How to be a student in the UK? and other tips for living in Edinburgh for the international student.
I went to Napier University for one semester exchange (winter 2019) from Ryerson University (In Canada, Toronto) within the business school, Law Department. And wow! It change my life. All the green lands, Edinburgh’s cummblestone roads and tiny brownish traditional houses, hills in the middle of the city and genuine communications with Northern people, “my people“. I have been in 37 counters, but Scotland is the first place where I would move if there is an opportunity… yes, that’s how much love and commitment I have for this magical evergreen land!
Before this semester exchange, I have never been to Scotland so every experience was new and a little intimidating (since its a 6-month commitment). So I want to make it easier for you.
Napier University is a modern university with 3 campuses, although located not in the city centre, it will not take more than 15min by bus. Everything in Edinburgh relatively close. The university is small in size, but big on opportunities. Napier has its own business incubator and lots of driven students. I was a part of many networking and business events on campus.
Course load is smaller compare to Canadian or Russian. Just 3 courses (modules in UK) per semester (trimester in UK), which will be transferred as 5 to a Canadian University. ALSO, usually it Is just 2 courseworks per course but it is heavier on assessment’ weight (f.e. essay 50% and final exam 50%). You can also re-take final exam if you didn’t do well. SUCH A TREAT, HAH?
I had so much free time to travel that I almost forgot that I had School (it was a good things, and my grades were still grades).
STUDY VISA and uk bank account
Visa. If you are going only for one semester, you will need a short-term visa which will NOT allow to work there, even part-time. Make sure to budget properly (Edinburgh is cheaper than Toronto, BUT London is 3x more expensive) and save up some money to travel around Europe!… its so cheap (seriously, my 3h flight to Barcelona was $25).
Bank. Also, you might encounter problems to open the UK bank account…you can’t (UK bank require at least 1 year staying in a country, whereas short term visa is only 6 months).
Why to open one? Many businesses don’t accept international cards or cash…lets say gyms! And there is a solution- online UK bank called Monzo. It is free and easy to open, can only be managed online and refilled by cash in a convince store… but it is worth it so you will be able to pay for any goods and services.
My favourite part… are you ready??? IT IS FREE!!! The UK knows how to take care not only after their own citizens, but also how to warmly welcome newcomers… with a cup of English tea …and free pills. You got it! Not only the doctor’s visit will cost you nothing, but also any prescriptions, tests and x-rays. You don’t need to have a special visa, citizenship, or insurance for that.
Important thing- you have to be registered with NHS (National Health System) to receive free healthcare. DO IT RIGHT WHEN YOU ARRIVE AS IT TAKES A LOT OF TIME.
The waiting time for some of the clinics is 2 months, for some you get lucky to come in early (first-come, first served basis). It is a similar to having a family doctor in Canada.
Do it when you arrive.
Receive your Student ID (Important!, more info below), next…
Gather all docs in advance: University Letter for GP (doctor)- ask at the service hub of your Uni. It takes 3 business days to make one (and you also wait for your student ID to be ready, as you have to have it to get your GP Letter) + Passport Scan+ Web Application form (found on clinics website)
Find 3 nearest clinics (called Surgery in UK) to the place where you live or near your university (other locations would NOT register you). Use google maps.
Call each one of them and ask if they accept new patients. Only if calling not possible, try website.
Find contact info here
4. Be QUICK! The spaces fill out so fast that I had to run from my lecture at 9:05am jus to grab the last spot (at 9:00am there were 4 spots available). Some clinics have 2 months waitlists.
5. Bring in the docs to the clinic of your choice and wait for 3 days to be registered.
You can only be registered with one clinic and can only have doctor’s appointments there. It must be within the area of your home or university.
If you have an emergency, you can receive urgent treatment in a hospital, also free of charge. There are only 3 in Edinburgh: Western General, Royal Infirmary and Liberton Hospital.
How to schedule an appointment:
Advanced: After you have been registered, you can call the clinic and register appointment.. usual wait time is 2 weeks.
Same Day: To receive same day appointment: if you call before 9am, they might have morning openings and if you call between 9-11am - for the afternoon.
Test results: are available over the phone between 1-3pm.
Uhhh! it is amazing public system and I wish every country would have healthcare as a priority, so please take this sweet opportunity ahead of time and REGISTER WHEN YOU ARRIVE.
Student id card and textbooks
You have to make it your priority to get a student card! as it gives you 50% discounts and free things…also it is obligatory for the Healthcare. !And every place WILL check it.!
