The Student Accommodation Guide for International Students

The Student Accommodation Guide for International Students

The following guide has been written and prepared by Daisy Blake, an International Student from the USA who studied in London.

The guide should have all the answers to the main questions you have about moving to study in the UK.

Last updated on 29 July 2021


1. Why you should study in the UK over other countries

Many international students are attracted to study in the UK as a result of the world class universities on offer, but the country has much more to offer than just that.

The Unique Culture

Britain offers a unique, multicultural society which boasts a long lasting relationship with international students. Last year around 480,000 international students studied in the UK, so we know how to treat our international students well, resulting in their high return year after year. Alongside its diverse and multicultural society, the United Kingdom is home to various cosmopolitan cities, with many areas such as Yorkshire, Warwickshire, London and Glasgow incorporating contemporary architecture, lifestyle and commerce alongside historical buildings and culture.

Additionally, you’ll never get bored in any city as we offer galleries, concerts, pubs and excellent nightlife in almost every town or city. The UK also is home to many wildlife reserves and world heritage sites. If nature and history isn’t your thing, Great Britain is amongst the world’s front runners in sports and sporting events. Where else can you watch a Premier League match, see a cricket match or even spend a day at Wimbledon. It’s safe to say that you will always be able to find something to do and fit right in with our British culture.

Male student carrying a rucksack on one shoulder is opening the door to exit university building

The Financial Aid

On average, most UK undergraduate courses are shorter, lasting only three years (rather than four), equalling in cheaper costs overall for tuition fees and living costs. Many universities offer various scholarships and bursaries to international students, so a little bit of research could gain you some extra money.

The cost of living is reasonable within the UK, with many affordable student houses available online through websites such as There are also a variety of supermarkets and open air markets which provide quality foods at a low price. You don’t have to worry about health costs either as the UK offers the National Health Service, a nationalised service which provides free health care (covered with your Visa surcharge). If you want to have fun and experience your city and the country’s culture, many businesses usually offer generous student discounts, reducing the price by around 10%, allowing you to enjoy yourself at a great price!

EU students may also receive extra support with schemes such as ERASMUS which may help with the cost of tuition fees or offer bursaries to subsidise your living costs abroad. Most students may also work up to 20 hours a week alongside their studies, allowing you to worry less about your finances.

Passengers are boarding a yellow tram at a busy city tram stop

The Transport

All of the UK’s major cities have excellent public transportation links, including rail, buses, taxis and even bicycle schemes. Students benefit from discounts on rail and bus fare, making your travel in the UK more affordable. Furthermore, if you want to cut costs getting around a new city, most city councils provide a free city bus service which will stop at the major destinations within the cities such as universities, shopping malls, museums, etc.

If you are based in London, public transportation lines are excellent above ground and below, with the underground (the ‘tube’) reaching 270 stations across London. London is also connected to Heathrow Airport which travels to 185 destinations, making travelling to and from your home country much easier. For connection to Europe from London, the Eurotunnel provides for excellent and affordable travel to Europe, making the most of your time and travels whilst in the UK. Plus, it is only a quick train/plane/or coach journey to visit England’s neighbouring countries such as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Easy Application Processes

The online course database, alongside the informative step-by-step application system means that it has never been easier to find the perfect course. UCAS provides around 38,000 course options ranging from archaeology to zoology, meaning that you can find the right course in the right location with just the press of a button. Online applications are simple and easy to follow, if you get stuck, you can search for online tutorials to guide you through the process. Several course applications run until June 30th, meaning that you have the time to make the right choice without sacrificing much time or effort.

A female and a male student with rucksacks on their shoulders are having a conversation while walking across university campus

The English Language

English is the global business language of today and to immerse yourself in this lingua franca will expand your language skills vastly, potentially resulting in not only the ability to speak English like a native but to be able to think in English too. Most universities will require minimum English language criteria so please do your research beforehand; however, most universities offer supplementary courses to enhance your current language skills.

