Moving to a new country can seem daunting but with a large community of international students at both the RVC and in London you can be reassured that you will be well catered for and supported to help make the transition to life in the UK easy and enjoyable. You will find some essential information below about moving to the UK and also some handy tips to help you feel like a local.

What to pack

Moving away from home to a new country can be daunting but you needn’t worry about missing your home comforts. London is a large city and will have just about everything you can think of. However, there are a few things that we recommend bringing with you:

Things to pack in your hand luggage

  • Valuables such as your phone and wallet/purse
  • Passport (containing visa if applicable)
  • RVC offer letter and/or CAS email
  • Financial evidence
  • Address of UK accommodation
  • Tickets for your flight
  • UK currency for any initial costs and expenses when you first arrive and before you have a UK bank account set up  (taxi fares, food etc.)

Things to pack in your hold luggage

  • Clothes – British weather can be extremely unpredictable. Make sure you pack items suitable for all seasons (if you are coming from a very different climate, it may be cheaper to buy suitable clothes when you arrive)
  • Personal items; photographs of loved ones and reminders of home are a great way to brighten up your room and help you feel settled
  • Electrical items, including type G travel adaptors (one for each electrical item). Countries that use type G plugs are Cyprus, Malta, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. If you are moving from one of these you should not need a travel adaptor. Tip: you don't need to bring everything you own - take a look at our shopping section for further information on where to buy things when you arrive

Don't forget to label your luggage with your details in English, check your baggage allowance as exceeding this could be extremely costly, and ensure that you bring photocopies of all your important documents (passport, visa etc.) and passport photos.

What not to bring

  • Books – these will take up considerable baggage allowance and it’s better not to buy in advance, since you could be spending money on a book you won’t use or that could be provided at a lower price once you’re here
  • towels, bedding and kitchenware – these will take up valuable space in your luggage and you can buy them locally
  • banned or restricted items – these can be viewed on the HM Revenue & Customs website

If you are coming to the UK from outside the EU, please be aware that there may be restrictions on how much cash you can bring with you. Please see the GOV.UK website for further details.

Bringing pets

Some of you will be considering bringing your pet to the UK with you when you come to study at the RVC. There can be great benefits and comfort from having your pet with you in the UK, however there are important considerations to take into account before making the decision to move with them.

Firstly, please be aware that RVC accommodation does not permit pets, so if you are going to live with a pet then this will not be an option for you. There are, however, options in the private rental market that will be able to accommodate you.

Property landlords in the UK are not obliged to allow tenants to have pets therefore it can prove more difficult to find a place to live, it is worth noting that it is likely to cost more to rent a room or property if you are bringing a pet. Homes big enough to have gardens are more affordable further from the centre of London so you may find that you have a longer commute to the Camden Campus in your first year/s of study and there are many extra costs when shipping animals to the UK including airfares, custom fees and extra veterinary bills.

If you plan on bringing your pet to the UK, you should read the UK government website where the rules and requirements of getting approval for your pet to enter the country are outlined.

If you are from the US, you should also consult the USDA APHIS for advice on taking your pet to a foreign country.

Further advice regarding privately rented accommodation, including a database of available accommodation, can be found at the University of London Housing Service UoLHS.

If you are considering private rented accommodation please read the UoLHS housing guide that gives essential information such as your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

Shipping personal items

You may wish to ship some larger items to the UK rather than packing them in your hold luggage. To make sure you don’t pay too much tax when shipping your goods to the UK, HM Revenue & Customs has created a Customs Procedure Code 4000C06.

You should give this code to your courier who will attach it to a C88 form. This code covers the tax for clothes, books and any personal items you will need for their time at university. If you use a postal service you will need to pay and then reclaim import VAT.

Arriving in the UK

The first step of your adventure in the UK will be to make your way to RVC... it's all part of the adventure! You have a few options depending on which airport you fly into, and how much you're willing to spend on your journey.  

Unfortunately, RVC is unable to operate airport transfers to all UK airports. However we will be operating airport meet and greets from Heathrow on the 15th and 16th September where a team of current students will meet you on arrival and take you on a mini-bus to your accommodation. If you would like to please fill in the form at the link here.  

We have also put together some information which details the options you have for finding your way here from the airport:

Directions from Heathrow Airport :

Below you will find advice on how to get from the airport to the campus (for students in College Grove) or the other main halls of residence.  

It is advisable that you take public transport when you arrive at Heathrow as the cost is much lower and it is likely to be the quickest method of travelling to your accommodation.  

