For those who are counting down the days to the UK, you may find yourself turning to be the busy bees. From shopping necessary items, packing and (hopefully) executing the tips from “the advance grad school prep kit”, may you never forget to also fill your Instagram feeds with pictures of your farewell with the dearest ones.
Anyway, putting the excitement and stress aside, in this post I am getting down to the nitty-gritty of to-do list after landing in the UK. The list below will be the important baseline for your life in the UK, which is unfortunately often overlooked. So, I wish this post comes in handy for you on the D-day. This list is made according to a particular order.
1. Bundle all important documents together and put this in your cabin bag (not in your checked-in luggage!)
As you are moving abroad alone, you need to learn how to handle important documents independently. For me, it’s always better to bring more than less because we never know when these documents will be needed. For a reference, I carry all copies of the required documents for my UK visa application, such as:
- Translated family card (Kartu Keluarga)
- Bachelor’s degree certificate and transcript
- The university’s letter of acceptance and Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
- Letter of Guarantee and Letter of Sponsorship from my scholarship’s organisation
- Accommodation proof
- Medical record
- The original IELTS result
When you queue for the immigration check, please prepare:
- Boarding Pass
- Landing Card (you can fill in this form either on the plane or while queuing)
- Don’t forget: Your CAS!
Most importantly, you need to be organised for this particular essential. Don’t separate them; instead, put them all in the same folder.
2. Know the route to your accommodation
After being on the plane for 17 hours or more, there are no other things you want besides taking a good rest as soon as possible. So, you need to figure out early how to get to your new nest. If you arrive in London, you will most likely land at either Heathrow or Gatwick airport. If you are in Heathrow, you can get the direct tube (another name for Mass Rapid Transport in London) to the city center. If you are in Gatwick, you can take either The Gatwick Express non-stop train or a coach (bus). You can also check to PPI UK’s annual pick-up programme.
3. Make sure you get the permanent address as soon as possible
If you still have not found the permanent stay in the UK, I suggest you to do it as quickly as possible because this will be required for your student’s re-registration and BRP. Learning from my friend’s experience, they usually come 2-3 weeks early before the orientation, so you can wander around to check the place. As a starter, you can join the Facebook group of flat sharing in each city or get connected to Line/ WhatsApp group of the Indonesian students in the city. They usually announce any vacant room in those groups. In the meantime, you can either crash in your friend’s place or rent an affordable place to stay, such as Wisma Siswa Merdeka.
4. Get your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
You may be aware that your visa on your passport usually only lasts for a month. It is because your Tier 4 visa requires you to hold the BRP card. You can get it at the nearest post office with the address that you registered on the visa application form (usually it’s the post office close to your university). I suggest that you take the card right a day after you arrive and not to wait until the orientation starts because when all international students want to take the card too, the queue may keep you for hours. After you receive the permit, there will be a letter accompanying the card;put them in a separate place. For example, I bundle the letter safely along with my other important documents and I always carry the card in my wallet because that is my ID now, including my identification card when I am about to enter the UK borders after traveling abroad. The reason for separating this is because if you lose your BRP card, you still have the letter to re-apply for the card. Having said that, you need to hold your BRP card dearly because (according to some of my friends who have lost it) the process of reapplying the BRP card is costly and takes so many months. So, better be aware of your belongings!
5. Re-registration at your campus
The reason that I suggest taking BRP as soon as possible because when you re-register at the campus, you also need to bring your BRP and tell the university your permanent address in the UK. While you re-register yourself, you can also ask them to print you a letter indicating your student status for opening the bank account.
6. Open a bank account
Do your desktop research or ask friends about their bank accounts. Some banks, like Lloyds, give students free monthly charge, some others like Santander cost you five pounds per month. However, the benefit is you can walk into Santander directly without an appointment and open the account right away. Meanwhile, for most other banks, you have to call them and book an appointment beforehand. Because September is the beginning of an academic year, most banks will be extremely occupied servicing international students. Therefore, it’s better for you to book the appointment as soon as possible. Try to find branches that are located far from the campus area because they are usually less busy. After you make an appointment via phone, make sure you take notes of all the dates, times and the names of the bank officer who will take care of you. I had an awful experience with Lloyds because my appointment was not recorded in the first place and for the second time, the officer canceled my appointment arbitrarily without letting me know. So, after you end the call, you should receive a message summarizing your appointment and a day before your appointment, you will receive another reminder. If you don’t receive these messages, then you need to call them again and clarify about the appointment.
As a buffer against unexpected adverse occurrence, it’s better for you to bring sufficient amount of cash for at least the first month in the UK. The money will be very useful for you to pay the first installment of your room, basic amenities and food while you still have not received the living allowance from your scholarship or your parents.
7. Register with a General Practitioner (GP)
In the UK, hospitals are only for emergencies or pre-arranged referrals. Hence, if you have fever or flu or diarrhea, you don’t go to the hospitals. You can either go to the available walk-in clinics or the GP. You must register with the GP within the area of your accommodation, not your university. So, ask your accommodation reception or landlord to get the registration form and the plastic tube for a urine test. Usually, the GP opens the new application only on certain days. So, you need to check before the days you can go there and submit the necessary forms. It usually only takes five minutes to send everything. Few days after that, you will get the letter indicating you are already registered. Do this early and don’t wait until you are ill.