Coming to university from abroad can be challenging and confusing in many ways. What is the weather like? What should you do about mobile phones? What do you need to know before arriving? The Saint has produced this guide to give you an insight into life in St Andrews.
For information about how to get here from the airport or railway station, check out our guide.
Before you arrive
First off, make sure you have your student visa if you need one. Without it you will be unable to study at St Andrews, and the last thing you want is to miss Freshers’ Week because you applied for your visa too late. (It has happened before!) You cannot apply for your visa any earlier than three months before your first class.
Most of you will need a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa and the University website has more information about how to apply. Note that you will need a ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ from the University.
The cost of tuition at the University varies but for US students it is around £16,230 ($27,100). The tuition for medical students and students with scholarships and grants will be different.
Accommodation fees vary according to which hall you have been assigned. These fees can be paid for by international bank transfer, with a credit or debit card, or with a cheque. For more information on how to make these payments, see the University’s website here.
When it comes to packing, there are a few things that you should remember. Do not forget to bring a plug converter as otherwise you will not be able to use your electronics. The UK uses a 3 plug outlet, for which you can easily get an adaptor in any electronics shop and it is recommended to purchase these in the UK. Halls will carry out portable appliance testing (PAT) at some point during the first semester to make sure all your electronic items are safe. Make sure they are serviceable and in a safe condition or they will be confiscated. When in doubt, buying your electronics in the UK is the safest option. Remember that there are some items which you are not allowed to use in your room and you should check your residence guide if you are unsure.
The harsh Scottish weather may seem intimidating to anyone who is used to warmer climates, but fear not – with the right wardrobe you can stay warm. Wellies are incredibly practical with all the rainy days that you will experience. While Hunter wellies are extremely popular in St Andrews, any robust ones will do. Layering is the key to keeping warm. A winter coat, a hat, scarf and some gloves are all a great investment for the rainy and cold Scottish winters. You will find that there are only a few high street shops in St Andrews, but Dundee and Edinburgh are not far away or you can buy online if you want to shop for bulky items once you get here.
UK shops do not always stock everything you can find at home so it may be wise to bring some supplies with you. In particular, Advil is not available at Boots. Solo Cups are also rare, so bring a pack if you are so inclined.
For more about what to bring, check out The Saint‘s guide.
What to do when you get here
There are a number of things that you will need to consider as soon as you get here including using your mobile phone and making your bedroom comfortable.
You have a number of options when it comes to mobile phones. Getting a UK SIM card is recommended to avoid paying international calling charges. You can bring your mobile phone from home and insert a UK sim card if you want but remember that you need to unlock it first. Usually your service provider will do this for a small charge and you should be able to use it on all providers in the UK and at home (but check with your service provider first).
You can also choose to buy a new phone specifically for use in the UK. Carphone Warehouse on Market Street will give you a wide selection of contract and pay as you go options. A UK bank account is needed to set up a contract phone, and this is something you can only do once you are in St Andrews. Be aware that there will be a lot of students trying to set up bank accounts and get a mobile a phone during freshers’ week and you should expect some queues.
Choosing between a contract and a pay as you go phone may seem a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but both have advantages and disadvantages. Contract phones are not great if you are not in the UK for 12 months a year as you will still have to pay for your contract even when you go home for the holidays. They will however give you more benefits if you call and text a lot, as you get a phone at a reduced rate or for free and pay a set amount each month for a large number of calls, texts and data.
Pay as you go phones meanwhile are ideal for anyone who does not want to commit to a 12-month contract. You can still get some benefits (such as a small number of free minutes or texts) by topping up your phone each month but you will have to pay pull price for the phone. For international calls Skype is recommendable as it’s by far the cheapest option. There are also plenty of online messaging services like WhatsApp that let you send messages to friends and family at home.
The University provides bedding packs but they are known to be a bit sparse. Duvets and pillows and any other household items can be bought at Argos in Dundee or Cupar, and the check & reserve option online is ideal to make sure what you need is in stock when you arrive.
For more about life in halls, check out our guide.
The Saint‘s complete guide to student bank accounts in St Andrews can be found here.
Living and working in St Andrews
Once you settle into life in St Andrews, there are some things that you may notice are slightly different or are confusing for those coming from abroad.
Expenses wise, St Andrews tends to be on the costlier side, but that varies depending on your life style. If you are in a catered hall, you only really need to budget for leisure costs such as societies or sports (and of course, shopping). Alcohol and tobacco are both heavily taxed in the UK, so you might find them more expensive than in your home country.
A lot of students will want to get a term-time job but you must check whether you are eligible to work in the UK. It is fairly straightforward for EU and UK students as you can take any employment and work as much as you want to. If you are an overseas student, your visa determines whether you are allowed to work or not. Most of the time, if you are staying longer than six months in the UK you will be allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week. Make sure to check the potential work restrictions of your visa when looking for a job.
In order to work in the UK, you will need a National Insurance Number and you must pay income tax if you earn over the ‘personal allowance’ in a tax year. EU and international student need to apply for their National Insurance Number, but the Careers Centre offer interview dates during term time.
University life can take a toll on you and “freshers’ flu” is common in halls. Thankfully healthcare is free of charge in the UK, however, students from outside the EU are now required to pay £150 per year as part of their visa application to access NHS care. You will be registered with a clinic under the NHS during matriculation, and consultations, routine and emergency treatments are free. If you have a prescription to be filled out at a pharmacy, this will also be free of charge in Scotland. Make sure you contact your doctor about any medication you are taking at home to ensure you can get it in the UK.
A car is not really needed in St Andrews as most places are easily accessible by foot. If you do wish to drive and have a full driving licence in your home country, you will be able to drive up to one year after you first enter the UK. After this date the rules depend on your country of origin. For more information visit the University website.
Sorting out storage can be intimidating, with various offers on display around town. You do not need to store things over Christmas as halls of residence cover these weeks, but you will need to sort out storage over the summer. Some people will have flats over summer and rent out their space for storage at a reasonable price. Ask your friends and acquaintances if they do know of such offers. Be aware that you will likely have to transport your belongings to the flat yourself, however.
There are plenty of storage companies that will advertise in halls as well. They normally charge per box and week, and will pick up the boxes and deliver them back for you. This is not something that you need to worry about right now but be aware of it as the summer approaches.