Heathrow Express trains offer the quickest but most expensive way to get to Central London taking only 15mins to arrive at Paddington Station. There are also slower TFL Rail services to Paddington that take between 31 and 49mins to arrive art Paddington but are considerably cheaper. For Lillian Pension Hall, exit at Paddington. Otherwise, once you are at Paddington you can take the Circle or Hammersmith and City Line tube trains to either Euston Square (College Hall) or Kings Cross St Pancras, where you can walk to College Grove or The Garden Halls, change to the Victoria Line for Finsbury Park (iQ Highbury) or the Northern Line for Kentish Town (Mary Brancker House).  

Alternatively you can catch the tube all the way from Heathrow into Central London using the Piccadilly Line. Although this may take slightly longer (an hour or more) you will not need to make any changes and can get the tube directly to Russell Square (for College Hall or The Garden Halls), Kings Cross St Pancras (for College Grove) or Finsbury Park (for IQ Highbury). If you are in Mary Brancker House you will need to change at Leicester Square for the Northern Line route to Kentish Town. 

Directions from Gatwick Airport:

Thameslink trains provides a direct service to Kings Cross St Pancras that takes less that an hour. From there, you can walk to College Grove or The Garden Halls in 10 minutes or College Hall in 15 minutes. For iQ Highbury, take the Victoria Line line tube two stops from Kings Cross St Pancras to Finsbury Park. For Mary Brancker House, take the Northern Line from Kings Cross St Pancras to Kentish Town or jump on a 214 bus (please note London buses are cashless so you will need an Oyster Card or contactless bank card). For Lillian Pension Hall, take the Circle or Hammersmith and City Line from Kings Cross St Pancras to Paddington

You can find the locations of all University Accommodation and the London Airports at the RVC Google Map. Below you will find the full addresses for the halls of residence:  

College Grove

Royal College Street, London, NW1 0TU

Nearest Tube Stops: Mornington Crescent or Kings Cross St Pancras

Mary Brancker House

54-74 Holmes Rd, London, NW5 3AQ

Nearest Tube Stop: Kentish Town  

iQ Highbury

201 Isledon Rd,  London, N7 7JR

Nearest Tube Stop: Finsbury Park 

College Hall 

Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HZ

Nearest Tube Stops: Goodge Street, Russell Square, Euston Square or Warren Street

The Garden Halls

1 Cartwright Gardens, London, WC1H 9EN

Nearest Tube Stops: Kings Cross St Pancras or Russell Square

Lillian Pension Hall

15-25 Talbot Square, London, W2 1TT

Nearest Tube Stop: Paddington

Healthcare

International students studying in the UK are entitled to healthcare free at point of use through the National Health Service (NHS), provided they have paid the immigration health surcharge when applying for their visa and study duration is over six months in length. Listings of doctors and dentists in the UK are available on the NHS website.

If you plan on bringing your spouse and/or children, they will also qualify for free healthcare. Although healthcare for consultations and treatment in hospitals are free of charge, you may need to pay for prescribed medicines, dental treatment and optical treatment.

Students From the EU

Students of the EU   A valid European Health Insurance Card gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.   The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary until your planned return home. Treatment should be provided on the same basis as it would to a resident of that country, either at a reduced cost or, in many cases, for free. For example, in some countries, patients are expected to directly contribute a percentage towards the cost of their state-provided treatment. This is known as a patient co-payment. If you receive treatment under this type of healthcare system, you are expected to pay the same co-payment charge as a patient from that country.   The EHIC also covers the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth or seek treatment. For more information about what is covered in each country, see our country-by-country guide

To find out how to register with local doctors, as well as information on mental health, please contact our Advice Centre..

Working

As a student studying at the RVC you may wish to take up some part-time work during your time here. Normally all students, including those on Tier 4 (Student) Visas, are authorised to work during their studies. If you are studying Veterinary Medicine can be intense and demanding there may be some limited time available for you to undertake part-time work. This is especially the case at the College itself where there are several opportunities to work in campus such as in the Students' Union (SU) bars or as a Student Ambassador. Please see the information below regarding rules and restrictions on your ability to work during your studies.  

Students from outside the European Economic Area  

Students studying at UK institutions and who are not nationals of an European Economic Area (EEA) country are usually authorised to work in the UK, subject to the conditions listed below. Similarly, they are able to do work placements which are part of a sandwich course, or to undertake internship placements without the need to obtain special permission.  