2. Student Visa 101

Now that you’ve been accepted into a UK university, it’s time to apply for your student visa. Here is an overview of the types of student visas available, and how to apply for the visa that you need.

Who should apply for a visa?

You should apply for a visa if:
  • You are not from the UK or Ireland*
  • You have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor
  • You have enough money to support yourself (expenses, housing, transport, etc.) and pay for your course
  • You can read, write, speak, and understand English
  • Your course meets all of the other eligibility requirements listed on the website

The UK has now left the European Union — how does it affect your visa status?

  • You may apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, if you or your close family member started living in the UK before 1st January 2021.
    • If granted the ‘Pre-Settled’ or ‘Settled’ Status, you will not need a student visa
  • You will need a student visa, if you or your close family member did not start living in the UK before 1st January 2021, or you were not granted ‘Pre-Settled’ or ‘Settled’ Status under EU Settlement Scheme
An open passport displaying pages with many stamps on them

What are the different types of visas?

There are a few different types of visas available. The one you’ll apply for depends on your circumstances. The visas specifically for students are:

Visitor Visa

This visa allows for short stays of up to 6 months. Under this visa you may study at an accredited institution—that includes, but is not limited to English language courses. It is not aimed primarily at students, but you may undertake short study.

You may:
  • Volunteer up to 30 days with a registered charity
  • Apply for a long-term Standard Visitor Visa if you visit UK regularly over a long period. It lasts 2, 5, or 10 years. You can stay for periods of up to 6 months on each visit
You cannot:
  • Undertake paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person
  • Claim public benefits
  • Switch from the Visitor Visa to another type of visa—you must leave the UK upon conclusion of the 6 months period
Short-term Study Visa

This visa allows for stays between 6 and 11 months. It is only for students who are coming to the UK to study English language.

You can stay for the duration of your course plus 30 days, but the overall duration of your stay must not exceed 11 months.

You must:
  • Have been accepted onto an English language course at an accredited institution, that lasts more than 6 and less that 11 months and does not include any other subjects
  • Have access to enough money (and be able to prove so) to support you in the UK and pay for your course, without working or access to public funds. This may include housing and support by family or friends
  • Be able to pay for your return (to country of origin), or onward journey
You cannot:
  • Study on any other course or switch courses while in the UK
  • Study at a state-funded school
  • Work or carry out business, including unpaid work, work experience or work placements
  • Claim most public benefits
  • Extend this visa
Student Visa

This visa is for students over eighteen who are planning on doing a full-length course in the UK. It will usually allow you to stay for up to 5 years.

You must:
  • Have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor
  • Have enough money to support yourself (expenses, housing, transport, etc.) and pay for your course
  • Be able to read, write, speak, and understand English
  • Have consent of your parents or legal guardians if you are aged 16 or 17
You may:
  • Extend your visa
  • Arrive in the UK before the course starts:
    • Up to 1 week before the course starts, if the course lasts less than 6 months
    • Up to 1 month before the course starts, if the course lasts more than 6 months
  • Undertake work: how much depends on what you are studying and whether you wish to work during term-time
  • Bring your partner and children, if you meet the eligibility criteria
You cannot:
  • Undertake work as a self-employed person
  • Claim public benefits
  • Study at an academia or local authority-funded school
  • Work as a professional sportsperson or an entertainer
A display of GBP banknotes of various denominations

How much does a visa cost?

Visitor Visa
  • £95 for a six month standard visa
  • £361 for a 2 years long-term visa
  • £655 for a 5 years long-term visa
  • £822 for a 10 years long-term visa
Short-term Study Visa
  • £186
Student Visa
  • £340 to apply from outside the UK
  • £475 to extend your visa or switch to a Student Visa from inside the UK

How does the visa application process work?

To apply for the Student Visitor Visa, the Child Student Visa, or the Student Visa, you’ll use the online application that can be found on the UK Government website.

