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A guide to your first few weeks as an International student

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Published: October 8, 2020

Although you must be dying inside after all the traveling from your home country, it's hard to not feel excited about finally arriving in Sunderland. Your university experience can finally start! As an international student, I understand what it is like and how easy it is to feel overwhelmed in a new country, but I am here to help. So, here is everything you need that will help you settle in smoothly.

Mature students stood outside at our City Campus

BRP Card Collection

Remember that you must collect your BRP card once you have arrived in the UK within 30 days. This is your hard copy of your Student Visa. Head to the Gateway desk @ City/St Peter Campus (depending on which campus you belong to) to collect, just remember to make an appointment and make sure you bring along your passport or any related travel documents for reference purposes.

BRP Card


Student card collection 

Your student card should be waiting for you to collect so get excited. This can also be collected at the Gateway desk. After collection, make sure you check every detail is correct such as the spelling of your name, photo, student number, and the name of the course you are taking.

Picture of campus card



Open a UK bank account as soon as you get hold of your BRP card as you need this first to apply for one. There is a range of banks to choose from in the UK, my advice would be to pick one that has a branch in the city centre so it's easy for you to access. Here is the list of documents you will need to open a bank account as a foreign student:

• BRP card
• Passport
• University Letter (you can request this from the Gateway)
• Accommodation Offer/Tenant Contract (as evidence of your UK residential address)

UK bank collage


Apply for a HC-2 Certificate 

You will need to apply for this certificate to get a range of benefits that you can access as a student in the UK including free NHS prescriptions, free dental check-up and treatments and free eyesight tests to name just a few. You will need to get the form from Edinburgh Building, again, don’t be shy to ask for directions at the Gateway Help Desk.  After that, simply fill in the form and post it out. You should receive your certificate in a few weeks time by post. 

image of a HC 2 certificate


Make use of the free bus service!

Hop on the 700, 701 and 702 buses that bring you around the city centre, university and the university halls of residence for FREE. Simply show your student card to get on. (PS, the bus drivers are really friendly!) 

Campus bus


Grocery shopping

Students are spoilt with choices when it comes to getting your weekly groceries. Just a quick introduction to some of them: Aldi and Lidl are two giant discounters in the UK, so you will most likely get a cheaper deal here than in other retailers.  Sainsbury, Asda, Iceland and Tesco are in the middle range, they might be slightly more expensive, but they are still worth the price with better quality and a wider range of products available. Whereas Marks and Spencer is a slightly  ‘fancier’ place to shop at with higher priced items. (PS, they do fantastic cheesecakes and Scottish shortbread!)

Collage of UK supermarkets


SIM card

Have a browse at which telecommunication provider would you like to get your UK sim card from. In my personal opinion, Vodafone offers the best deals for students via their VOXI plan. It is currently at £10 for 12GB of data + unlimited use of social media! When applying for your ideal sim card, make sure you bring your BRP card, University Student Card and your passport with you for verification purposes (and obviously cash to pay for the service!)

Collage of UK phone networks


Good luck on your first few weeks as a student! I hope this blog is helpful but if you have any more questions about being a student at Sunderland or travelling over from a different country, feel free to contact me via my online chat profile here


Yan Ying Khoo
MPharm student



Topic: Advice and tips

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