Students do not generally need to obtain special permission before they can work. The conditions covering the hours and type of work an international student from outside the EEA may do are as follows, This applies to people admitted to the UK as students for more than six months:

  • the student should not work for more than 20 hours per week during term time except where the placement is a necessary part of their studies with the agreement of the education institution;
  • the student should not engage in business, self-employment or the provision of services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer; ·
  • the student should not pursue a career by filling a permanent full time vacancy.  

Your passport stamp will continue to state that they can only work with permission from the Secretary of State for Employment. You may not work if your visa or passport stamp state, 'No work' or 'Employment prohibited' or that you must 'not engage in employment' (unless it also contains the words 'consent of the Secretary of State').  

If you would like to bring dependents or family members with you (children, partners, spouse, civil partner and certain unmarried couples), please refer to the following guidance for further information, as not all Tier 4 student visa applicants are eligible to bring dependants: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-dependants-of-uk-visa-applicants-tiers-1-2-4-5     

The conditions of stay on a dependant are:

  • No recourse to public funds,
  • Registration with the police, if this is required by paragraph 326 of the Immigration Rules,
  • No employment as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach),
  • No Employment as a Doctor or Dentist in Training, see guidance for exceptions to this rule.  

Students from the EEA and Switzerland  

Students from the EEA and Switzerland can work in the UK without any special documents, and there are no restrictions on the type of work you can do or your hours of work. However, some students may need to register in their first month of work. Please go to the UKCISA website for further information.   Any student wishing to work in the UK will need to apply for a National Insurance number, but you do not need to have received your NI number before you can start work. Your Local Benefits Agency or Job Centre Plus (National Insurance Contributions Section) will advise you on how to apply.  

Shopping

Shopping in the UK  

Food

There are a number of big food chain stores in London where you can stock up on all your food items. Some of the main ones are: Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, M&S Simply Food, Morrisons, Asda (the UK subsidiary of Walmart), Lidl and Aldi. Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Waitrose and M&S have branches in Camden, located in close proximity to the RVC Campus. Whole Foods is not a widely known brand in the UK, but it does have a branch in Camden Town. You can also find specialist stores offering country-specific items - see the Home Comforts section below.

The website MySupermarket helps you find the best deals on products from across four major supermarkets.

Homeware

Wondering where you can get hold of all the essential items for your new room? The shops below are where you can purchase bed linen, towels, furniture and other necessary homeware items. Argos - many of the items sold in the shop can be collected from one of their many stores whilst others are only available for home delivery. The closest branch can be found on Camden High Street.  IKEA has fewer stores than Argos. There are four IKEA stores in London with the one closest to RVC being in Wembley. 

Tiger - sells affordable homeware amongst other items. The closest branches can be found on Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street.  There are also a number of department stores in the UK which sell homeware items, for example, Debenhams and John Lewis. Branches of these stores can all be found on Oxford Street. Some of the bigger Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and ASDA stores also sell homeware items and furniture.  

Toiletries

Instead of bringing heavy bottles of shampoo and shower gel with you in your suitcase – buy them in the UK. You can get hold of most of these items in supermarkets, but for a wider range of products or more specific health/beauty items, try Boots or Superdrug. There are branches of both Boots and Superdrug near to RVC on Camden High Street.  

Clothes

You will be spoilt for choice for clothes shops in London! Oxford Street is one of the best places for clothes shopping in London. A little further afield, you can find big shopping malls called Westfield - there's one in east London and one in west London. There is a huge range of clothing and other items available from the world famous Camden Market  

Home Comforts

You may be worried that being away from your home country will mean you miss out on home comforts such as your favourite herbal tea or brand of cereal. However given that London is home to people from all over the world with over 300 languages spoken it is very likely (with a little research, you will find be able to find a shop that stocks food/goods from your home nation). Below is a list of a few suggestions for those who want to seek out a taste of home, please note that prices will often be much higher than you are used to back home as most of these products need importing from overseas:  

USA – The The American Food Store bin Ladbroke Grove is a great place to find real American products – an excellent place to visit to stock up on Thanksgiving supplies https://www.usafoodstore.co.uk/  

China – New Loon Moon in China Town near Piccadilly Circus has got interesting Chinese staples and has a decent array of fresh vegetables

Canada – Get your favourite branded Canadian food stuffs delivered to you from https://www.skyco.uk.com/

Korean – Check out New Malden in South London with boasts the UK largest Korean community. The area hosts shops such as Kimchi Mal and Hyun's Bakery

Japanese – Try the Japan Centre in Piccadilly Circus for a the widest selection of Japanese goods.

Indian – Indian food goods are fairly easy to find in London with London having a large Indian community fairly evenly distributed across the city.    