After completing the online portion of the application, you must either:
  • Go to a Visa Application Centre to have your biometric information recorded. You may be able to pay for faster decision, if your Visa application Centre offers such a service.
  • Use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document (usually a passport). You will also create an UK Visas and Immigration online account. This option is exclusive to Student and Child Student visas.
A woman, sat at a table in a cafe, is filling out an application

What supporting documents should be sent?

All documents that are not in English or Welsh must be translated by a certified translator to be accepted!

Student Visitor Visa
Personal documents:
  • Current passport or other valid travel document
  • Evidence that you will be able to support yourself during your stay in the UK E.g. bank statements or payslips for the last 6 months
  • Details of where you intend to live or stay and your travel plans Note: do not pay for accommodation or travel to the UK until you get the visa
  • Evidence that you have paid for your course or that you have enough money to pay for it
  • Tuberculosis (TB) test results, if you are from a country where you are required to take such a test (check UK Government website for further guidance)
  • Contact details of your parent or guardian if you are under 18
Academic documents:
  • Written document confirming your acceptance from the institution you intend to study at This must include your course’s name, duration, and cost (including accommodation)
Student Visa
Personal documents:
  • Current passport or other valid travel document
  • Evidence that you will be able to support yourself during your stay in the UK
    • Evidence that you will be able to support yourself during your stay in the UK
    • You will need to prove you have funds for at least 1 academic year (9 months):
      • £1,334 per month if you study in London
      • £1,023 per month if you study outside London
    • You need to be able to prove have the funds required to support your stay — you must have them for at least 28 days before you submit the application
    • You do not need to prove this if you were in the UK for 12 months or more on another type of visa
  • Evidence that you have paid for your course or that you have enough money to pay for it
    • The exact amount you need to pay is specified on your Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies
    • This may include a student loan, if you are eligible, or financial sponsorship
  • Evidence of your relationship to your parent or guardian (if you are under 18) E.g. a birth certificate or your other government-issued documentation with your parents’ or guardians’ names on it
  • Written consent from your parent or legal guardian for your study and stay in the UK (if you are under 18)
  • Tuberculosis (TB) test results, if you are from a country where you are required to take such a test (check UK Government website for further guidance)
Academic documents:
  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your course provider
  • Valid ATAS certificate, if your course and nationality require it
  • Evidence of your level of English language
    • You must pass a Secure English Language Test (e.g. IELTS), or
    • If you study at a Higher Education Institution (University), you must fulfil their internal English language criteria. This usually means passing the IELTS test—or other accredited test (check UK Government website for a full list), or completing your secondary education entirely in English (e.g. International Baccalaureate Diploma) and achieving a particular grade in English—your university will have more detailed guidance on that.
    • Either must be equivalent to CEFR level B2 or above
A woman, sat at a long shared table, is looking at her laptop screen and typing

When can you apply for a visa?

Short-term Study Visa:
  • Up to 3 months before you travel to UK
Student Visa:
  • From outside the UK: up to 6 months before you travel to UK
  • From inside the UK (switching from another type of visa): up to 3 months, but no later than 28 days before your current visa expires
A woman is looking up from her laptop with a big smile on her face

When will you know if your visa application was accepted?

On average, you’ll get a decision on your visa within three weeks, if you apply from outside the UK. If you apply from inside the UK you’ll get a decision within eight weeks.

Where can you get more information on visas?

The UK government website has pages of information about each of these pages. To access this information, go to If the answer to your question is not on these pages, you can contact the UK Visa and Immigration office by phone, email, or web chat.

You can also contact your university’s international student office if you have any questions about the immigration process. They have advisors who can help you with the trickiest visa questions.

A smiling woman is holding up a visa application and a passport

Visa Applications Tips

Applying for a student visa can be confusing. Here are some tips to help make the process smooth and easy all the way through.

Give yourself plenty of time to apply

The visa application is a multi-step process. You’ll have to first fill out the application online, then (in some cases) go to a biometrics processing centre, and then you’ll have to mail everything off to your country’s UK consulate. You should give yourself plenty of time to get everything done. While you can only start your application up to 3 or 6 months before your course starts, this does not mean you can’t start collecting all necessary documents before that time. Start your application when you have all your documents ready to save yourself from stress of looking for them while filling the application out. It cannot be stressed enough that you should not leave the application to last minute — it will be incredibly stressful!

