9 Things Every Foreign Student in London Must Know - Broke in London

9 Things Every Foreign Student in London Must Know

Top tips on how to manage your student life in London

Guest post by Maria Martinez

London draws thousands of foreign students every year. If you’re one of them, you may find yourself lost in the city. There’s so much to see, so much to do, and so much to pay.

But the thing is, you don’t need to pay as much as you think. Here are our top tips on how to manage your student life in London.

Think About Your Visa Beforehand

Managing your visa may be a lot of trouble, especially if you’re a student. This mostly concerns your right to work and stay in the country.

Get all the documents you need to get a visa before you apply for it. Have them in order and prove to the officer who reviews your application that you have enough money to cover your stay in the country.

Think through your visa status well in advance. If you have a short-term visa, you can’t extend it. You can only change it to a Tier 4 general student visa from within the country.

Previously, you could work for 20 hours per week if you had a Tier 4 visa. Now that the visa rules have changed, your options have dwindled substantially. You can still work 20 hours a week if you’re sponsored by an institution of higher learning. If you’re sponsored by a private institution, you can’t legally work. The same goes for students who pursue part-time post-graduate degrees. Here’s the official list of sponsors.

You can apply for a Tier 2 visa that allows you to stay and work in the UK from within the country. However, if you mess up the date, you may be in trouble. Make sure you apply for a working visa well before your student visa expires. The same goes for a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa.

Get a Scholarship

You can’t use public funds if you came to London on a short-term visa. However, Tier 4 visa holders can apply for scholarships. This will help you spend your time in the UK much better.

If you’re from a Commonwealth country, you can apply for the Commonwealth Masters Scholarship. It covers the cost of tuition for the whole year if you’re getting a Masters degree.

If you’re an outstanding scholar and think you can become a global leader in the future, you should consider applying for the Chevening Scholarship. The government gives these to people around the world.

There are many more local scholarships as well. Apply for them early on and don’t just focus on one. This will help you make your life in London way cheaper.

You Can Get a Free SIM Card

One of the first things you have to do once you enter the UK is getting a mobile number. You may not know this but you can do this for free. You’ll just need to provide operators with your address so they could post it to you at no charge.

Once you have a place to stay, you can go to a website and claim a free SIM card that you can top up to get coverage.

Choose a Bank for Additional Benefits

Some UK banks offer great deals in partnership with foreign banks. For instance, you won’t be charged any transaction or exchange fees if the bank in your country is a partner of a British bank.

If you don’t need a UK bank account, you should call your bank well before you leave the country. Make sure they know you’re leaving so they don’t block your card.

Plan Transportation Ahead

All students get cheaper transportation, and that’s no news. Keep your ID with you and you’ll get around London 30% cheaper. You can also buy the Oyster Card to pay wirelessly at a station, online or apply for it at your university.

Paying for transportation upfront is too expensive. If you apply as a student, you get 30% off weekly and monthly deals. Avoid traveling in peak hours to save a couple of pennies as well.

If you’re not a big fan of taking a bus, you can choose to cycle to your university. Even if you don’t invest in a bike yourself, you can rent a Santander Cycle for £2 per day.

Sure, you can only ride it for half an hour at a time, but £2 is cheaper than a £4.50 daily bus fare. If you want to be frugal, don’t take a Santander Cycle for more than 30 minutes at a time, however. If you have to ride for more than an hour to a place, it may be a better idea to use public transportation.

Choose Between Cheap Accommodation and Cooking

Obviously, there are kitchens in the dorms or in your student housing in London, but if you’ve lived in one before you know it’s not that easy to use them. Depending on your university, this small kitchen may have to be booked in advance.

Don’t get frightened by the prices in London, however. While renting a studio will cost you a fortune, there is a lot of cheaper student accommodation in London options. Check with your university, and it may turn out you’ll only have to pay £20 more for a room with a kitchen a week.

How much will you be able to save on cooking yourself? That’s up to you.

Shop at Thrift Stores

You may be saving a lot of money on transportation and cooking at home, but that’s definitely not enough to shop at H&M each month. You don’t have to wear the same clothes for the whole period of your studies, however.

Take a look around London thrift shops and you’ll be amazed at how many things you can get dirt cheap. Modern-day fast fashion brands try to be vintage anyway, so why not take their hint?

Get an Internship

If you can study and work 20 hours a week, that’s great. But where will you get working as an Uber Eats delivery man? Take another route and apply for an internship instead.

If you’re on a list of students who aren’t eligible for work, this is your only chance to earn any money at all. Check with your university and look for companies that offer internships. Join one of them during your vacation period and you’ll get the experience you need. You will also be able to earn some extra cash to hire a custom writing service to deal with the essays you have trouble finishing on your own.

Get Paid by Participating in Clinical Trials

You can’t legally work in the UK, but you can earn money. At least one way of doing this is by helping others.

The price of donating 600 ml of blood can be as high as £100. Don’t overdo it, though. It’s best to wait at least a couple of month before donating again.

Now, if you want to help science and take part in clinical trials, the price is bigger. It can be anywhere from £1000 to £2000, depending on a study. Bring your friends, and many companies will give you a bonus for that.

About Maria

Maria has always been keen to write — from her adorable stories in the second grade to the first blog post. Having a Degree in Journalism, she can write about literally anything. That is one of the reasons she prefers to be a freelancer. Biotechnology, Marketing, Business, Education — just name it — she has enough experience to create an engaging and insightful article in any of those and many other fields.