Wednesday, 23 April 2014

7 ways to study in the UK for cheap (what you won’t read elsewhere)

So you’ve been admitted into a university in the UK. You’re fees are probably 3 times higher than those of all your local classmates. Let’s crunch some numbers. Average Masters programmes in the UK cost at least 12,000 GBP for international students, and rising every year. Living expenses are approximately 6,000 GBP on average. So how do you ensure you spend a year in the UK without burning a 18,000 pound hole in your (or your parents’) pockets? Here are some useful tips.

1.    Find a part time job

If you want to make enough money to offset as much of your living expenses as is humanely possible, you need to find a part time job ASAP (forget about your fees, no job will ever pay you enough to cover that, apart from one where you sell weed). A part time job ensures that you earn steady income on a weekly basis to cover your rent, food, travel and other expenses. 

As a foreign student, you will be allowed to work 20 hours a week, and if you do work at this maximum capacity from day one, at a minimum wage of around 6 pounds per hour, you should earn 6400 pounds over twelve months, enough to cover your living expenses. In reality, it might take you a couple of weeks to find a part time job, when you do find one you might not be get enough to fill your 20 hour capacity, and you will be taking breaks from work during exam season or are busy with other aspects of your course, so you will probably make less than 6400 pounds.

Where do you find a part time job? Look at your university website for vacancies. Do they have a student union? Or a career center? Contact these groups to see if they know of any vacancies. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on vacancies. Your university will probably have shops, restaurants & cafes on campus. Contact them to see if they need any staff. Do this weeks before you arrive, or there might not be any vacancies left by then. If you do see a job vacancy online, apply immediately. There might be hundreds of applicants, and vacancies are filled on a first come first serve basis.

If you don't find anything, look around for jobs as soon as you arrive. Talk a walk around the town or city you are staying in during your first week. Drop your CV in at all the coffee shops and fast food joints so they know you’re looking for a job. A good thing about the UK is that there are loads of Indian restaurants everywhere. And Indian restaurants in the UK tend to hire Indian students. Make a round of all such restaurants in your area to see if they need any help. They're always on the lookout for waiters and waitresses but don't bother advertising and usually recruit through word of mouth.

Extra work is usually available during the Christmas and Easter breaks. These vacancies are usually temporary in nature, lasting for 2-4 weeks. Additionally, your university itself should have internal vacancies that open up during the course of the academic year. If you're good at something technical, look for part time teaching jobs where you can teach undergrads for a semester. The pay is really good.

Please do note that finding work during your course should not take precedence over your academics. You have spent a lot of money to come to a foreign country to study, and you shouldn’t risk sacrificing this for immediate economic gain, even if this is what your employer wants.

2.    Don’t stay on campus. Find private accommodation.

Campus accommodation in the UK is comparatively more expensive, and can increase your rent by 30%. Private accommodation by contrast is usually around 800-1000 pounds lower. 

Also, staying on campus means you will probably be required to commute to your town or city centre to stock up on groceries every week. This is inconvenient for two reasons. One, you might not always have room in your fridge or freezer for a week’s worth of food, so you might have to make more than one trip. Two, the money spent on the commute is going to add up. Think two pounds every week for a return bus ticket, for the minimum 10 month (45 week) duration of your course. That's 90 pounds just for the shopping commute. With private accommodation you could try to get a place closer to a supermarket, and walk instead. You'd save 90 pounds. And you wouldn't have to worry about making multiple trips or kitchen space.

Find a cheap place to stay preferably before you get to the UK. Post queries on your university Facebook pages and other online forums which students frequent, asking if anyone needs a roommate. Check Contact former students, particularly Indian ones, to ask if they know of a cheap place to stay, or can recommend a good landlord.

3.    Shop smart

Shops on campus can be expensive. Do your shopping at one of the larger supermarkets, like Co-op, Tesco, Aldi or Lidl. Also, constantly be on the lookout for good deals. Larger supermarket chains tend to mark items down by 25% a day before they expire. Avoid tiny neighbourhood convenience grocery stores. They usually mark items up by 10%.

4.    Track your expenses

Set a weekly spending limit and don't cross this figure, no matter what. If you do, make up the difference by spending less the following week. Make a note of your expenditure so you know if you're nearing the limit. Record what you spend on most and try to reduce this.

5.    Take part in experiments

Universities in the UK have Health and Psychology departments whose students conduct experiments for which they require human volunteers. These experiments can last from 15 minutes to weeks, and usually pay around 5 pounds an hour. Drop by the offices of these departments around dissertation time, or keep an eye out for notices requesting volunteers. Some of the experiments can be fun, and you usually get to know a little bit more about yourself.

6.    Proofread

A lot of students on campus come from countries where English is not a first language, and aren't very comfortable writing long essays in English. If your own English writing skills are good, you can offer your services as a proofreader. Put up notices around campus advertising your services as a proofreader, or get the word around through your friends. Professional proofreading services charge hundreds of pounds to proofread essays, so you should be able to get work by charging less. Even a fee of 50 pounds would be a bargain for students looking to improve their dissertations.

7.    Don’t smoke

Cigarettes are expensive in the UK. A pack can cost around 7 pounds. That’s enough for a meal at a restaurant. Do yourself a favour a try to kick your smoking habit before travelling abroad. Or fill your suitcase with about 200 packs of ‘Goldphlake’. How you’d get that through customs is another problem, though.


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