Read every question on the application form carefully

While the UK Government tries to simplify the process, the visa application form can be very tricky. Read every question carefully, and if something stumps you, don’t be afraid to call in a family member or friend and see if they understand what’s being asked. Sometimes, a second set of eyes is just what you need to make a confusing question clear. You can always call the UKVI on the phone or ask questions via email. It is also very useful to check out FAQs on the government websites.

Do not rely on specific instructions from forums or help from internet ‘experts’

At we provide you with general overview and guidance on this topic, which is based solely on official UK Government information. Specific instructions or ‘tricks’ that are supposed to help you with your application that do not come directly from UKVI are not to be trusted — especially if they come from online forums or people who ask you to pay for their help. The information you provide as a part of the visa application is very sensitive — you do not want it handled by people you do not trust. We understand that visa application may be difficult; it is better to take time to figure things out or seek support from UKVI, rather than entrust your identity to strangers.

A woman is looking down and filling out a visa application form with passport in her handWrite-in any mistakes

There’s always a chance, no matter how many times you check your application, that you may make a mistake. Maybe you forgot to include a time you visited the UK or a Commonwealth country, or maybe you marked ‘yes’ to a question when you meant to hit ‘no.’ If this happens, don’t panic. After you print out your application (if you need to do so), you can write-in anything you forgot or change the answer to a question. This is perfectly acceptable, and it won’t have any influence on if your visa application is accepted or refused.

Provide every supporting document necessary

Every country has different supporting document requirements. Find the list for your country, and provide everything on that list. Sometimes, there will be documents that are optional, such as bank statements, but you should still provide those documents if you have them. Everything that’s not necessary will be mailed back to you, and if you forgot something that is important, there’s a chance that your application will be delayed or even rejected. Sending every supporting document will lessen the chance of this happening.

Provide translations of documents that are not in English

If your first language isn’t English and some of your documents are in your native language, you will have to provide a certified translation of those documents. The person who certifies these documents can be a solicitor, councillor, doctor or dentist, police officer, teacher, or bank or building society official. You will usually need to provide their contact details (including address), signature and their personal or official stamp. They should not be academic or administrative staff from your school, though! They also shouldn’t be related to you, living in the same address as you, or in a relationship with you.

A man with a rucksack on his shoulders is looking at the departure board at an airportDon’t plan any international travel while waiting for your visa approval

When you mail your visa application to the UK consulate, you have to include your passport. Because of that, you won’t be able to travel out of your home country while your application is being processed. This may not apply to those who complete the document identification through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app.

Contact UK visa services or your university if you have any questions

The visa application process can be confusing, but there are plenty of people who will be able to help you. You can contact UK Visas and Immigrations by live webchat, telephone, or email. Or, you can contact your university. The visa application is tough, but it’s also not meant to be impossible. Anyone at your university or at the UKVI office will be happy to help you get your application on the right track.

3. Staying Safe on AFS

To have the best possible experience on our number 1 tip is simple: View the property before you book and pay for it.

This way you can make sure the property is just right. If you can’t view the property, follow these seven tips:
  1. Never feel rushed into sending money. Take your time and avoid landlords who try to pressure you into sending money before you are ready.
  2. Feel free to contact our live support team to get more information about a property first.
  3. Check the information at the bottom of the property advert. This will tell you more about who is managing the property
  4. Look for properties with testimonials from previous tenants
  5. Make sure you speak to the person managing the property on the phone before booking
  6. Never send money through money transfer service like Western Union
  7. Please contact our live help team if you are in any doubt about making a payment

For more information view our guide here or chat live with one of our support team.

