people with different backgrounds and cultures in London.

I now have friends that are from all over the world – from Myanmar, Ghana, Colombia! You’ll always learn something whenever you put yourself out there.

Take your time to adjust to life in the UK and, for those who are from tropical countries, make sure you wear an extra layer during cold weather – winter in the UK lasts quite a while!

I hope these tips help you on the start of your new and very exciting adventure!

A view of Kuala Lumpa at night

"You’ll always learn something whenever you put yourself out there."

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