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Studying Abroad in the UK: Important Things You Need to Know

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Are you thinking about studying abroad in the UK? I’m here to spill the tea about the important things you need to know in 2018, but with Brexit right around the corner… it’s anyone’s game so keep checking in for updates!

I completed my masters in July 2017 with a Masters in Science (MSc) from SOAS, The University of London. My MSc was in Development Studies because I want a good foundation to continue to work abroad in underdeveloped countries because life is just too short to be normal. Most SOAS graduates go on to work in the public sector, government, and international NGOs – I’m a radical neoliberal (not really) so I currently work in the private sector, much to the disappointment of my peers. I’ve taken to web to tell my not-so-special story of how DIFFICULT life was as a post-post-grad to be a heedful tale for those with dreams of grandeur… i.e. anyone interested in higher education and living abroad.

Here’s the three, most important things you need to know: 

  1. You are at the mercy of the Home Office (immigration)
  2. You will struggle with the UK style of education
  3. You will be poor (unless you aren’t)
  4. You’ll never want to leave

You are at the mercy of the Home Office (Immigration)

I put this as my #1 concern to warn everyone about because the Home Office will treat you like a criminal no matter who you are or where you’re from. If you’re studying abroad temporarily (<6 months), it’ll be a lot more simple to enter and go as you please than if you’re studying in the UK full-time. Those looking to reside in the UK for longer than 6 months will need to apply for a Tier 4 General Student Visa, which requires you to complete several steps (listed) just to be considered.


For more information, go directly to the website, but here’s the main elements:

  1. you can apply for a visa 3 months before you start your course.
  2. It costs £335 to apply for this visa from outside the UK.
  3. You must prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply
  4. You must pay an NHS healthcare surge charge
  5. You must have:
    • an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor
    • enough money to support yourself and pay for your course – the amount will vary depending on your circumstances

And even if you make it through your course with flying colors, pay your social dues AND have a sparkling personality/CV… you only have 6 MONTHS after you graduate before they tell you to leave.

You will struggle with the UK style of education

This is 100% what shocked me the MOST about studying abroad in the UK because I really underestimated how much day-to-day reading the professors expect from you.  Let me break down the math for you:

  • I had 4 modules (classes) per semester
    • Each module was 2 hours long
    • Each module also had a 1 hour tutorial (class with tutors)
  • Each module required 25 pages of reading per week

When I wasn’t spending 12 hours a week in (so very long and dry) lectures, I was spending another 12 hours trying to sort through the most DENSE reading material of my life. It was 50% theory so if you’re not familiar with the writings of Foucault, pack your bags and call it a day. I spent half the year just trying to catch up to my peers who were far more familiar with classic literature and theory. Call me Neggy Peggy but I warned you!

You Will Be Poor (unless you’re not)

As an international student (outside of the EU), you’ll be hit with extra fees and duties. For my university, the following applied for my Master’s program. In 2015, I actually paid LESS than for 2018 incoming students soooo good luck to ya’ll.

If the student fees don’t get you, you’ll also have to PROVE that you have enough money to support yourself whilst you complete your studies to the Home Office during your Visa application process. If you’re studying in London, I would recommend budgeting the following:

  • £600 for rent (Zones 2-5)

  • £300 – 400 for food

  • £200 – for living costs (phone bill, utilities, travel etc)

That comes out to a MINIMUM of £1000 gbp per month. I’ve seen it done for maybe a few pounds less, but it is the living costs that are going to get you. Even if you cycle to school, don’t go out much, etc – there’s just SO MUCH TO DO in London that it’ll easily suck you into the vortex.

PRO TIP: Whilst you are looking for somewhere to live, you have loads of choices, but I would recommend staying within Zone 1-3 because the amount of money you save on an AirBnb or hotel will immediately be canceled out by the costs associated with travel. Commuting from Oxford into the city every day will run you up to £600 eeekkkk.


You’ll never want to leave

Even with my constant complaining (and I mean constant), I would never ever give up my uni experience in London. I honestly ‘found myself’ – original – and made friends from all over the world. At SOAS, there’s such a beautiful exchange of ideas, voices and backgrounds that it was truly a microcosm of the world I hope to see in the future.

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