4. Student Accommodation Choices: Pros and Cons

Picking a university isn’t the only big decision you have to make when you study abroad. Whether you choose to stay in halls or share a house will be as big a part of your university experience as which course you choose. At Accommodation for Students we’ve decided to use our expertise to make navigating the student accommodation market a simpler experience. If you can’t decide between staying in University-run Halls, Private Halls, or simply sharing a house - fear not because we’ve laid out the pros and cons of each option.

University Halls of Residence

Staying in University-run Halls of Residence is typically the most common choice for freshers, with most universities guaranteeing students accommodation in their first years.

  • Great for making new friends. You’ll be sharing a flat with between 3-15 other students and most will new to the area and university life.
  • Socials! University halls will typically have student-run residents’ associations or junior common rooms (JCRs) that will organise regular social events, from bar crawls to bowling.
  • Get involved! Most university run halls offer opportunities for you to help out and get experience by running to be on the JCR. This could be all-important when you’re looking for that summer internship.
  • No need to worry: expect Wi-Fi and bills to all be taken care off when you get there. Everything should be included in your rent.
  • Unlimited heating. With bills all included you can leave the heating on as long as you want through cold British winters.
  • Can’t cook? Don’t worry, some halls are fully catered which means that you can avoid learning how to cook for another year.
  • Usually more expensive than sharing a house.
  • Bad for quiet study. University halls tend to be very noisy because most students staying there are first years who are (understandably) more interested in partying than getting a First. Getting a good night’s sleep might be challenging.
  • Queueing for breakfast. If you’re staying in catered halls, expect to spend ages queueing for breakfast and dinner.
  • No choice in who you live with. There’s always a chance you’ll end up sharing with people who you have nothing in common with.
  • Sharing a bathroom with eight other people. Enough said.
  • Fire alarms going off. Expect fire alarms to go off in the middle night as drunk students fail in their attempts to make toast.
A view of a building of flats from outside

Private Halls

Private halls offer a similar experience to university halls but are run by private companies instead of the university. As these halls are not run by any particular university, you may end up sharing with students from a variety of different universities.

  • Meet new friends from a wide range of courses and universities. You’ll be sharing with other students, so if you’re new to the city you can make friends easily.
  • While not as common as in uni-run halls, some private halls organise socials to make your experience as enjoyable as possible.
  • All-inclusive – expect gas, electric, and broadband to be included in the price. Some halls even offer contents insurance.
  • Live in luxury. Private halls are typically maintained to a higher standard than university halls and many offer spacious communal areas with plush sofas and flat screen TVs.
  • Many halls offer a choice between catered and non-catered accommodation.
  • Extra perks. Private halls increasingly offer benefits like 24hr gym membership included in the cost.
  • Shorter tenancy. Unlike other private accommodation you won’t be paying rent over the summer holidays.
  • Price! Typically private halls are the most expensive of all three options. However it doesn’t look too bad once you consider that bills are included.
  • Less support. Unlike university halls, private halls are less likely to have in-house pastoral care on offer.
  • You may have less in common with your housemates in private halls, so it may be a little harder to make friends.
  • Noise. Whether you choose university-run or private halls, expect it to be loud.
  • Location. Make sure to check how far the hall is from your university, typically university run halls will be the closest to campus.
Three guys are sharing a joke in a kitchen while one of them is doing the dishes

Sharing a House

Sharing a privately-rented flat is the most popular option for second and third years. In most cases you’ll be living with the friends you’ve made on your course.