Student Discounts Once you have your student ID card, you can take advantage of discounts in a number of shops (and restaurants, cinemas and theatres too, for that matter!). Lots of places offer a 10% discount for students so it’s always worth asking when you pay whether they offer a student discount, then just flash your ID card to get your money off. If you sign up to the NUS extra scheme and myunidays.com to receive student discounts online. 

Mobile (Cell) phones

London is one of the most well connected cities in the world and you will find it really easy to stay in touch with your family back home and with your new friends in the UK. 

Mobile phones in the UK

Thanks to London’s excellent mobile phone coverage, there are plenty of providers and different packages you can choose from. There are three ways in which you can pay for a mobile phone service in the UK:

Pay monthly - This is the least flexible option and you will be tied into a contract of between 18 and 24 months. If you choose a pay monthly deal and leave before your contract has ended you will almost certainly be charged for early disconnections.

Pay as you go (PAYG) - PAYG is very popular amongst students. You buy a handset and then pay in advance for a set amount of calls and texts. This usually is not the cheapest option, but it does offer great flexibility and is the best way to keep track of how much you spend.

SIM only - These packages are a halfway house between PAYG and contract phone. You will be provided with a SIM card but no phone, and you will only be committed to a rolling 30 day contract.

There are currently four major mobile phone providers in the UK: 3, O2, EE and Vodafone. However, some of the smaller providers, such as Tesco Mobile and Giff Gaff are also worth checking out. Each provider has its own range of packages so it is important to shop around when you are deciding on the best option for you.

The first thing you need to consider is whether you actually need a new phone handset. If you don’t, you could make a big saving by opting for a SIM only deal. If you have brought your phone with you, it may be worth continuing to use that phone but with a UK SIM card. You may need to get your phone unlocked as some phones are locked to the network from which the handset is purchased. Speak to your provider about this – some providers may charge a fee to unlock your phone. Alternatively you could buy a new phone handset in the UK.

Before deciding, take a look at an Ofcom approved price comparison site, like MobilePhoneChecker or HandsetExpert – these are easy to use sites where you can compare deals across several networks and compare the different services (pay as you go, pay monthly and SIM only). Take a look – you’ll see you can often get a SIM only deal for half the price of a pay monthly contract!

The Carphone Warehouse is a shop in the UK that caters for all mobile networks so may also be a good starting point for comparing the various options.

When you are researching your mobile options, make sure you take into account whether they offer an international calling plan if you expect to make regular international calls. Many providers will offer this as an extra service on top of a monthly subscription, but some are available to PAYG customers too.

Setting up a mobile phone contract

Before you are able to set-up a phone contract you will need a UK bank account. This is in order for your bill to be paid via direct debit. The process of opening an account can take a few weeks therefore it might be worth buying a pay and go sim for your first weeks at the RVC. Be sure to check that your current smartphone is unlocked or that it will work with UK networks.

Climate

Often the subject of much light conversation in the UK, the weather is a topic that can generate hours of small talk. Although the UK does not have the most extreme weather it does have changeable weather and often in one day will see sunshine, rain and wind.  

In general there isn’t too much difference between the regions of the UK, but you will experience more snow, rain and wind in northern and mountainous areas, especially in Scotland during the winter months.  

In winter the average is between 2 and 7 degrees Celsius (36–45 degrees Fahrenheit), but temperatures often drop to just below 0 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit).

When preparing for life in the UK it is important to consider the clothes you will need to bring with you cope with the changeable nature of the British climate. It is recommended that you have clothes that can be layered, a good waterproof winter coat and waterproof, hard-wearing shoes.

British Etiquette

Greetings  

Unlike many other European countries, the UK is not particularly tactile country and people will often greet each other with a handshake rather than a hug and kiss to the cheeks unless they know the person. Sometimes you will be greeted with one, sometimes two kisses on the cheeks. 'Alright?' or 'You alright?' is a common greeting that just means 'Hello', it doesn't mean people think there's something the matter!  

P’s and Q’s  

Many people from outside the UK find it strange that we say please and thank you as much as we do. It is considered polite, well-mannered and is a regularity of British speech. What may surprise you is when we are in a shop, restaurant or anywhere we are receiving customer service, we say thank you to the person serving us e.g. when they give you change, the bill, or come to give you your food and drinks. In Britain, every social transaction is eased by reiteration of these phrases from both parties. Remembering to say please and thank you is very important, this is sometimes referred to as ‘mind your p’s and q’s‘or, more specifically, to say both ‘please’ (‘p’s) and ‘thank you’ (‘thank q’s). It I also worth noting that rather than saying ‘thank you’ people will often use the phrases ‘cheers’ or ‘ta’ which can be used interchangeable to informally thank someone.  

