As an international student, not only are you stuck with the traumatizing sticker price of £18,408 for tuition, you are also stuck with a longer to-do-list than your domestic counterparts. To help you avoid becoming overwhelmed, here is a (hopefully) helpful guide to getting everything done whilst still having a blast!
Picking up your BRP
When you apply for a tier 4 student visa, you will be asked to select a post office where you can retrieve your Biometric Residence Permit (a document which confirms your rights and identity: more on the BRP). The single rule you should obey is to not select the Aldwych post office. If you feel rebellious and disobey this rule, you will pointlessly suffer the wrath of waiting in a queue for hours alongside other similarly rebellious students; so just conform this one time, please. That being said, you should select a post office near your accommodation. Furthermore, please remember to retrieve your BRP before programme registration.
Change Term-time Address
When you arrive at your university accommodation, you will be notified of your room number and mailing address. Once you have these information, please log into LSE for You and update your term-time address. This is because the system requires at least an hour to update, so doing it at your earliest convenience can (and probably will) save you the walk of shame of when you finish queuing at the Student Services Center only to realize you’ve forgotten to change it.
Registration is the process of officially joining LSE as a student. To register, please bring your passport, BRP, UCAS confirmation or original offer letter, and pre-registration pass. Before you leave, please refer to your student welcome packet or the LSE website to ensure that you have every document in order and, if you can, please do this the day before you have your programme registration because we all know you’ll be clubbing late (early?) into that morning ?.
What may be the most intimidating item on our agenda is a U.K. bank account. When you begin your journey to find the best bank, please remember that the student accounts you see advertised with benefits like overdraft and Santander’s 16-25 Oyster cards are only available to domestic students—lucky things! For most of us, we can either open a current account (basic or premium depending on your needs and fortunes) or an international student account offered by banks like NatWest. When you do your research, please carefully read the full details and regulations on your account as you may be required to pay £5 or more every month if you fail to make a monthly deposit of some sum…that’s the equivalent of at least 11 bags of ramen at H-mart or a four-pack of beer every month! Furthermore, not every account will offer a contactless debit card, and some may also have specific requirements on mobile banking and international transfers, so please do your research carefully and before arriving in the UK because you do not want to be comparing banks while your friends are in the common room playing billiards or out clubbing.
When you have decided on which bank and which account to open, try to book an appointment the day after your programme registration. This is to allow sufficient time to collect your bank letter. If you forget to book an appointment or miss it, don’t fret because you can always book a new one. Just try to steer away from those that are closer to LSE or a LSE accommodation because they may be quite busy. For example, I tried to book an appointment with NatWest’s LSE branch on September 19th, and the next available appointment was early October! However, by simply looking beyond campus I was able to book an appointment for the next day at the Marylebone & Harley Street branch.
Before you leave for your bank appointment, please make sure you have everything! Read and reread your bank’s list of required documents for opening your account, and try to put the documents in your satchel the night before your appointment because you’ll probably be having too much fun being a Fresher that night and may not have time to gather everything before rushing to your appointment in your PJs. On that note, try to dress business-casual when you go to your appointment, it just helps reassure the bank agent that you’re not a delinquent or a lost tourist ?.
After you’ve set up your U.K. bank account, the next item is to transfer your elixir of life (money) from your domestic currency to Her Majesty’s prized GBPs. While an international wire transfer is probably the most convenient method of moving your fortunes, it is also probably not the best way of moving large amounts of money. International bank transfers may seem good at first, but there are many hidden ways that banks can siphon off your funds and you may be shocked to discover that you’re several hundred pounds poorer once the money arrives in your account.
Banks do this by charging you a conversion rate significantly higher than the market rate. For example, while the market rate may be 1.33 dollars to pounds, the bank may charge 1.40 dollars to pound, which makes a significant difference when you’re transferring thousands of dollars. To help minimize your inevitable losses, there are international transfer services like TransferWise and CurrencyDirect, so please do look into these services as they will save you significant amounts of money. I personally used TransferWise to transfer my funds, but your currency may not be supported or you may be able to get a better deal with the plurality of other services and companies offering the same service.
Registering with a GP
Please, please, please don’t wait until you’re sick to register with a surgery! In the U.K., healthcare is a single payer system, and as an international you had to pay several hundred quid to have the privilege of being serviced by NHS, so might as well take advantage of it! It may take a while to register with a General Practitioner (think family doctor) and some may require a booking be made several weeks in advance, so be sure to email your prospective surgery and inquire as to when you can register, how long it should take, and what you need to bring. To find a surgery, go to http://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx and type in your accommodation postcode (for example, Carr-Saunders is W1T 4BN) into the Find local services.
Hopefully this guide will prove somewhat useful. I am fully aware that it is terribly long but hey, you’re a student at LSE! If this reading is too long and difficult for you then, well, you might want to reconsider studying at LSE because it is a very independent and reading-intensive university, with exceptions of some programmes (looking at you maths students).
Good luck and always remember to have fun! London is a brilliant city for us international folks and home is never far away in the form of a Korean restaurant or a German bar, so go out there and explore everything, then brag about what you’ve explored to the envy of your boring stay-at-home friends!