  • You get to choose your housemates, which means staying with friends rather than complete strangers.
  • It’s cheaper. Expect to make big savings when you switch from halls to sharing a house.
  • More choice. Sharing a house typically means having more freedom to choose your providers for things like broadband and electricity.
  • Noise is less of a problem. Well, as long as you pick the right housemates.
  • Greater independence. Living in halls isn’t too much different from living at home, but moving into shared accommodation means taking responsibility and learning in the process.
  • You get to choose your housemates, which means staying with friends rather than complete strangers.
  • It’s cheaper. Expect to make big savings when you switch from halls to sharing a house.
  • More choice. Sharing a house typically means having more freedom to choose your providers for things like broadband and electricity.
  • Noise is less of a problem. Well, as long as you pick the right housemates.
  • Greater independence. Living in halls isn’t too much different from living at home, but moving into shared accommodation means taking responsibility and learning in the process.
  • No in-house pastoral care. It’s just you and your housemates, so you won’t have the same additional support as you would have in halls.
  • Choose your housemates carefully because you’re going to be stuck with them for the year.
  • Longer tenancy agreements, some landlords ask for 44/52 week tenancy agreement so you may be paying rent over the summer holidays. If you’re lucky though some landlords will only charge half the cost of rent over the summer months.
  • Risk of burglary. Student houses are frequently targeted by burglars for their poor security. If you’re sharing a house, make sure to ask the landlord to put locks on the windows and a five-lever deadlock on the front door.
  • Keeping shared areas clean can lead to heated disputes. Make sure to come up with a cleaning rota to keep arguments at a minimum.
  • Location – expect to travel a bit further to university when you’re staying in private accommodation.

5. 10 Things You Must Do While Studying in the UK

The UK has so many interesting historical sites to visit and great activities to do; it can be hard to know where to even start. If you’re having that dilemma, begin by taking part in these ten can’t-miss activities.

1. Visit London

If you’re not already studying in the UK’s capital city, visiting London should be at the top of your list of things to do. The vibrant city has something for everyone: world-class theater, fascinating museums, beautiful parks, cool markets. London is also renowned for its nightlife, and there are plenty of clubs throughout the city that offer student deals.

2. Explore a Castle

Castles can be found everywhere in the UK, from the remotest parts of the countryside to the centre of major cities. While you’re studying in the UK, be sure to go to least one. You could go to one near your university, or you could go on a road trip and check out some of the most popular castles in the UK. No time studying in the UK is complete without a visit to one of its many royal palaces.

3. Attend a Football Game

Football is one of the most popular sports in the UK, and fans are known for their enthusiasm and loyalty to their chosen team. Even if you’re not a sports fan, you’ll enjoy taking part in all the madness at a football stadium, especially if two teams with a heated rivalry are playing each other.

An invitingly lit up traditional English pub from the outside. The pub sign says "Sherlock Holmes".4. Go on a Pub Crawl

Pubs are a quintessentially British thing, and over the centuries UK residents have perfected the art of the pub crawl. Grab your friends and head out for a night of drinking pints in classic wood paneled, dimly lit pubs. You can plan where you’re going beforehand, or you can just be spontaneous and see where the night takes you. Either way, you’re sure to finish the night with plenty of great stories to tell people back home.

5. Hike through the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands are one of the most scenic places found in the UK. If you’re really ambitious, you could hike the West Highland Way, a 96 mile trail that goes from Milngavie to Fort William and takes hikers through some of the most beautiful vistas in Scotland. If you’re into mountain climbing, you could hike up to the top of Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain the UK. Or, you could just go for a casual trek on one of the Highlands’ many short hiking trails.

6. Take a Trip to the Beach

While the British shore may not be too warm, it’s as picturesque as anything found in the Mediterranean. There are tons of places to check out, from the white cliffs in Cornwall and Dover to the craggy beaches of Scotland to the historic pier in Brighton. Any of these beaches are great for a day trip, or you could spend your summer hopping from beach to beach, checking out the best the UK has to offer.

A skeleton of a large whale hangs from the ceiling at the Museum of Natural History.7. Visit a Museum

It may surprise you to hear that most museums in the UK are free, including famous museums like the British museum in London, the Scottish Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, and the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of museums, it’s worth checking out a free museum near your university to help you get a better sense of the history and culture of the UK.

8. Go to the Edinburgh Festival

Every August, thousands of visitors head to Edinburgh for the annual festival. There are tons of events happening during the Edinburgh Festival, including the Book Festival, which draws in big-name authors, and the Fringe Festival, which puts on hundreds of plays by independent theater companies. The Edinburgh Festival is a must-see for any fan of the arts.

