As many of you know, I am an international student from India, studying BSc Marine Biology. As my family and I have been moving back and forth from India to the UK, I ended up finishing my GSCEs/secondary school in the UK. This made my international visa application process easier, so my experience may not be representative of the average experience. Nevertheless, I will share my experiences and relevant hurdles when applying to international universities.
In India, we have several overseas education consultants that help students with their application process and guide them throughout; and it’s all completely free. So, if you are an international student, make sure you research and identify such institutes before drilling a hole in your pockets. These institutes aren’t only affiliated with UK based universities, but also other universities around the globe, which gives you plenty of opportunities to assess the choices you make. Please do make the right choice as you may be stuck with it for 1-3 (or more) years.
Like everyone else, I picked out five universities for Marine Biology in the UK and an additional university as my back up for a different course. Plymouth University was my first choice out of the five and I was very thrilled when I got in. Alongside my University application, which involved writing a statement of purpose (SOP) letter and sorting out my UCAS letter, I also applied for a scholarship, which I did end up getting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fly thousands of miles to make it to the Open or Applicant Day, however there was an Orientation event that the University organises in most international countries in major cities. It was a good opportunity (especially for my mum) to enquire about finances, student life, halls, societies and government related questions. Bearing in mind, the counsellors do go through most of the enquiries prior to applying.
Following orientation day, we proceeded with the visa application, which obviously involved filling in an application form, paying for health facilities and sorting out tuition fees. The visa application process also included a formal interview, the frequency and intensity of these interviews depend on factors like grades, board education, etc. I didn’t have to take any kind of English language test like IELTS (which is a requirement for global migration, especially for the UK) as I had achieved a high grade in GCSE English which I’d completed in the UK, and this is where I had it easier than most internationals. Once I had my visa to hand, the rest of the process was pretty straightforward. Additionally, the University organizes for some student ambassadors to go all the way to Heathrow International Airport to escort the arriving international students to a coach which brings them down to Plymouth. Although this was not something I opted for, the support that international students receive from the time they arrive in Plymouth, till the time they graduate is amazing, especially if you are someone travelling abroad or the UK for the first time.
My experience on this doesn’t mean that you will have the exact same experience, as different countries have different requirements. Please do your necessary research and take up any necessary eligibility tests. Just to add, for any students that have field trips as part of their degree, make sure you have ample information before applying for your trip related visa; the international student advisory services were helpful with this.