Living in the UK
There are many interesting and new experiences waiting for you in the UK and we hope you’ll enjoy them all. Below are some helpful tips on some practical matters to consider when getting ready to travel. Remember if you have any specific questions before you travel, you can contact the international team at MPW or speak to the agent helping with your application.
Living in London
London is a fantastic and safe place to study, with an amazing array of things to see and do. Make sure you do some research on the city, especially the area where you will live and study before you come so your arrival and time here is as enjoyable as possible. View everything the city has to offer.
Culture and Social
London is famous throughout the world for its cultural institutions and eight out of ten visitors say that ‘culture and heritage’ are the reasons they chose to visit. There are over 800 art galleries and over 170 museums in London including three of the world’s top ten! The hundreds of festivals design shows, theatre shows, live sports and comedy which take place are returning, taking into account social distancing requirements. With so much to do and see you’ll need to make sure you leave time to study!
MPW London is located in South Kensington, a few minutes’ walk from The Natural History Museum, The V&A Museum and The Science Museum. There are over 300 languages spoken in London, more than most cities in the world. This makes it a very cosmopolitan city, with many different cultures coming together. There are ethnic communities from all over the world here and it is important to respect each others’ cultures and beliefs. This will ensure you meet new people from all over the world and make some great new friends. Make sure to sign up for social, cultural and sports clubs at MPW to help you meet new friends and keep you busy socially. There is a huge array of different clubs to try!
London has one of the biggest transport systems in the world, with integrated road, river, underground and bus and bike routes spanning the entire city. The easiest way to get around is by using an Oyster card which works on the tube, buses and trains. Visit the Transport for London (TfL) website for more information.
Living in Birmingham
Birmingham is an exciting and safe place to study and live, with a huge range of things to see and do. Make sure you do some research on the city, especially the area where you will live and study before you come so your arrival and time here is as enjoyable as possible. View everything the city has to offer.
Culture and Social
Birmingham is the second largest city in England, located in the West Midlands. A market town in the medieval period, today the city is a centre of industry and culture in the UK. Its major cultural institutions – including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts – enjoy international reputations, and the city has vibrant and influential grassroots art, music, literary and food and drink scenes.
MPW Birmingham is located in leafy Edgbaston, near the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and with easy access to all of the city’s amenities, museums, galleries and theatres. There are plenty of extracurricular and enrichment activities to get involved in such as debating, sports, Model United Nations, and art clubs to help you meet new friends that share your same interests.
Birmingham is well served by rail and bus routes that will get you to college, home and to any of the many attractions that the city has to offer. TOA taxis are the equivalent of London’s black cabs and are highly regulated and safe. You can make a booking or hail them down in the street.
Living in Cambridge
Cambridge is a unique and safe place to study and live, with a great range of things to see and do in a historical city. Make sure you do some research on the city, especially the area where you will live and study before you come so your arrival and time here is as enjoyable as possible. View everything the city has to offer.
Culture and Social
Famous as the home of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge is an ancient city boasting the Cavendish Laboratory (where DNA was discovered), King’s College Chapel, Senate House (where Cambridge graduates receive their degrees) and the Cambridge University Library. You can even attend some of the University’s lectures if you like – ask your personal tutor for more information.
Cambridge contains much more than the University and MPW. Alongside multiple annual festivals featuring everything from Science to Folk Music, there is a wide choice of art galleries, cafes and restaurants, seven theatres, three cinemas and all kinds of live music, performances and comedy events. You can go punting on the River Cam, enjoy a picnic in one of the many parks, or join a walking tour.
As Cambridge attracts students from all over the world with its reputation of educational excellence, you are bound to make new friends who share your interests.
The most common way people get around Cambridge is by bicycle. It’s a great way to keep fit and healthy, but make sure you stay safe by following all the UK traffic laws and the Highway Code. You can hire bicycles if you’d rather not purchase your own, but this may get expensive. You can usually purchase a serviceable bike for under £100 and it’s important to have a good bike lock and helmet too. It is a legal requirement to have working lights at night.
Other transport options are buses, taxis or to walk. You’ll learn more about all these options at your induction.
When arriving in a foreign country for the first time it can seem like a very strange place. Every country has its own unique food, social life, dress sense, etiquette and how people speak and behave, sport, transport and holidays, and the UK is no exception.
Remember if you have any specific questions before you travel, you can contact the international team at MPW or speak to your agent helping with your application if applicable. There are also many helpful websites that will get you prepared. The UK Council for International Student Affairs and the British Council are useful sources of information.