The full English breakfast on a plate.9. Eat a Full English Breakfast

A full English breakfast consists of fried eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, hash browns, tomatoes, black and white pudding, toast, bacon, and sausage. This tasty meal is served in restaurants throughout England, and it offers enough food to fill you up all day.

10. Take Part in a Quirky UK Event

Finally, round out your time in the UK by participating in one of the many quirky events that can only be found in Great Britain. You could try cheese rolling in the Cotswolds, bog snorkeling in Wales, pea shooting in Cambridgeshire, or partying with Vikings at Up Helly Aa in the Shetland Islands. Any of these events are sure to be an unforgettable addition to your time studying in the UK.

6. 15 British Slang Words and Phrases Every International Student Should Know

UK slang can be difficult for international students to master. Even students who are from English-speaking countries can have trouble getting a grasp on the words and phrases that are exclusive to Britain. If you’re feeling lost, here are some common slang words and phrases that you may hear popping up in conversations.


Almost every international student is confused by the British people’s repeated use of the phrase, ‘Alright?’ You’ll hear it everywhere you go—in class, at the store, with your friends. This is because ‘Alright?’ is a common greeting, similar to, ‘How are you?’ Before long, you’ll get used to the phrase and you may even start using it in your everyday life.


Gutted is another word for devastated. Someone may say it if they failed a test, broke up with a significant other, or any other highly distressing event. For example, ‘I’m gutted that I didn’t get a higher mark on that chemistry exam.’


You may hear this word a lot in your early classes, or the morning after a night out at the pub. This is because knackered is another word for exhausted or worn out.

Nice One

Another common phrase, ‘nice one’ can be used either sincerely or sarcastically. If used sarcastically, it means something similar to when someone says ‘good job’ to someone who has completely messed something up. When used sincerely, it’s usually a form of praise.


When someone’s being cheeky, it means they’re being impertinent. They may be talking back to a friend or a relative. Usually it’s used in a sentence, such as, ‘Oh, you’re being cheeky today, aren’t you?’

Taking the Piss

When someone’s ‘taking the piss’ out of something, they’re making fun of it, usually in a sarcastic way. You can take the piss out of pretty much anything—friends, bad TV programs, professors. Although with professors, you may want to do it out of their hearing range.

Skive Off

This is a way of saying you’re going to skip a day of work or classes. You may hear someone say something like, ‘I’m going to try to skive off work today and sleep instead.’

Cock Up

If you’ve cocked up, you’ve made a really big mess of something or made a big mistake. For example, ‘She cocked up her job interview when she mentioned that she made up most of her CV.’


‘Sod’ is a word that’s used in a lot in British phrases. You can say ‘sod off’ to someone as a way of telling them to get lost. You can say ‘sod it’ as a way to declare that you’re giving up on trying to do something that’s not working. Or, instead of ‘sod it,’ you could also say ‘sod all is working’ if nothing is going right. Sod’s versatility means that you may be hearing it a whole lot.

Knock Up

This phrase has different meanings throughout the world, but in Britain, ‘knock up’ just means to wake someone up. So if you hear a guy say, ‘I’m going to go knock up my girlfriend,’ all he’s doing is rousing her from sleep.


Gormless is a word that’s new to most international students. It’s basically just a way to refer to someone who’s clueless. For example, ‘That guy in our literature tutorial is completely gormless.’ You can also shorten it to just ‘gorm.’

The Full Monty

This phrase became known worldwide when the movie The Full Monty came out, but even if the phrase itself is common, most people still don’t know what it means. If you’re going 'the full Monty,' you’re going to go all the way with something or finish the whole thing.

Lose the Plot

This is a way of saying someone is going crazy or has become mentally unstable. It can also be a way to say that someone is going senile. For example, ‘My grandfather is starting to lose the plot. He keeps calling me by my mum’s name.’

Can’t Be Arsed

If someone ‘can’t be arsed,’ they can’t get the motivation to do something. For example, ‘I can’t be arsed to go to that lecture today.’


