Advice| Advice for students

How to prepare for studies abroad

Dear Students,

We would like to congratulate you on study grants from The Kellner Family Foundation. This document contains practical advice on how to prepare to study abroad. It is intended primarily for students who are getting ready to study at a university in the U.K., but much of it applies generally. It is based on what we went through as fresh university students. We believe our experience will make it easier for you to enter this new phase of your life.

Packing and choosing what to take with you

  • Don’t buy textbooks in advance; the reading list might still be changed or amended. Textbooks are much cheaper on eBay or Amazon. Also, many schools have websites that sell and buy second-hand textbooks – ask your school about this.
  • Textbooks can also be borrowed from the library but you have to hurry up during Freshers’ Week (Orientation Week in North America), because a bevy of students will be competing for only a few copies of each book. Electronic copies are also available from time to time – yes, sometimes even legally.  
  • When packing, keep in mind that you will have to wash all your laundry at once. Doing laundry is relatively expensive (some GBP 2 to 4 per load), but the washing machines can hold a heavy load of laundry.
  • You will most probably not have enough space in your room to hang the laundry up to dry, so you will have to use the dryer – another thing to be aware of when packing your bags. Irons are not usually available in the dorms.
  • Almost every university has something like a “free shop” where you can get (mainly) household stuff either for free or cheap, or in exchange for other things: it may be a Facebook page, or an exchange fair at the beginning of the year, or perhaps a small store open year round.

What to take with you and what to leave at home

  • You need to buy a plug adapter if the country you are going to uses a different type of socket, and consider adding a multi-way plug.
  • Get an electronic book reader to avoid packing and carrying traditional books.
  • If you want to pack more stuff, consider using vacuum-sealed plastic bags. They are sold in home goods stores and cost about CZK 200. You can use a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of them. You can squeeze more stuff into your bags, but the weight will not change. Be careful of small bags that are unexpectedly heavy.
  • Take a small and space-saving sleeping bag with you. You will use it when visiting friends, when traveling, and during your first days there, before you get a duvet and a pillow.
  • Most of the dorms do not provide duvets, but some do. Bedding is often offered for a fee, but you may be unpleasantly surprised by its color and design, let alone quality, and particularly the price. You can bring your own from home (e.g. in vacuum-sealed bags) or simply buy it where you are. Or try thrift stores, eBay, Gumtree.com or the dorm’s or school’s Facebook page: they often help recent graduates hand off things to new students. If you fail to get the bedding this way, try Primark stores, which sell duvets for around GBP 8. Better-quality products are available from IKEA, which provides delivery services in most cities, so you can buy everything in advance.
  • Pack essential crockery and cutlery, as it is helpful to have a cup and plate from the very beginning. Freshers’ Week is rather challenging in terms of time, and it can take a while before you can get to a store.
  • Buy good shoes – most campuses are large and people go everywhere on foot rather than by bus.
  • Don’t bring unnecessarily large and heavy bathroom supplies: shampoos and soaps as well as towels can be bought cheaply on site.  
  • Consider the price difference between buying things when you arrive and carrying them in your baggage (the amount charged for the baggage or the price of sending a parcel).
  • Specifically in the U.K.: if you like herbal tea, buy a stock of it because it is not commonly available in supermarkets in the U.K. The same applies to any food or ingredient specific to home.
  • Take along your notes from IB subjects – they will be helpful at the university, too (especially for economics and business students). It would be ideal to have electronic write-ups.

Transport

  • Teahouse Transport offers international conveyance of parcels and baggage, which is often cheaper than carrying things in a suitcase by air. The limits on the parcels’ size and weight are not very tight and, in addition, the company will pick the parcel up from your doorstep and deliver it to your hands at the destination on the date you determine. The delivery charge for a parcel (from the Czech Republic to the U.K.) is currently GBP 29. For more information, see the Teahouse website: http://teahousetransport.co.uk
  • With some airlines you pay for the number of bags, with others for the number of kilos. If there are more flights to your destination on the selected date, check each airline for baggage charges.
  • We recommend buying a plane ticket as soon as you are accepted to the university. Air fares rise every day, especially those of low-cost airlines.
  • If you are buying tickets for a flight for Christmas, be sure it does not interfere with your examination period, which is sometimes a week before classes begin.   
  • Be careful buying a U.K./Czech Republic/U.K. return ticket (you are returning to the U.K., not the Czech Republic).

