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Study Abroad on a Budget – U.S. to England

If you’re undecided as to where you’re going to study, and are up for a challenge, why not think about taking your degree abroad? Over 40,000 American students went across the pond to the UK in 2010 for a summer, semester or a full year.

Finding a course

You’ll need to find a University (College) which has a programme for international students in the course/s you’re taking. A good place to start looking is the educationuk site, which lists all the places of study offering international placements.

If you’re not familiar with the various counties in the UK the site has information on all the colleges and universities in its database, so you can make an informed choice. For obvious reasons it might be easier to choose a placement which includes accommodation.

Getting a Visa

Once you’ve settled on your place of study, you’ll need to decide how long you want to remain in the UK for, and obtain the necessary visa. A ‘student visitor’ visa entitles you to stay in the UK for up to 6 months, without working. A general student visa covers you for up to 4 years and allows you to take a part-time job or do volunteer work while you’re studying.

Finding Accommodation

Halls of Residence tend to be the most popular choice for first year students as it helps them to meet their fellow students and adjust to campus life. Most Halls provide a basic room with a bed, desk and chair, and have a canteen offering cheap meals to the students.

Some Halls are self-catering, with a communal kitchen for all the residents to use. This can be useful if you have particular dietary needs or prefer to bring food from home.

Places in the Halls are limited, although international students are generally given preference so make sure you indicate that you require accommodation when you apply. You can expect to pay anything between £100-£200 per week for a basic room, less if you go self-catering. Utilities and internet bills are included.

If you can’t get a place in Halls, there are always a number of off-campus flats and houses available although these tend to be more expensive and may not be furnished. Rent will vary depending on the location; anything from £50 to £95 per week is considered normal. It’s advised that you start looking for a place as soon as you’re accepted on the course.

Other Costs Involved

Tuition fees in the UK can be much lower than in the US. The highest a UK student can expect to pay is around £9,000 (roughly $14,000), whereas in the US an annual fee of $20,000 is commonplace. Fees are paid as part of a student loan, which is then paid back once the graduate is earning over a certain amount. International students can also get loans for foreign study, but you will need to prove you have a place at a UK place of education before you can apply.

Food: Depending on your preference and where you’re staying, allow around £30-£50 per week. Buying the supermarket own brand products and sharing the grocery bills with your housemates can often work out cheaper than buying everything yourself and getting takeaways every night.

Telephone/Internet: If you’re in shared accommodation you and your housemates will be able to share the cost of the phone and internet, so you could probably get away with a cost of around £10 per week. You could also use internet cafes or University library resources if you don’t need to use the internet a lot.

Cell phones, called mobiles in the UK, will be expensive to run if you keep to a US SIM card. You can get free pay-as-you-go UK SIM cards to use while you’re there, although calling home will use up  a lot of the credit. If you plan to call home a lot, arrange for family and friends to install Skype so you can speak to them over the internet for free.

Household bills, such as utilities and council tax, can be shared with your housemates and you can expect to pay around £10-£15 per week for your share.

Insurance: If you do stay in a private house or flat you’ll also need to consider contents insurance for your personal items, but this can be for as little as £5 per month. If you drive, you’ll also need car insurance which can be rather more expensive. If you get a place close to campus it would be cheaper using public transport. You can get a student bus pass for as little as £9 per week, which will cover all bus journeys in a certain area.


Don’t forget to have fun while you’re in the UK! The legal drinking age is 18, and most University campuses have their own bars serving alcohol well into the night.

Many places offer student discounts, so always carry your student card with you to make the most of this!

Carrying Currency

If you’ve got a credit card already this will probably be accepted throughout the UK. However, it might be easier for you to get a prepaid card which allows you to pre-load it with money before spending it. Many students prefer this option, as prepaid cards can be used just like credit cards but avoid the temptation to run up any debts.

You may need to open a UK bank account, especially if you get a part-time job. You might be able to transfer money from your US bank account to a UK bank, so ask in your local branch at first.

To open a UK bank account you’ll need your passport, letter of acceptance, a UK address and references/statements from your home bank.

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