Most international students are aware of the word ‘cheers,’ but you may not realize how often it’s used in conversation in Britain. Instead of saying ‘thank you,’ people often say ‘cheers.’ It’s also common to clink glasses and say a quick ‘cheers’ before having a drink at the pub. Get ready to be cheering on everybody you meet when you’re living in the UK.

7. Making the Most of Freshers' Week

Freshers' week is a pretty intense week. It can be scary to wave goodbye to your parents and dive into a strange environment. But most of all, it’s going to be one of the most memorable weeks of your life! Here’s our advice on making the most of your freshers' week at university.

A group of students are stood around eating takeaway meals and chatting outdoors in a park.

Meet as many people as possible

Freshers' week is the most socially acceptable week of the year to walk up to strangers and introduce yourself. Start off by befriending everybody in your block. If you’re nervous, it can be easier to befriend one flatmate and then go around in a pair. Together, knock on everybody’s door in your block. This is a great way of meeting lots of people. Look out for people on your course, so you have a friend to go to your first lectures or socials with. Some of these people might end up being friends for life!

Join societies

This is an obvious one, but so rewarding. Spend a lot of time in freshers' fair looking at all the stalls – being a fresher means you have the chance to try something new. Societies will be friendly and help you to improve your skills. It’s a great way of meeting a new circle of friends, and socials could be weekly. Join your course society, a sport or hobby, and maybe a charity or campaigning society for a good mix. It doesn’t hurt to sign your name up and see if it’s for you, before paying joining fees!

A joyful crowd at a nightclub raise their hands up as a shower of confetti rains down from the ceiling.

Make the most of the nightlife

Even if you don’t like to drink, it is the best way to build friendships at uni. If you do drink, then don’t go too crazy. This means that you can enjoy more nights out during the week. Freshers' events are always the busiest, so make sure you swap numbers with your flatmates in case you lose them! As always, stay safe, and always have enough cash leftover for a taxi in case you need one.

Another good socialising tip is to go into the outside smoking areas. Plenty of non-smokers also go here – it’s a good breather, and easier to meet and talk to new people.

If you don’t like to go out, that’s fine! But make an effort to go to the predrinks in your block. You can still have a laugh, and then pop back to your room when they continue on to the club.

Decorate your room

Avoid pangs of homesickness by filling your room with comforts. We have some great blogs on making a student environment feel like a home on a budget. Your week will be busy, so we advise arriving early to halls so you can get unpacking out of the way!

A group of friends are waiting for an underground train. A young woman in the foreground smiles at the camera.

Explore the city

Homesickness might kick in, but this is a chance to explore a new city. Take a few hours to walk around and have lunch somewhere new. This can be fun alone, or with your new flatmates. Take the longest and most scenic route to the city centre that you can find. Maybe look for parks or nice places to relax in for the future.

Get to know the campus

Have a walk around campus and note where all the buildings are. Familiarise yourself with where you’ll need to be for your first lectures. This way, you’ll avoid running late on an early morning. Check our your student union, and see what’s available. Services, advice, food, shops – it’s all good to know!

A group of friends are sharing a meal at a dining table with big smiles on their faces.

Eat dinner with your flatmates

If you’re in catered accommodation, go to dinner at the same time and all share a big table. If you’re self-catered, suggest cooking a big meal together. This is more communal, and will help you (and everybody else) to settle in quicker. If someone is too shy to come out, knock on their door and ask if they’d like to join in.

Stay healthy

This is important! Freshers' flu is almost inevitable, so make sure you register with your local doctor. Keep your immune system strong. During the day, remember the basics like keeping hydrated and eating a balanced diet. If possible, catch up on missed sleep! Join the gym, keep fit, and detox.

By making the most of your freshers' week, you’re setting yourself up for a great year. Make sure you know where you're going, so you never get lost in the future. Spend your time building your friendships. You’ll guarantee a healthy state of mind, and a comfortable new home for the next year.