Free Healthcare and ability to borrow books/laptops, and use other university/government services
If you travel: lots of sights (f.e. Greek Parthenon, or French Castles) will be 50% off or free… if you are a full-time student of EU institution (since Brexit is still in air, Scotland will qualify). And it will NOT work to prove your student status by providing anything but your ID. No one accepted even my letter of acceptance (I have tried).
Cafes, restaurants, shops have some student discounts if you show your id.
Monthly pass for Transportation in Edinburgh is reduced, only if you show them your ID. How and where to get your student monthly pass is described below.
How to obtain Napier Student ID?
Register with the university: by following the links in an email they sent you as a “Matriculation process” (registration in Canada) and uploading photo.
Update your address, that’s where you will receive your ID within the 5 days after matriculation process.
Good News! Most of the textbooks you can borrow from the library. However, the quantity could be limited and it is a temporary loan so if someone will request a book then you will have to bring it in after 7,10 or 14 days (depending on a textbook) and then you can borrow it again.
Usually, professor are very thorough with the material and provide all the information on the slides and web texts so most of the time you will not need a textbook.
The course consists of 2h lecture and 1h tutorial - a practical lesson in a small groups with a professor to strengthen your material’s knowledge from the lecture. Therefore, you will have a lot of helpful resources even without a book.
Buses: Multiple transportation companies and Lothian is the most serviced one. Monthly pass will give you access to unlimited bus rides wit Lothian Buses and airport trams (includes the return ride to the airport).
Monthly student pass is 48 Pounds (VS 57pounds for an adult)
IMPORTANT! Unless you will show them your physical copy of student id, they will NOT sell it on a reduced fare.
To get one, you can do it in one spot by registering with them and showing your ID card. It is free to register and in case you lose your monthly pass, they can replace it for free. This is the place to get your monthly pass, it is in the heart of Edinburgh.
To refill it: unless you have a UK bank account, you would have to refill it manually every month. Just check for the nearest PayPoint here and pay for it in cash or credit card. There are plenty of them in the city and usually every other convenience store can do it for you!
Amazing, AMAZING way of transportation in Britain. After all, thats where it all came from after the Industrial Revolution!
The trains are very clean, modern, comfortable…and pricey way of getting from one place to another. If it is a short distance (f.e. Edinburgh to Glasgow just 1h away) then the price stay stable even on the day of purchase. However, if you are looking to buy a ticket to London, you should do it 1-2 months in advance to save up more than a half! And what could be more beautiful way to cross the country and enjoy its countryside if not by the originally invented mode of transportation?
Tip to save up: If you are planning to see many places during one day - buy a ticket to the final destination, as train ticket allows you to hop off and on as long as it is not further than your destination. (f.e. if you bought a ticket to Dundee and Glasgow is half way, you can disembark at Glasgow, wander around and board the train back to Dundee within the same day).
Ryanair - is the budget airline that allows you travel as little as 10$ as long as you buy ticket one week in advance. (f.e. I got my ticket from Edinburgh to Barcelona 3h flight for 25$). If you want to be more spontaneous, choose this option- it will allow you to see what is the cheapest destination on a specific date…and who knows maybe you can gain this 10$ ticket to a destination of your dream. You can put the Cheapest month option or choose a specific date to see the best offers.
Honestly, this was my biggest concern when I was leaving for Scotland. After all it is one of the northern countries and I HATE being cold (literally, 80F in my room). Little did I know that I will fall in love with the weather! It didn’t rain as much as expected (max 3-4 times in 5 months), however it is constantly cloudy. Always. No sun. And that was amazing! The weather stayed always constant during winter, +7 (so you shouldn’t even have your weather app). And +15 during the late spring and early summer.
I was contemplating between my fall and winter jacket. DEFINITELY, THE WINTER ONE! My friend regretted not taking one with him (He is Canadian and I am Russian so we know how the cold feels like). All of this is due to the strong wind! Raging wind… 30km/h all. the . time. Pack all your sweater too, as Scottish people never heard about the proper insulation and heating inside of the building (cafe, store, hotel…). I remember this beautiful Starbucks on Princess st. with a view of a castle and us sitting inside in our winter coats, hats, scarves and breathing steam out (it was that badly cold).
So now you ask… what did you like about the weather then? See, I am North-kinda girl, I don’t like heat. I like drinking my tea and sweater weather. Although there were rough days during the winter time, but I quite enjoy the sky being cloudy and wearing sweater inside (it made me feel cozy). First of all, the light for the photos was always perfect (no sun saturation) and I never sweat. And Edinburgh is such a mystical and magical city, the birthplace of Harry Potter so the cloud gave even more dark vibe ;)