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A Guide to Becoming an Exchange Student in England

26 September 2022

Coming to the UK to study as an exchange student in England? That’s fantastic news! You’re going to have a great time travelling, meeting new people, and experiencing a different culture.

Before you get to the fun stuff though, there are a few important preparatory steps to consider. From visas to tuition fees, health insurance to bank accounts, there’s a lot that you need to know about before you set off on your big adventure.

And we know that at first glance all of that can seem a little daunting, so maybe you’re putting it off.

We wanted to make the process a little easier for you, so we’ve put together some of our best advice for exchange students in England.


Plan your funding

If you plan on getting some extra funding or scholarships it’s absolutely essential that you do your research, as the funds vary depending on where you’re from.

Post-Brexit, the funding process has changed for international students from the EU.

EU and EEA students are now grouped with all other overseas students and must pay the same fees as students coming from outside Europe.

Check out this guide to Student Finance for EU students.

If you’re from a country outside of Europe, then you’ll have to fund your degree yourself. You’ll also be paying higher fees than UK students, with course prices varying from £10,000 – £35,000 a year.


Organise your student visa

As an exchange student in England, you’ll need to organise a visa.
If you’ll be studying in England for less than six months, then you will need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa

You can also apply for a Short-term study visa for courses that last between six and eleven months. Any course that lasts longer than eleven months is not covered by this visa. This is also the visa that you need if you’re studying the English language.

For any longer courses, you need a Student visa, which has replaced the Tier 4 student visa.

In order to apply for this visa, you have to provide evidence of a few things:

  • Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) – This is a 14-digit reference number you’ll receive from your uni once you accept your offer.
  • Proof of finances. This is evidence of your income and your ability to pay tuition fees. You also need to prove you have £1,023 (£1,334 for London) per month for up to nine months.
  • Proof of English language skills. You can get a certificate to prove your English language level by taking the Secure English Language Test (SELT).

You can apply for your student visa up to six months in advance of the course, and normally you’ll get a response within a few weeks.


Prepare for life in Britain

When you are an exchange student in England you will probably notice that the UK is a very culturally diverse place.

That means that you will not be alone as an international student. People in the UK are used to welcoming people from other countries, and most universities have international societies designed to help you to meet others from similar backgrounds.

If you’re from a warm country, brace yourself for some pretty changeable weather. Summer here is normally a short-lived affair, but that doesn’t stop people from living active, sociable lives on the whole.

In most parts of the UK, it gets wet a great deal of the time, and in the winter it can be quite a cold place. But as long as you bring warm clothes with you (some waterproofs are probably a good idea too!), you should be fine.

Oh, and don’t forget to put the heating on in your student accommodation to warm up your room on the really chilly winter days!


Choose your student accommodation wisely

One of the most make-or-break decisions that you can make to ensure you have a good time as an exchange student in England, is where you choose to live.

Some people opt for student halls, others for private houses, others for a more comfortable, modern student living experience.

Unless you opt for a private house, you’ll generally find that there is a good mix of national and international students in most student accommodation. That means that making friends is really easy, and it’s less likely that you’ll get homesick or lonely.

You’ll also get a whole bedroom to yourself, so if you’re used to sharing in American student accommodation, this will be quite a significant change for you.


Get health insurance covered

Another significant change may be the approach to healthcare in the UK.

Although the NHS is free for UK citizens, international students need to prove they have health insurance to cover any healthcare they need while in the UK.
You’ll have to pay a health surcharge as part of your visa application, but once you’ve paid it that gives you access to the NHS during your time as an exchange student in England.

Also note that any health insurance you already have might actually cover you while you’re abroad, so it’s worth doing a bit of research on the matter.


Set up a student bank account

Having a British student bank account just makes life easier for you. It ensures that your money is safe and helps you avoid foreign currency charges.

Banks will check your credit rating and will need you to provide personal information before opening the account.

Here’s a guide to some of the best UK international student bank accounts on offer.


Extra support organisations for exchange students in England

  • Great British Mag is a digital magazine that provides insights about life as a student in the UK. The mag is produced by former international students so they know what they’re talking about!
  • The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has a helpline, lobbies to protect students’ rights, and has a student ambassador programme. They can advise you regarding government guidelines and regulations, such as changes in visa requirements.
  • The Student Minds website is the UK’s biggest website on student wellbeing and mental health. Includes links to charities, helplines, on- campus and blogs giving tips on staying mentally healthy at university.
  • British Council Study UK website. Here you can find practical information on UK education for exchange students. They offer help with application processes, information on scholarships, and much more.
  • The Student Union. Most student unions are connected to the National Union of Students (NUS). They exist to represent the interests of all students on a local and national level. If you need support of any kind during your time as an exchange student in England, ask for help at your student union.
  • Your university’s international office is also a great place to ask for advice. They can provide advice on immigration, employment, funding, academic and personal matters. They will probably also coordinate activities and events.


Remember too, that here at Novel we make your wellbeing our priority, and we want you to have the best university experience possible! We not only offer modern accommodation, but also a student community formed by people from all backgrounds, as well as events, activities, and an amazing support team. Get in touch to find out how Novel could be your home from home in your time as an exchange student in England!

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