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What to Expect Guide: Study in the UK

12th September 2016 Posted by: Holly Smith

WHETHER you’re a British citizen starting university in the coming weeks, or an international coming from overseas, everyone will have a shock when it comes to studying in the UK.

It’s a huge difference to high school, and for the majority, it will be the first time living away from home (cue sheer madness…).

But don’t worry. We’re here to take you through some of things you’ll find a bit odd, so that you can feel thoroughly prepared when landing in the island that is the UK.


These are the main form of lessons that every student will have. They sound intimidating, but they’re really not.

Let me explain.

1. Lectures are the things you usually see on TV and films. A large hall with hundreds of students and one person standing at the front with a Powerpoint presentation.

2. Seminars are smaller and take place in classrooms. Here, you’ll probably be expected to have done some reading and contribute to the lessons.

3. Tutorials. These are usually one-to-one sessions with your tutor and are a chance for you to ask questions about your assignment, and get personal help from the experts.


Some top tips for UK lessons

1. Your lecturers will turn up on time and ideally, so should you.

2. You probably should go to all your lessons, you’re paying a huge amount for them! But most lecturers will put their slideshows and lecture notes online for you too. It makes it easier when it comes to revision. But also easier to stay in bed…

3. Don’t buy text books. Take them out from the library instead.

4. Essay deadlines are strict. You cannot hand them in late.

5. Expect to have between 10-16 hours a week in classes.

6. On average (this does not mean all universities and all courses, best to check yours), 1st year doesn’t count towards your final degree, 2nd year counts as around 30%, and 3rd year counts as 70%.

The grading for exams and essays work like this:

70% = 1st (the best grade)

60% = 2.1 (good mark… and the average)

50% = 2.2 (ok…)

40% = 3rd (it’s a pass at least)

>40% = Fail


Student Life: The Biggest Culture Shocks

Drinking Culture. You’re in the UK, the legal drinking age is 18, and drinking culture is a massive shock for both internationals and first years alike.

The first week of university is known as ‘freshers’ week’, and as much as you try to ignore it, you will never get away from the constant smell of vodka. You’ll be guaranteed to be invited to play drinking games with a load of strangers every night and you'll make friends incredibly easily.

"Down it freshers” becomes all too common and you’ll probably wake up more and more hungover as the week progresses.

However, there’s nothing to say that you have to join in. If you don't drink, or prefer some tamer nights, then remember that UK universities and large and diverse. Events will play out all week where you can have a good time and meet people, minus the alcohol.

Just be warned though… you might have a flatmate who stumbles back at 3am proclaiming their love for you.


These are quite a big deal in the UK.

There’s a society for everyone. Football, Swimming, Trampolining, Arabic Society, Law Society, Debate Society….. the list is endless.

It’s a good idea to join one of these. They’re a brilliant way to socialise and meet new people, as well as practising (or finding) a new hobby.

During freshers’ week there will be a big fair in which every society has their own stand. Go over and sign up to the ones you want and you won't regret it. Whether you want to learn a new language, speak your native language, or get experience hosting your own radio show on the campus radio - you can do it all!


The Weather

It’s going to rain.

A lot.

If you’re studying in the north of the country then make sure you invest in a good rain coat. Winters are particularly wet.


Take-away food

After a night out, you’ll get hungry. It’s a well known problem we all encounter when we stumble out from the club at 3am (yes, the clubs in the UK close so early!)

Where do you go to? The greasiest and most disgusting-looking takeaway you’ll ever see. And it’s so good.

Kebabs, chips doused in either gravy or cheese, or both. That’s the regular order. I promise you. Once you go there, you’ll be back. To non-UK citizens, it sounds dreadful. But it’s the only food to eat after a night out. Promise me you’ll try it?


All other types of food

So the UK doesn’t really have anything to boast about when it comes to food. I mean, we have pretty decent fish and chips and the sausages are second to none. But honestly, we don’t do all that well when it comes to the palette.

Your staple diet, when studying in the UK, will be baked beans, pasta, and cheese.

It’s not the most nutritious diet. You’ll probably start off buying fresh fruit and veg, but ultimately you’ll turn truly British and come heaving back from lectures looking forward to your beans on toast.


It’s usual for all first years to stay in university owned halls. These will either be catered or self-catered depending on your choice. If you’re only studying in the UK for a semester or one year, you’ll probably also be living here too.

Second and final years tend to move out of university accommodation and live in a rented house somewhere near campus. Houses range in size, from two bedrooms to ten. If you choose to do this, you will be responsible for sorting everything out yourselves.

The other option is private halls. These are a little like university halls, but generally a little bit nicer and slightly more expensive. Here you can have your own flat, with kitchen and bathroom. Or you can share with others.


But overall…

No matter where you choose to study in the UK, you’re going to love it.

Our universities are some of the best in the world, our clubs are some of the biggest and we’re quite a friendly bunch. As a country as diverse as we are, you’ll fit in almost anywhere and find people with similar interests to yourself.

Studying in the UK will be the best time of your life. That I can almost promise. 

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