Student Tips

International Student Toolkit 🛠️

15th July 2019

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When I first moved from Sweden to Bristol in 2016 I really had no clue of where to begin – it was all very exciting, but there are a few things I wish I would have known before getting on that flight to the UK. Moving to a new place can be a bit scary, let alone a new country(!), and to make things less daunting I have put together a Toolkit 🛠️ that I wish I had in the beginning as an international student at BIMM:

Find reliable and decent accommodation

I ended up signing an online contract for a room in a shared household about a month before the move, and was quite disappointed when I arrived; a great little room, but not a very pleasant house (I never set foot in the kitchen..). It only took me a month before deciding to move out and instead turn to student accommodation. Student halls such as Host Students, Unite Students and iQ Student Accommodations are a little bit more expensive, but SO worth it when you are a first year international student. Make sure you sign up EARLY for these halls, as they go very quick. But if you are lucky, like me, they might have some rooms available for late sign-ups. You can always move into a house share with the friends you’ve gained next year.

Don’t forget to get your National Insurance Number sorted ASAP!

I instantly started looking for work when I arrived in Bristol, and even though it went really well, all employers requested a National Insurance Number in order to add me to the payroll. I had no idea this was required, so it took me a while before I actually got paid. You can only apply for a National Insurance number once you are in the UK, and you have to call to make an appointment:

National Insurance number application line

Telephone: 0800 141 2075
Textphone: 0800 141 2438
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Make this a priority when you arrive in the UK! It takes a few weeks for your National Insurance Number to arrive in the post.

Get a student bank account and card

Another issue when I first started working was a bank account – I couldn’t get paid unless I had an english one. And I couldn’t get a bank account unless I had proof of address AND a National Insurance Number! So once I had both sorted, I went to NatWest to open my account. This took some time, so make sure you sort this out as soon as possible as well. Different banks offer different deals for students – some give you a free rail card for example! – so make sure you do your research before deciding which one suites you.

Sign up to a GP

This is so important – signing up for a GP can take up to two weeks, and you definitely want to make sure you have access to the NHS before anything happens. This is super easy to do – just head to the General Practitioner practice closest to where you live and ask for a sign-up form. They will ask for a copy of your passport and maybe proof of address, so make sure you have these at hand.

Get a pay-as-you-go sim card to begin with

 I couldn’t get a proper phone contract when I first arrived in the UK as you need to show the phone provider a 3 month history of your British bank account, and I had just opened mine. So instead I bought a new phone and got myself a pay-as-you-go sim card. It took me THREE YEARS before actually sorting out a proper phone contract, as the pay-as-you-go worked great for me. I recommend EE – it’s cheap and they have the best signal in the UK!

Join the BIMM Student Group

When I arrived in the UK I didn’t know anyone – and this is where the BIMM student Facebook  group really helped. Through this I got in contact with other students and loads of us met up weeks before uni actually started, which was a great way to get to know some people before beginning our first year! Some of these people are my best mates today. Just search for ‘BIMM *name of the city you are in* Student Group’ on Facebook and it should show up!

Sign-up for UNiDAYS

Being a student means lots of great perks! By signing up to UNiDAYS you will get access to hundreds of discount codes that will save you (and your money) during your time at BIMM. They have everything from clothes and electronics to food and gym memberships! Once you get your student email, sign up here.

Do go to the BIMM Freshers Events

The week before uni starts BIMM always put on a Freshers events for all the new first years. This is such a great way to not only meet lots of fellow students, but also to experience some of the great acts BIMM has got to offer. There will be open mic nights, jam nights, pub crawls and gigs! It’s so much fun and a great introduction to what your time at BIMM will be like.

Explore the city

I arrived in the UK about a month before uni began, so I had loads of time to familiarise myself with the city I was in. I absolutely loved just walking around in Bristol, going to all the different cafes, reading a book in the park. Finding my way around the city once uni started also made me feel a lot less insecure about all the new things happening.

Make friends for life and have fun

Just enjoy it – this is not only a degree for us international students, it’s an adventure! We get to see a completely different country and culture in the best possible way, and my primary advice would be to just really make the best of it. Put the work in, but have fun!


Sally von Hofsten

Sally von Hofsten moved from Sweden to the UK in 2016 and recently graduated from the Professional Musicianship Vocals course at BIMM Bristol. Though currently engaged in marketing projects, management and content production (see @silentmedia_ on Instagram), her interests also includes arranging harmonies and travelling.