Fitness Lifestyle

7 Preparations All International Freshers Must Know About

Exhausted of researching for application forms and documents? Here's a list of all you need to know as an international student!

Editor-in-chief | Cassandra Lau


University alone can be daunting, but to top it with travelling far away from the comforts of the family laundry basket, cooked meals, and free rides, daunting is a major understatement. Some may have previously experienced studying abroad for boarding or summer school, but university’s a whole new world, so to save you from  all the exhaustive research I found myself doing, here are tips, lists, and links of all the essentials!

1. Visas are a pain to apply for

The Home Office UK Visas & Immigration Office at Lunar House in Croydon, London, UK.
Photo by Financial Times

Depending on what country you’re from, you are mostly likely in need of apply for a visa. Unlike most leisure visit visas, a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa requires a lot more effort. The timing is crucial as you cannot apply before receiving an official Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) by the university, but it the visa processing times can vary. You can check out your approximate visa processing time on ‘Visa Processing Times’. 

It often takes 15 working days (two weeks) for your passport along with a temporary visa to be returned to you, but it is possible to apply for priority service for an additional fee. If you take this ‘fast-track’, your passport and visa decision will be returned within 3 -4 working days.

What you must have prior to applying:

  1. Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS)
    A 14-digit reference number
  2. Proof of Finances
    A bank statement (approved by the bank with a stamp or signature) displaying:
    (a) you have sufficient money to pay for your first year of tuition
    (b) £1,015/month living expenses
  3. English Language Skills
    To ensure that you meet the minimum level of English language proficiency, you can take the SELT, IELTS, or other tests approved by the government. 
  4. Tier 4 Visa Costs
    The visa costs £348 and you must apply from your home country.
  5. Tuberculosis Test (Depending on where you reside)
    The countries that need a TB test are linked here.

What you must do after applying:

  1. Collect your passport
    Pretty self-explanatory
  2. Collect your biometric residence permit (BRP) card after landing in the United Kingdom.
    You would have received a decision letter stating:
    (a) you must collect it before your vignette expires or within 10 days of arriving in the UK
    (b) a named Post Office branch (which is where you will collect it) / your sponsor if you chose this option (e.g. Royal Holloway’s sponsor licence no. is WP5GJEXT0)
    In my opinion, this is most convenient as there will be a BRP collection venue at the beginning of Freshers’ week.
    (c) You can be fined up to £1,000 for not collecting your BRP card.
    (d) You must bring your passport/travel document with your vignette sticker when collecting your BRP

2. Health Insurance

assorted doctors tools
Photo by on

EU/ EEA/ Swiss Nationals

You will not need to apply for a visa to study in the United Kingdom. You will be able to travel via your normal passport. You will however need to apply for a European Health Insurance Card which is free to apply for. You can apply for one here!

Non-EU Nationals

You will have to pay a health surcharge called a the immigrant health surcharge (IHS) as part of your visa application which gives you access to the NHS during your studies in the United Kingdom.

It costs £150/ year for a student visa, so £450 if your visa is for your three year programme. For more information about when it, check it out here.

3. Register at the Health Centre

Even after applying and paying all that money, all international students are expected to register at the Health Centre which is located across from Windsor building at The Founder. This is so that you can book a appointments at the university instead of going to nearby clinics.

When you come to register you will need to bring with you:

  1. A completed Health Centre registration form and Family doctor services registration form (GMS1) [PDF]
  2. A record of your vaccinations including MMR and MenACWY
  3. HPV / smear dates if applicable (females only)
  4. If you are a resident from the EEA please bring your EHIC card.

Though I personally do not find the Health Centre helpful, by registering with them, you can also access counselling services.

4. Accommodations

University Halls


Photo by

Depending on ensuite, shared, or catered the prices differ, here’s a PDF on all the hall fees and details: Undergraduate Hall 2018/19 [Stay tuned for an article on hall ratings and comments from previous students!]

Private Halls

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The Scape halls are all ensuite and self-catered with the options of having cleaning services, bedding and towels, kitchen package, or an on-site parking spot. This can be more convenient for international students as shopping for bedding, cutlery, etc can be a hassle especially because you would most likely have to lug it back from town, Staines or London.


  1. The Pad Without having to cross the road, the Pad is a 1 minute walk away from campus (entering at Car Park 4). Though it is more costly than university halls, it is a big modern upgrade in comparison with three-quarter sized beds, fibre-wifi connections, and good water pressure in your ensuite showers. You get an option of standard, medium, large studios from £243 or ensuite rooms from £203.

    Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 11.55.58.png
    The Pad Halls
  2. The Podium

    The Podium is Scape’s newest addition of private halls located opposite of the campus, an under 1 minute walk to campus. It shares the same features as The Pad but also has two-bedroom apartments available from £215.

    Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 12.06.03.png
    The Podium Bathroom

Here you will be able to meet freshers as well as second and third year students of Royal Holloway.

5. Student Bank Accounts

Photo by on

Don’t you fret, all students within and outside the UK are probably going through a similar debate as to which bank to join, so don’t worry to much about it.

Bank accounts for international students include:

  • NatWest Student Account
  • HSBC Basic Account
  • Barclays Student Additions
  • Santander Basic Account
  • Lloyds Classic Account
  • TSB Classic Account

If you have previously studied in the UK, you may be eligible for applying for the standard Student bank accounts offered.

When applying you will need your:

  1. Current passport
  2. Biometric Residence Card (BRP)/ Visa for Non-EU students
  3. Student ID, or acceptance letter 
    Just bring along your UCAS offer letter.
  4. Home bank statement
  5. Proof of address in the UK
    This can be provided by the university student services as it will state where you reside over the academic year.
  6. A Print out of documents 
    Banks can be annoying, not knowing that printing ain’t free, as they only accept hard-copies.
  7. Book an appointment prior to visiting the branch as it gets extremely busy at the beginning of the academic year.

How to decide?

  • Weigh and compare freebies 
  • Go for the largest student overdraft

    Imagine borrowing money with 0% interest – this is basically what it is.How can it be of use to you?
    Say you have to put down a security deposit for next year’s accommodation, or book this last minute deal but your parents’/payday transactions take 3-5 working days, well you could borrow money, and pay it back when the transaction comes through without having to pay any interest!However, do not spend it like free money.
  • Location

    Well more often than not, you will actually need to visit your branch in person so the location is more important than you think. For example, when you lose your card, pin, have an issue with your security key device/app, or need to change some crucial details.It isn’t even about being clumsy, but anything could happen and to ensure that your money is safe and sound in your account, you need to be able to access your branch.


  • Method of Usage

    Some accounts offer more services via mobile apps, and some require you to have this calculator looking device in order to generate a security code, e.g. Barclays, so depending on your personality and what your main usage will be, you should look into the methods of access.If you’re more of a cash in hand, and cautious individual, you may prefer having a security code generator, whilst those who prefer to pay back that £2.50 coffee via transaction, then probably look into one that allows you to do it on the go.

[Stay in tuned for more articles comparing differing student bank accounts!]

6. Discount Cards

  1. 15-25 Railcard
    In spite of the name, Royal Holloway University of London, our university is not apart of London – in fact, to prove it, Oyster cards are not accepted at Egham Station. Going to London can be extremely costly, with each off-peak journey costing £9.60! The railcard allows you to get 1/3 off all journeys which greatly cuts costs if you’re planning on travelling on a daily/weekly basis.It costs £30 for a year, and £70 for 3 years. Check out the site here

    Southern Rails


  2. National Union of Students (NUS) Card
    Basically offers most of what UNiDAYS and your student ID can offer you, so I personally would not recommend you purchasing this. It costs £12 for a year, and £32 for 3 years.

7. Must Have Apps and Accounts

To most students, it may seem quite self-explanatory, but some may find this useful!

  • UBER
    Save some 💰 with ordering an Uber instead of Egham’s Gemini Taxi.

    uber smartphone iphone app
    Photo by on
  • Tube Map
    Even locals may find themselves in need of this app in order to get around London. It provides details on delays, cancellations and disruptions and offers alternative routes.
  • National Rail
    To see up to date train costs, times, delays and platforms, as well as detailed routes with platform details.

    The average train schedule

  • Trainline
    Get great prices and train routes by purchasing journeys in advance.
  • Amazon
    If you don’t already have an amazon account, this platform is a lifesaver when it comes to purchasing course material. Oftentimes for textbooks and novels, you can search up cheap secondhand books that are still in good condition for around £2.75 including shipping fees.There is also a secondhand book store in Egham, but the options there are quite limited. I  prefer the on-campus secondhand book stand if you wish to compare the condition of secondhand books, the only issue is that the stand appears very rarely throughout the year – it often appears at the beginning of the terms.

    books on bookshelves
    Photo by Mikes Photos on
  • Get yourself a Tescos/ Waitrose card
    Trust me, you won’t regret it! You can get cash back coupons – £3.00 may not seem like a lot, but come May/June, you will thank that extra loaf of bread or bag of pasta.

    assorted color box lot on rack
    Photo by on

Good luck to all new international students! Let us know if you would like to know anything else?




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