On Studying in the UK
by Arnel Jose Banas, Univ. of Warwick 1996-97
BEFORE LEAVING THE PHILIPPINES
- Be organised – this is probably one of the most important things to remember. You will be making lots of preparations in Manila before you leave and some adjustments once you arrive in the UK. Plan ahead. List down the things that you wish to do. Time management is essential. Remember to be realistic. You cannot say good-bye to all your friends and relatives.
- Do not bring the Philippines with you. You will only be away for about one year. You cannot possibly bring home. Just bring the essentials. You might end up with so many things to bring back with you.
- Bring some supplies and consumables – some of the items that your body is used to may not be available here. Or at least you may not know where to get them during your first few weeks. Bring some which will last you for a short while. This will also save your allowance as some items here could be expensive, eg bring something for your face and lips as it will be cold when you arrive. Prepare for autumn and winter.
- Bring a Filipino Recipe Book – This will be helpful in preparing some of your favorite recipes for yourself and your new friends who might request you to cook a Filipino dish or two. Also if you miss Pinoy food then you can make it yourself. If you do not know how to cook, do not worry. You will!
- Bring instant mixes like adobo (Mama Cita is recommended), menudo mixes, instant gata, sinigang. This may save you time when you want to cook. One way of saving your allowance is to cook your own food.
- Do not bring too many clothes. Bring some jackets or coats in preparation for the cold weather. You can buy some here at reasonable prices. I suggest bring some old clothes which you can throw away after your studies. The same thing with your shoes. Just bring some old pairs(and a pair of good ones also). Anyway by the time you finish I am sure you would have bought a new set of wardrobe. But bring some few good clothes as well as there will be parties (and dates). Some of these may be formal gatherings. It may be useful if you bring at least one piece of Filipino inspired clothing. If you intend to engage in sports, then bring some items which you will need.
- Bring ID pictures with you. You will need a few for some forms, visa applications etc. 1 x 1 and 2 x 2. Instant photos are expensive here.
- If you have an international credit card issued in the Philippines,bring it here as it might come in handy. But try not to use it in the UK as you might lose in the exchange rate. Besides payment will have to be made in Manila.
- If your course will require you to write essays, a thesis, or adissertation, bring some of the materials and references which you think you will use. It is possible that your library will not have all the materials you will need. It is helpful to read about your university and your course requirements and anticipate your needs. Start thinking about possible topics for your written projects.
- Bring your Philippine driver’s license.
- If you wish to send some cards and letters from the UK, I suggest that as early as now, prepare a list of all your relatives and friends whom you might correspond with while in the UK. Include their addresses, phones, e-mail, birthdays etc. Also, the names and other details of some possible contacts in Europe. This will save you the trouble and cost of finding out these details when you need them.
- Take care of your affairs in the Philippines. Like pay your insurance and credit card bills before leaving. Or make someone in charge of your private correspondence at home. Or prepare checks in advance for payments of your personal obligations.
- Just bring bags or luggages which you think you can manage.
- Bring some medicine which you think will be useful.
- If you wear eyeglasses, bring an extra pair. If you wear contact lenses, bring your supplies. They are expensive here.
- Bring some foreign currency or preferably travellers checks with you for emergency purposes.
- If you intend to go other countries like the US during your studies in the UK, it may be more convenient to apply for your visas in the Philippines.
- Read something about Philippine history, culture, arts, politics, geography etc. It does not speak well of a Filipino scholar or student who is ignorant about his/her own country.
IN THE U.K.
- Open a bank account (accounts) promptly.
- It may be useful to apply for credit cards here. This will make your life more comfortable. You can use your credit cards even for small purchases. This way you do not have to carry cash with you all the time. You can probably even earn points with a lot of promotions. Some banks here even give cash and free phone calls (Midlands Bank) as long as you open an account with them. An advantage of having a credit card is that somebody keeps track of your expenses for you. This way you will be forced to keep your receipts! But pay your purchases in full all the time so you do not end up paying interest.
- KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS. In the UK, it is easy to return and exchange items bought but there are times when they ask for the receipt. You can exchange and return an item bought in different parts of the country.
- Be wise in spending your money. You can use your savings for buying pasalubongs and in travelling around the UK or Europe.
- You may want to consider HOST. This is a scheme wherein foreign students are paired with a British family for a weekend. You need not go alone. You can apply with a friend. This can give you the chance to see other parts of the UK. However, you will shoulder your transportation expenses.
- Do apply for an ISIC card. You can get this at any STA Travel Agency. This will entitle you to discounts.
- Everywhere you go, bring your student ID and your NUS card. Always inquire for student discounts e.g. museums, gardens, exhibitions, department stores etc. Do this even outside UK!
- Keep a file of important letters and correspondence.
- Do have a social life. ENJOY! ENJOY! ENJOY!
- But do not forget why you are here as well. STUDY! STUDY! STUDY!
- You may find it useful to apply for a rail card and a coach card.
- For British Council scholars, co-ordinate with the BC or yourscholarship supervisor. There are items which can be reimbursed. Do not be shy to ask and be rejected.
- E-mails allow you to correspond for free. Use it!
- In sending letters, it is also cheaper to use aerogrammes. They come in packs.
- Try to control the urge of making phone calls. This can easily eat up your allowance.
- Control the urge to shop! There are big sales in the entire UK particularly right after Christmas and during.
- The UK is a country with a lot of beautiful natural sceneries. Try to see as much as you can.
- If you have the time and money, visit other countries as well.
- Do keep a diary for your appointments and other activities.
- Remember that shopping during the last 3 months of your stay entitles you to reimbursement of the VAT you paid for goods bought. Inquire from the stores where you make your purchases.
GOING BACK HOME
- You do not have to bring everything back with you. You can leave some items or give them away.
- Inquire in advance about sending things back home either by sea or air. There are Filipino forwarding companies usually based in London.
- SETTLE ALL YOUR BILLS. Some universities may not release your grades or certificates if there are debts which remain unpaid. The same thing with your bank and credit cards. Non-payment will not only give a bad impression of you but also of other Filipinos.