Advice for Chinese students going to the UK for University, what to prepare and what to expect on arrival
I spoke to Panda Radio’s very own Yao about what Chinese students preparing to do their degree in the UK need to know. Yao just graduated from her undergraduate degree at Goldsmiths, University of London and is about to embark on her masters there also, so she has all the relevant advice about what to expect.
Before you go, you’ll need to apply for your visa, but there’s a few other documents that your visa application requires. First of all, you’ll need a Certificate of Acceptance of Study (CAS) from your university, they’ll send you this after you’ve paid your study deposit. After this you’ll need to head to the British Embassy to pay an application fee of around £300. You’ll then need to pay a Health Service charge of £200 per year. So remember if you’re doing a bachelors degree which is minimum 3 years, then you’ll need £600 overall, and this needs to be paid up front! Make sure you keep evidence when you’ve finished all of these processes, as you’ll need them in your visa application. Now you’re ready to submit these files to the visa application centre, remember this takes around 20 days, so leave plenty of time before. At the beginning of this summer the British Embassy claimed that they’ve made it easier for Chinese students to apply for student visas this year, reporting that 99% of applicants were accepted according to figures from March 2018.
One of the main pieces of advice that Yao gave was to make plans far in advance. Universities can be very slow to response, especially the admissions department over the summer when many international students are sending them requests. Pay attention to the application deadlines so you know to complete all tasks well far in advance, and it doesn’t become urgent. If you haven’t heard from the university in a while, or if you’ve left something too late, send the admissions team a friendly reminder to explain your situation, and they will usually make you a priority. You can apply for express service for many elements of your application, but it costs a lot more. People going for the first time will need a health check which scans for tuberculosis. The application centre will only accept proof of your results from certain places, so make sure you your check is done at an approved medical centre.
When you arrive, most universities offer transfers from the airport to student halls, so check this out and get in touch with them beforehand to arrange this. The student ambassadors help collect students from the airport, so you can be assured to see a friendly face when you arrive! However, if you don’t feel comfortable with this quite yet, there are actually some car services operated by Chinese people, which you can find on TaoBao. Your next obstacle is enrolment. Enrolment is usually pretty simple, as there will be student ambassadors available to answer all your questions and guide you through the process. You can send your residency permit papers to your university prior to enrolment in order to receive your Biometric Residency Permit (BRP) Card at enrolment. Remember to keep your passport on you at all times, especially before enrolment, as it’s your only valid form of ID in the UK. Equally important advice is to keep your BRP card safe, as it’s difficult to apply for a new one. Have a bank statement ready from your Chinese bank. It’s possible that the application centre will review it in a random check. It’s necessary for evidence that you have sufficient funds in your bank account to sustain yourself for the duration of your studies. There’s a calculation formula for how much you’ll need depending on where you’re studying, for example, you’ll need considerably more if you’re studying in London! You need to have a sufficient amount saved at least 28 days before you apply, and evidence of this in your statement.
As for applying for a UK bank account, don’t feel too daunted as it’s usually pretty simple. Some of the bigger universities will have a bank branch on campus, made obvious to you on your enrolment day. If your university doesn’t have an on-campus bank branch, that’s not a problem either. All you have to do is take your passport and your student enrolment letter to a bank of your choice to apply. Most UK banks have student debit accounts, I would recommend applying for one of those.
Finally – don’t be afraid to ask questions! Yao remembers that “a lot of Chinese students can be pretty shy when they first arrive, but a lot of people are happy to help.” It’s understandable to be slightly apprehensive to ask questions when you’ve arrived in a completely unfamiliar place, but universities will have a lot of support in place for international students to feel comfortable, so don’t pass up on the opportunity for their help to make the process go more smoothly! You may feel panicked when you first arrive if you don’t know anyone, but Yao recommends to a look online before you go and read about other peoples’ experiences so you have more of an understanding about what to expect. A good website for Chinese students is HongLingJin (red scarf) they have a lot of advice including what to pack! So long as you know what to expect and have all your applications sorted in plenty of time, enrolment at your university will go smoothly. The rest is up to you to make sure your studies in the UK are an unforgettable experience!