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Practical tips for preparing for university 101: A checklist guide (Part 4)

Preparing for University can be stressful, and often times one just needs someone who has walked the path before to act as a guide. This article creates a basis for understanding five parts of your preparation journey, specifically designed for those who have to relocate to another country for graduate studies. A list is provided below.




Accommodation


It is recommended that you take the necessary time required to apply your mind in choosing your accommodation. Consider your needs and preferences. There are various resources available online to help you make an informed decision about location and needs, do an analysis and then make a decision.


Location is primary, so make sure your accommodation has easy to get to campus – provided you are staying off-campus. Consider access to a bus service, bicycle travel lanes and train stations.


Additionally, consider the number of rooms available in the accommodation, to inform you about how many people you will be required to share with. Depending on your level of study, whether undergrad or postgrad, look for accommodation with people within your level of study. To ensure synchronicity in your life patterns and priorities. That said – be open to people from different backgrounds and try to step outside of your comfort zone. Cultural differences may come as a surprise, however, communication is key in ensuring you have a conducive environment.


Rooms - Most student accommodation will have you share a bathroom and a common kitchen and sitting areas. Consider looking for spaces with a minimal number of rooms.

The rooms will pretty much always come with bare essentials – a bed, a desk and a chair.


One thing to remember when looking for housing off-campus – you may be asked to provide guarantor details as per UK law. A guarantor is a person who provides a commitment to the landlord to carry out your responsibilities under the rental agreement, in case you are unable to. This is in place for the purpose of providing the property owner with some security.


Packing


Take the essentials that you will not be able to acquire in the UK. Don’t overload your luggage, as you will have to pay hefty fees to the airlines for going over the weight limit. A lot of clothes and essentials can be purchased in the UK, which also becomes affordable with student discounts.


A couple of things to pack apart from your standard requirements – make sure to prioritise warm clothes. Pack for plenty of cold days. Secondly, remember that you’re going to get homesick! Take along items that are specific to your home, such as spices and snacks.



Transport in the UK


In the UK, you can get around in a number of ways – buses, trains, and taxis. Some pointers on these –


Try to walk around your area. It’s a good way to get to know the area and surroundings, and maybe spot things you may need in the future.


If using buses, make sure it’s going where you need to go, all buses do not follow the same route, so make sure about the route and the schedule before getting into one. You can do this using the UK Bus Checker app, and there are other apps that may be useful to you as well, including Google Maps and Citymapper. Check out an extended list by the Guardian here.


If you're in London, use an Oyster Card, it is useful for your stay there, as it doesn’t expire – it acts as a wallet for travel, which you can add money to whenever required.


Finally, taxis are available in the form of meter taxis as well as app-based taxis such as Uber. These can be very expensive, but keep yourself informed of the rates. Different taxi services cost different amounts, and some may overcharge.


Make sure to reach out to anyone already in the UK to arrange transport for when you arrive at the airport, rather than depend on any Uni-recommended transport – do your own background research! It will save you a significant amount.



Budgeting

Make sure you have your finances sorted in terms of how your cash flow works on a monthly basis.


Track what you receive (either from a personal corpus, or from a scholarship, or loan, or part-time work) and how often.


Track how much you need to spend on essentials each month. A useful tool to track expenses under heads you can find here.


And track how much you’re saving each month. You may be saving up to travel in the summer, or for any other purpose. Some may also choose to invest money, though this may be advisable if working while studying. Having liquid cash is highly recommended in case of emergencies.


Students have access to various discounts offered through websites such as UniDAys. However there are other discounts available – look for them on sites like Student Beans.




Your Academics:



It is important to note that the UK system can differ from other education systems. You will be required to do a lot of self-taught learning, prepare for lectures and do self-reading. Course material is available in advance to allow you to adequately prepare.


The classes in a number of courses are often primarily interactive – meaning the class is more about coming prepared and debating the course material, rather than waiting for the faculty to cover the contents. This is why participation is key in your academic journey, both within the classroom as well as outside.


Engaging with professors of topics and subjects that are of interest to you is essential as it will help you shape the topics of your assessments and essays. Do not underestimate the importance of engaging with your professors.


It is important to have an academic strategy prior to getting into the academic year, to have an understanding of how you will schedule your time.


Use an approach that makes your work easier and simpler – there are various techniques available - here are is a list of techniques that people use. Getting into a rhythm and managing your time are the two key elements.


A list of applications to download has been made available below.



A good referencing tool is Zotero, and some annotation tools are Xodo, PDFAnnotator, and Sumnotes. Make sure you guard against plagiarizing by using University tools such as Turnitin.


Some pointers on writing essays – a cardinal rule is to tell the reader early what the piece/article/thesis is going to contain and what the argument is. Make sure you communicate what the key point of the essay is.


Make sure the paragraphs have a logical flow.


Go a step beyond the bare minimum is expected of you – do some research as to what approach will help you maximize results, what the markers of papers are looking for. This is also helpful in any exam situation. While writing answers/essays, remember that it is very important to show that you have thought about the materials yourself – rather than repeating what is contained in them, show that you have engaged with it mentally – provide your own analysis.


Most importantly – just start writing. Putting off writing can create a bigger mental block towards it, so just get something on paper early. Also, remember to ask for help – your peers are either currently in or have been in situations that you find yourself in.


Stop, collaborate, and listen.


A good format to use is the Assertion-Reasoning-Evidence-Link (AREL) method. You can use this method by applying it to each of the main points in your argument. As the name suggests, you start by asserting your claim, simply what the argument is. Follow that by explaining why this is the case. Prove that your reasons provided are valid by supporting it with evidence and authorities. And lastly, explain why this logic proves the original point, which forms a core element of your argument.


Wishing you a lovely transitional journey into your academic journey.


Written by Siddarth M and Mavis Elias


Acknowledgement: This piece was based on a webinar with inputs from Hafeni Motsi, Joshua Okoduwa, Robyn Cooper and Taimi Itembu.





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Mavis Elias

Chevening Scholar 2020

MA Glob and Business

University of Sussex

Find me on Twitter - @MavisElias_

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