Student on coffee break inside a shop

Student life: on campus

When you have so much to adjust to coming from abroad, what you really want is to feel at home in your new community. There is no better place to involve yourself than at your students’ union

Every year, hundreds of thousands of international students come to the UK, and they all receive warm welcomes at their institutions. From the moment you arrive, support will be at hand.

Your all-inclusive students’ union

Even as a visiting student, you are entitled to membership at the university’s students’ union.

The union is the central hub for student life on campus, where most of the extracurricular organisations operate. The site often houses offices that provide information for travel services and healthcare.

The union typically hosts any student-oriented activities – such as dances, concerts and plays – and the building will probably have a cafe or restaurant with inexpensive pub food, as well as a full bar boasting some of the cheapest drinks in town.

Societies, clubs and organisations

You will find that UK students have a club for just about everything, so never hesitate to try something new while abroad. Activities typical to the country, such as wine-tasting or cricket, can often prove the most rewarding and memorable, and are a great way to meet British students outside the classroom.

Avoid relying totally on international students’ societies because you will only meet more people of your own nationality and make the assimilation process more difficult.

No shortage of support

Your university may send you some information before you arrive, including various guides written by the British students about adjusting to the university’s intellectual and extracurricular demands.

You will also find that each hall usually has a welfare officer in residence to help provide advice or answer questions at any time. Otherwise your students’ union should offer any further assistance you may need to make the most of your time while you are overseas.

Read about the job of an International Student Support Officer.

Get involved!

If you want to truly immerse yourself in student life, there’s no better way than to get involved in the activities of the student union. Not only will you meet lots of new people and experience all that student life in the UK has to offer, but you can also earn extra cash or improve your career prospects while you’re at it.

If you are a sports fan, you can join college or university teams, if you’re into music there will be plenty of chances to join a choir or band, or if you’re a good writer, you can volunteer for the student newspaper. All of these things will look great on your curriculum vitae (CV) – this is a document to show to future employers detailing your achievements.

As for paid work, you could work in the union bars, cafes or shops, or there may even be a ‘job shop’ in the union where local employers advertise vacancies.

Make your voice heard

‘The college offers a good atmosphere for every student, to help them obtain what they are aiming for. In addition, it provides good facilities and has very helpful staff.’ 
Hashim Mohamed Al Sharif, Thanet College

The union is there primarily to support the interests of its members. So if you want things changing around campus, whether it’s the quality of the food, library opening times or the services you’re being offered, speak up!

There will be union representatives who you can talk to, who will pass your ideas on to institution committees for a decision to be made. Or, if you find things are not getting done, you could always stand for a union post yourself!

More info on student life in the UK

National Union of Students (NUS)

Find out more about the clubs and societies at your local students’ union

British Universities Sports Association (BUSA)

Get the latest news from the inter-university sporting fixtures across the UK

Image credit: Fabio Formaggio