Food and Diet
Traditionally, British food is based on meats and seasonal and root vegetables. Be sure to try a roast dinner while you’re here! Most cafés and restaurants also offer vegetarian options and there are options available from all over the world. Some of the bigger cities and towns will have specialist supermarkets catering products from around the world and even the main supermarkets carry some international foods.
The UK benefits from the National Health Service (NHS) which provides free health care to all British residents. This also extends to international students staying for more than six months which means that you will be able to visit a doctor and attend a hospital if you need to without paying for it when you go.
There are many people with many different beliefs living and practicing here. There is sure to be a place for you to practice near your accommodation and our staff will help direct you to your nearest facility.
>Britain is a tolerant society and it is illegal to discriminate against anyone due to their faith or religion. Please remember to behave accordingly to others of different faiths when you meet them.
Council Tax is determined by local authorities and is based on the value of the property you are living in. People over 18 who are not exempt will have to make this payment. Students in full time education are generally exempt so be sure to ask your Director of Studies, Personal Tutor or another member of staff at MPW if you need advice and they will point you in the right direction.
Britain is an island country and the surrounding seas give it a very varied weather system! While Britain has a reputation for wet weather, there are also some beautiful sunny periods and cold and snowy ones too. Like in most places, it is impossible to know what the weather will be like so be sure to come prepared for anything!
Average temperatures in September range from 9˚C to 20˚C, and between 2˚C and 7˚C in January. To be safe, pack a jacket or coat and some warm clothes as you might feel the cold more if you’re used to warmer temperatures in your home country. You will be able to buy clothes appropriate for the weather when you get here if you don’t want to bring too much at first but be sure to check the weather reports before you pack to ensure you have appropriate clothing for the first couple of weeks at least.
Safety is important anywhere in the world and while Britain is a very safe place to be, it is a good idea to keep some advice in mind:
- Don’t wander around alone at night, especially in areas with little light.
- Don’t travel with too many pieces of expensive technology and don’t flaunt them when you’re out and about in public.
- It is best not to carry large amounts of cash with you and you can speak to MPW about helping you set up a bank account or a float account if a regular bank account isn’t possible.
- Try to make sure someone responsible knows where you are going if you’re going to go out alone.
- Always keep emergency numbers to hand in case you need them.
Keeping in Touch
Keeping in touch with friends and family at home is a very important part of studying abroad. You want to be able to share your new experiences and hear about what is happening at home too. It is also very important to have contact with loved ones on those rare days you might be feeling down.
Make sure you pack all of the addresses and contact numbers and emails for everyone you want to keep in touch with and keep them safe. In the UK, you can use the Royal Mail postal service to send packages and letters as well as several private courier companies such as DHL. You will have WiFi access at college and in the accommodation provided through KSS if you’ve booked that. There are also many internet cafés and other public spaces that offer WiFi if you need to connect outside of college.
It might be an idea to get a local SIM card for your phone when you arrive or purchase a UK phone. This will make communicating in the UK easier and cheaper. To call home, you can purchase phone cards online or from kiosks and shops which are excellent value for money.
The power supply in Britain is 230/240 volts. Sockets accept only three-(square)-pin plugs, so an adapter is needed for international appliances. A transformer is also needed for appliances operating on 110-120 volts.
It is a good idea to have travel insurance covering your journey to the UK and if you are travelling for less than six months, you should also have health insurance. Make sure you keep key information and contact numbers for your insurance with you when you travel.
Money and Bank Accounts
The currency in the UK is The Great British Pound GBP (£). It is not a good idea to travel with large amounts of cash so you should try to have enough for the first few days and some bank cards you can use while here.
When you arrive it may be a good idea to set up a bank account. You will receive more information about how to do this at induction and through your DoS. In the meantime, you can start some research from home. The main banks are HSBC, Barclays Bank, Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Barclays Bank and HSBC both offer special international student packages.
There may be some differences between the law in your country and the law in the UK. For example, in the UK:
- You must not use or carry any illegal drugs, including cannabis, ecstasy, LSD or amphetamines.
- It is illegal to carry self-defence CS gas sprays, guns or stun guns. There are also very strict laws and penalties around carrying knives.
- You must be aged 18 or over to buy tobacco and alcohol.
- You should never buy property that you think might be stolen, no matter how tempting it seems. It is illegal to drive a car without the correct driving licence and without car insurance. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offence.
“Getting into…’ University Guides
Getting into higher education may be the toughest challenge you’ve faced yet. MPW’s careers guidance and university entrance guides can help you pick the right course and the right university, and give you valuable UCAS form help. Written by experts with a wealth of knowledge, MPW Guides are set out in straightforward language. They give clear, practical advice to help you win a place on the course of your choice.