Punctuality  

In Britain people make an effort to arrive on time and punctuality is appreciated, so it is considered impolite to be late, even by few minutes. If you are delayed, be sure to inform the person you are meeting. The British often use expressions such as "drop in anytime" and "come see me soon". However, do not take these literally. To be on the safe side, always telephone before visiting someone at home. If you receive a written invitation to an event that says "RSVP", you should respond to the sender as soon as possible, whether you are going to attend or not.

Queuing 

In the UK, wherever there is a mass of people you will find an orderly queue. British etiquette dictates that when you arrive, you join the back of the queue so that each person receives the service in the order that they arrived. We ‘wait our turn’ in queues. The notion of an orderly queue relies on everyone in the queue agreeing that this is fair. It is seen as unfair if someone doesn’t join the queue and pushes in. If you are seen to ‘push in’ it is considered very rude and unfair to other people who have been waiting. If in doubt ask “is this the back of the queue?” to avoid offending anyone.

Situations when this can be confusing are at bus stops, where it is not always clear where the bus will pull up, and when ordering drinks at a pub, where people tend to crowd around the bar. Again, if in doubt simply ask 'were you ahead of me?' to avoid unintended rudeness.

Apologising  

In the UK, people have a tendency to over-apologise. For example, if you tell someone about something unfortunate which has happened to you, it’s quite likely that they will apologise. E.g. “I’m so sorry to hear that you have been unwell”. British people cannot resist the urge to apologise, for example, if someone accidentally bumps into you, it would be common for you to apologise and say “I’m sorry” as though you are sorry for being in their way. If you have reserved a seat on a train but somebody is sat in it, it would be common to say “I’m so sorry but you appear to be sat in my seat”. If somebody spills your coffee, again it’s quite normal for the victim to apologise. Of course, the person to blame would apologise as well, but apologising as the victim is a very English thing to do.    

Tipping  

Other than in restaurants, tipping is not expected in the UK, in the way it is in the United States or Canada, but is much appreciated and not seen as offensive. It is not necessary to tip at all in taxis, but it is customary to round up to the nearest pound on metered taxi journeys, more as a convenience than a tip. On an airport journey in a booked minicab you might wish to tip two or three pounds if the driver helps with your bags. If taking a metered London taxi from Heathrow the metered charge will be so high compared to minicabs, that this really is not necessary. Other situations where some may choose to tip would be at a hotel or when having a haircut. 

In restaurantsSome restaurants add on an ‘optional’ service charge to bills, of typically 10% or 12.5%. This should always be noted in the menu. If you are unhappy with the service you can ask for it to be removed. For parties of six or more the service charge is sometimes mandatory. If a service charge has been added onto your bill, you should NOT add any further tip    

British Humour  

British humour errs on the side of sarcasm and is often centred on real life, sometimes painful observations of ourselves and others. The British use humour to make the best of a situation and to lighten the mood and it is often used as an ice breaker. Most of all, remember to not take everything you hear too literally!

Local Lingo

Local language

Although you may be fluent in English there are always a few aspects of the local language that can seem strange to those who have newly arrived in the UK. Below you will find a list of useful and curious slang words and colloquialisms:

  • Aggro - aggravated, or a term for trouble
  • Bangers - sausages
  • Chips/crisps - These two words are not to be used interchangeably! Chips are French fries (hence fish & chips!). Crisps are potato chips
  • Dodgy - suspicious
  • Fancy - like
  • Fit - it doesn’t just mean to be healthy, it also means someone is good-looking
  • Hammered - to be very drunk
  • Knackered - exhausted/tired
  • Pants - undergarments/underwear, not trousers
  • Gutted - it has nothing to do with removing guts! It means to be really upset, though I guess if someone did remove your guts, you be pretty upset about it...
  • Lift - elevator
  • Loo - bathroom/toilet
  • Nicked - stolen
  • Quid - a pound/£1
  • Sorted - arranged / all set
  • Nosh/grub - food
  • Not my cup of tea - something I don’t like very much
  • The offie - This is slang for an ‘off-licence’, a convenience store that’s licenced to sell alcohol
  • Skint - A phrase that means to have no money
  • Snog - to kiss someone passionately for an extended period of time
  • What are you on about? - If someone asks you, this means “What are you talking about?”
  • You're having a laugh - Another way to say 'you must be joking' - a way of expressing disbelief at what someone is telling you

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