Advice for International Students
Below we've linked to useful University resources regarding travelling to Leeds and getting set up as a student in the UK, as well as providing advice from our International Officer Franks Feng on some of the most frequent worries international students have.
You can also take a look at the University's orientation page for key contacts, information and support.
Getting Started at Leeds
You’ll find lots of information online to welcome you and help you get started, including on this website and the links below.
You can also chat online to current students from the Link to Leeds ambassadors team to find out more about life at the University.
Key contacts for beginning your time in Leeds
The University’s International Student Office will be one of your key contacts for support when coming to Leeds, including travel, immigration and settling in advice.
You can find out more about their services, contact details and web pages here.
Common Worries for International Students
Studying in a new country can be a daunting idea, so to help reassure you we have assembled advice to answer some of the most common worries of international students.
Coming to live in a new country can make you feel disoriented as you are faced with unfamiliar surroundings and a different way of life. Things like a new time zone and a resulting time difference with your friends and family back home, as well as new foods, social practices, unfamiliar sights such as lots of road traffic, and even the UK getting dark early in the winter months can cause feelings of confusion and upset.
Academically you might also find that your university timetable here in the UK has fewer contact hours than you are used to at home. Whilst this can be challenging to adapt to, there are lots of resources to help you manage your time and get used to the new way of learning. Most UK students will also be adapting to new ways of learning, so you can lean on each other for support. Fewer contact hours also means more time for your independent study and reading, as well as part time work or doing the things you love like socialising and volunteering.
Whilst culture shock isn’t a good feeling, it is completely normal for people to feel this way when they move to a new country, and not a sign that you have done anything wrong. It’s also a feeling that disappears over time.
To help reduce the shock and spend some time with people of your culture, why not see if LUU has a culture society for your country where you can meet other like-minded students, discuss relevant topics and do activities that help make you feel at home?
Other clubs and societies are also a great way to meet new people, which can take your mind off feeling disoriented and make you new friends to get to know the city with. Embracing the situation and getting to see as much of your new surroundings as possible is the best way to understand your new home and make it feel normal, so get out there if you can.
If it’s food you are concerned about, don’t worry. Leeds is a very diverse city with restaurants and food shops from around the world, so you’re bound to be able to find a taste of home whether that’s eating out or cooking at home. Our top tip is to not pack any non-essential food items that you’re worried you will miss - you will be able to find them in Leeds’ shops or online in the UK. Use that suitcase space for special items like photographs that remind you of home instead!
Alongside feeling a culture shock, it’s very normal for you to feel homesick if you’ve moved to Leeds from another country. We know that this can be a horrible feeling, but luckily there are lots of ways that you can fight it homesickness, or avoid it completely. Unfortunately there’s no ‘one size fits all’ cure, but give some of these ideas a go and see what works for you!
Our number one piece of advice is to keep yourself busy. LUU has more than 300 clubs and societies for you to join and meet people at, and is running an exciting programme of welcome events over the first term of the academic year. The busier you are, the less time you’ll have to think about home - and getting excited about your new life at university is a great way to minimise any feelings of sadness.
If you’re living in University Halls, look for events and activities taking place within your accommodation, and keep yourself busy whilst making friends with those around you.
Explore the University’s Feeling at Home in Leeds guides, which are designed specifically to help international students overcome feelings of culture shock and homesickness. These handy guides are a brilliant resource to help you settle in, and can be accessed from home on your laptop - so are a perfect option for days when you don’t feel like exploring in person.
Get involved with Global Community activities for intercultural activities.
Keep connected with the Leeds community online with the University’s Staying Connected resources.
Talk to your friends about how you are feeling. You may find that they can relate to you and you can support each other, or simply sharing your feelings can be useful in making them feel not so bad.
Keep in touch with friends and family at home, but don’t over-do it. It’s important to strike the right balance with the amount of time you spend on the phone, Skype or FaceTime - too little and you will continue to struggle, but too much and you will find yourself investing too much time and energy into your ‘old life’ and not enough settling into your new home.Take some time to find the right balance for you.
If you are still feeling homesick and it is starting to impact your mental health, make sure to get in touch with LUU’s Help and Support team, who can help you get through it. If you prefer, you could also access the University’s Chaplaincy - find out more here.
Follow LUU on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WeChat - this way you can be the first to know about new opportunities and events which will all help connect you with new friends, keep you busy and reduce your feelings of homesickness.
It takes time to get used to life in a new country, but it is important to go at a pace that feels comfortable for you. Be open minded, enjoy the experience and you will learn and develop so much on the way - but know that there is always support available if you need it.
It’s also very natural to feel concerned about coming to study in a language that isn’t your primary language. Almost a quarter of our students are international students, so there are many people in the same situation as you, and lots of resources to support you as you get used to speaking primarily in English.
One particular thing you might notice when you arrive in Leeds is the locals’ accent and dialect. The Yorkshire accent is quite different to the ‘Queen’s English’ (Received Pronunciation) or American English that you might have learnt, but you will quickly get used to it as you spend more time speaking to local people. You might also notice some interesting phrases that you might not have expected - for example people calling you ‘love’. This can seem strange at first, but we can assure you that it’s a normal, friendly thing for people in Yorkshire to say - don’t be alarmed!
If you are struggling with someone’s accent or don’t understand a word they have used, don’t be afraid to ask them to speak a bit slower, repeat themselves or define a word - we’re a friendly bunch and won’t mind - and it’s the best way to learn.
There are a number of more formal ways to improve your language skills too. For example:
The Language Centre offers free workshops and consultations to help you develop your academic English language skills once you’ve started your degree.
Register for Language Zone activities to develop your language skills independently
Join the Language Exchange on Minerva and match with another student from Leeds to share languages
Improve your academic writing with workshops and online learning with Skills @ Library. And don’t panic - academic writing is difficult for everyone at first.
Staying safe during the Covid-19 pandemic
Travelling internationally and moving to a new place with new people is daunting at the best of times, and we understand that during the Coronavirus pandemic students and their families are probably feeling very nervous about health and safety, especially with the UK’s relatively high rate of cases.
Students can stay up to date with the latest UK Government advice here.
You can find out more about NHS health services for urgent and non-urgent care at the bottom of this page. It’s a good idea to retain this information for future reference.
The University and Union have worked hard to make campus as safe as possible, following Government guidelines to take all the necessary precautions including maintaining social distancing, asking people to wear masks and increasing hand sanitizing facilities. You can find out all the details here.
Getting set up in the UK
Working in the UK
Before you apply for any paid or unpaid (voluntary) work, you must check whether you are allowed to work in the UK and whether there are any restrictions.
You must comply with the conditions of your UK visa. Check the UKVI guidance on working for the type of UK visa that you hold. Find out more here.
Please note that voluntary/unpaid work counts towards your weekly working limit during term time so do be mindful of this. However, volunteering - occasional work for a charity - is not restricted. Find out more details here.
Postgraduate researchers should also be aware that University regulations restrict you to 250 hours of paid work per 12-month session. Check the Postgraduate Researcher Handbook here.
If you have a question about immigration or your visa it’s important that you seek advice as soon as possible. The University’s Immigration Advice Service exists to help you with these queries - visit their website here or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Setting up a UK bank account
You may want to open a UK bank account to pay your fees and to set up regular payments for items such as bills. To discover more about choosing a bank account and setting one up, click here.