Before leaving…

  • Browse the internet to learn more about banks and the advantages and disadvantages of the accounts you as a Czech citizen can open in the U.K. During Freshers’ Week, many companies will bombard you with advertisements and deals. If you have not lived in the U.K. for at least the last three years, you will probably not be entitled to open any but the most basic accounts.
  • Think carefully about which “societies” you wish to visit – during the first week, all of them will be trying to persuade you to sign up with them for a seemingly small fee, but these fees tend to add up quickly.
  • Print the photos you want to put on the bulletin board in your room, and don’t forget to take with you some items of personal significance to you.
  • Teach your family to use Skype before you leave. :D
  • Order a SIM card while you are still at home. It will be ready for you when you arrive, and you will be able to give your new number to your new friends on the very first day.
  • U.K.: Don’t automatically use a Vodafone SIM card from the UCAS; it is far from cheap. Giffgaff is the best operator in the U.K. It lets you call for free within its network and charges 7 pence (about CZK 2) per minute for calls to the Czech Republic. You can find some good package deals from them, as well.  
  • Most universities have pages or groups for first year students on Facebook where you can meet up in advance with people majoring in the same thing as you are, or even those you will share accommodation with.

Arrival

  • Most universities rent a minibus to transport students from the airport. This service can be ordered and paid for in advance. However, it is sometimes cheaper to use a cab or to take a public transit bus (if you don’t have too many suitcases). The bus schedules are available on Google Maps – enter the route from the airport to the campus and choose public transport.
  • Shove a couple of packets of pasta or instant soup in your luggage so you don’t have to look for a grocery store while you are still lugging your bags around.

How to spend less

  • Most universities or cities offer a bicycle rental service. You also can buy a second-hand bicycle (in the U.K. we recommend the Gumtree.com site, and in the U.S. use Craigslist.com, where you can find bicycles available wherever you are). It is often quicker and, of course, cheaper to ride a bike than to take a bus. Universities often offer courses on safe riding in traffic, which are quite helpful, especially for those not accustomed to riding on the left. 
  • Collect discount cards for students – you can get them almost everywhere, and they will save you a lot of money. Try to find places where you can get things for free (at one university, pizza was available for free throughout Freshers’ Week). Many societies (mostly religious) offer snacks, lunches and barbecues.

Insurance

  • To ensure that the government continues to pay your social security and health insurance, you must submit a Ministry of Education certificate attesting your university’s equality with the Czech universities. The blank form can be downloaded from the link below (if the link has expired, you can find the form on the website of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MŠMT) – section  Vzdělávání/Studium v cizině – státní podpora [Education/Studies Abroad – State Aid]: http://www.msmt.cz/vzdelavani/vysoke-skolstvi/uznavani-studia-na-zahranicnich-vysokych-skolach-pro).
  • Send the completed form, attested by the Ministry, to the insurers and the Social Security authorities, together with the Certificate of Enrollment (to be issued by your university on request).
  • When applying to the Ministry for completing and confirming the above certificate, you can use the Confirmation of Place Letter from the UCAS in place of the Certificate of Enrollment, which is issued by most universities only after you start your studies.
  • The Certificate of Enrollment and Certificate of Recognition of Academic Studies Abroad may also be needed by your parents, for example when they, as business owners, apply for tax relief for supporting a student. Check what other purposes you will need the certificates for.
  • At the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the recognition of academic studies abroad for social security and health insurance purposes is the responsibility of Department 30, and the contact person at the Ministry is Mr. Edvard Meduna (Edvard.Meduna@msmt.cz). You can contact him with your inquiries and forms. Information is also available at www.msmt.cz, in the section of Vzdělávání/Vysoké školství/Sociální záležitosti/Uznávání studia na zahraničních vysokých školách pro zdravotní a sociální účely [Education/Tertiary Education/Social Affairs/Recognition of Studies at Foreign Universities for Health Insurance and Social Security Purposes].
  • If you need an authenticated copy of your Certificate of Enrollment or of the certificate attesting your university’s equality with Czech universities, a Post Office in the Czech Republic will do the authentication for a fee (CZK 30). If the officer hesitates to authenticate a document in a foreign language, explain to him/her that you only need to prove that the copy is identical with the original and not to verify the validity of its content.
  • You do not need to get any special insurance for your stay in the U.K. Within the EU, the university takes care of your insurance. However, you must register with the local doctor (General Practice) and, thereby, with the National Health System (NHS). Most universities have health centers where it is easy to register. Addresses of other GPs in the area are available on the NHS website.


Where to get more advice

  • Don’t hesitate to contact other students who are, or have been studying abroad. They will be glad to help you (for example, they may help you with accommodation when visiting the university) or advise you on general issues. Contact information is available at the website of The Kellner Family Foundation or on Facebook (you may try to search for the Facebook page Studuj v zahraničí [Study Abroad] or contact individual acquaintances).
  • Ask at the universities’ information centers – send them an e-mail in advance, and you will most probably receive an answer shortly, whatever the question may be (including even seemingly unimportant ones). Often you can also ask questions on the official Facebook page or Twitter.
  • Before making a final decision, go and see the universities (if it’s not too late); it will certainly be worthwhile to spend several thousand Czech crowns and support your decision by visiting the place. It is best to travel during the summer holidays before your last year of high school, or during the spring holidays of your final year. Ideally, come to the official Open Day. Universities organize these events several times a year.  

We wish you successful and enriching studies.

Anežka, Jakub and Kristýna
UNIVERZITY Program grant recipients
The Kellner Family Foundation

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