Common Misconceptions International Students Have About Studying In The UK

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If you’re considering going to study in the UK as an international student, I found that the amount of official information on the internet could be quite intimidating + the millions of websites/ blogs/ movies / TV series and books giving you contrasting ideas about what to expect when you get there. The British culture is known across the globe, just think of Mr Bean, The Beatles and English Tea.

Due to the popularity of the British Culture, it is common for international students to have pre-established ideas of what it would be like before arriving the UK. But during my time spent with most international students I have picked out COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS HAVE ABOUT STUDYING IN THE UK.


British people aren’t friendly

In popular cultures British people can be divided into 2 categories:

  • Proper Gentlemen and Ladies
  • Football Hooligans

The general assumption is that Football Hooligans are scary or the Aristocracy is pompous and stuck up. Along with that there is a British stereotype of being formal and distant can lead to the large misconception of British people being ‘unfriendly’.

The reality is that most people you meet will fall somewhere in the middle and many people are incredibly friendly once you get to know them.  In any case, whilst at university there are loads of activities and situations set up to encourage international friendships. The UK is one of the most diverse and accepting countries in the world. Like everyone else, the British take some getting used to, but they can be warm, friendly and welcoming to all newcomers.


The UK is expensive

This is probably true in parts. Particularly if you are studying in London, and are not able to work part-time due to course demands, then costs can stack up.

However, unlike other places, the UK is really well set-up to accommodate and help out students. There are loads of discounts available through Uni websites, Unidays or the Student Unions; there is also a lot of flexible work around if you want it, and even minimum wages are fair and will go a long way in helping you finance your studies. Student accommodation is relatively cheap and all large supermarkets have own-brand products that keep down the price of food. There is a lot of financial help available if you look for it, so definitely do some googling if cost is an issue for you.


Oxford and Cambridge are the only Universities worth going to

Yes, they are the oldest universities and yes, they are very good. However, the UK has roughly 30 universities in the global top 100, and many are leaders in their fields. Particular examples are Imperial College London, UCL and even the University of Edinburgh are all hugely well known internationally, look at the tables and see what other universities have to offer. Many universities will also come with amazing opportunities, such as direct links to employers, the chance to study abroad or higher student satisfaction ratings.


British food is awful

Rather than being a misconception, this is simply out of date. The days of cucumber sandwiches and greasy fish ‘n’ chips are (mostly) gone. Most pubs will offer a decent meals, and even street food is occasionally lovely. The UK is now home to many famous chefs and amazing blends of local and international cuisine. All over Britain you can find decent curry, delicious Chinese and, to be honest, Marks and Spencer’s ready meals are also pretty darn tasty! You should also be able to find most well-known international products at specialist stores or large retailers such as Tesco, so if all else fails you should even be able to cook your own food at home with fresh produce.


It’s hard to make local friends

Not! Remember: almost all young people who study in the UK leave home at 18 to go to a new city and university. They are just as interested in meeting new people as you are! Make the most of introductory activities at university and you’ll have local friends in no time.


 The weather is terrible

It is grey, but compared to some other countries most of the UK doesn’t get that cold. Also, you will never appreciate a sunny day more than after a long stretch of grey, drizzly blah weather. Brits are used to bad weather, so houses, pubs, public transport and universities have good heating (although it can be a pain to get all wrapped up before leaving the house and then taking off your five layers once you get back indoors).


British people drink. A lot!

Another common misconception is that all British students are absolute wasters. OK, OK – there may be a few students who live up to this expectation, but don’t be put off or intimidated if drinking isn’t really your thing. Universities in the UK are full of student groups called ‘societies’ which meet up based on shared interests. They can be based on sport, hobbies, charity work, religion or general interests (there are societies for knitting, singing, playing cards or even appreciating chocolate!). Many of these groups will not have a focus on social drinking, and as said before, British people are very tolerant of individual preferences and beliefs than many other places.


In conclusion, lots of the misconceptions that people have about studying in the UK are not entirely accurate. Take the time to understand UK university culture and be open to new ideas, and you will definitely not regret going to study in the UK!


Damola Owolabi

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