Helena Pozniak briefs you on what to expect when you get here

How will I be taught? This depends on what you are studying. You may have timetabled classes - lectures, seminars and practical work - but will be expected to work on your own too, researching and completing projects. Great importance is given to independent thought in UK universities and colleges. Questions are encouraged.

What's the difference between lectures and seminars? Lectures are large classes where a lecturer talks about a subject and the student takes notes. Not much time for questions. Seminars are much smaller classes and often last longer. Students usually prepare and an take active part.

What's it like to live among the British? Britain is multicultural, more so in cities than in rural areas, and London is a mixed, mostly tolerant city. But don't expect anyone to speak your language - if you haven't understood, say so.

Is it easy to integrate? If you want to. Traditionally, the British are reserved and don't speak much to strangers in queues and public places - but this doesn't mean they're unfriendly. You may be asked for coffee and a chat. Many students drink to socialise but drinking alcohol is not obligatory! Another popular activity for students is to get together to watch movies on DVD.

Everyone says it rains a lot in England - is it true? The weather is unpredictable, especially in spring (March-May) and autumn (September- November). It's useful to have a waterproof and layers to keep out the cold (you can buy these cheaply in the UK). Expect winter temperatures (December-early March) of around 1-5 degrees and summer of around 14-20 degrees (although summer highs can reach 28 degrees or more in some parts of the country). Expect long periods of grey, damp weather.

Is there much difference between north and south? It is colder in the north but with no huge variations. Places close to the east coast can suffer cold winds, while the west coast of the UK tends to be wetter.

Can I go out at night? London is one of the safest capital cities in the world - and elsewhere the UK is relatively safe. If you are on foot, keep to busy well-lit areas. If travelling on trains or buses, sit near other people, and avoid completely empty compartments and isolated stations. It is a criminal offence to carry any weapons and illegal to carry CS spray.

What about personal safety? Keep a record of personal belongings such as credit cards, passports and travellers cheques. Keep your bag where you can see it. Don't leave it on the floor when you are out on the town. In an emergency, ring for police or an ambulance on 999.

Can I use my home driving licence in the UK? You may be able to use your current licence for up to 12 months and then take a test. Or you may be able to exchange it for a British or provisional licence and then take a test. It depends where you are from. You will need either a valid licence or an international driving permit to drive.

What are the rules of the road? Drive on the left. At a roundabout give priority to traffic from the right. Don't break the speed limit. Don't use a mobile phone. Don't drink and drive.

Can I use the internet? You will generally have access to the internet in libraries, computer rooms and faculties, or in student rooms. They may give you an e-mail address or you can get one free through websites like www.yahoo.co.uk or www.hotmail.com.

What about mobiles? If you already use a GSM phone you can buy a new SIM card. There are several mobile networks in the UK - shops can sell phones for all services. They advise on the cheapest deal. It's expensive to call between mobiles on different networks.

What about phoning abroad? The cheapest way is with a phone card, sold at most newsagents and post offices. Pick one that has the best rate for your country.

What if I need to see a doctor? If your course lasts at least six months you get free health treatment. Many GPs have clinics on or near university sites. If it's less you may get limited health treatment but free emergency treatment.

Health: Is everything free? Most is if you're eligible for health treatment. You may have to pay for some dental treatment and a standard charge for medicines.

Health: What about my family? Children up to the age of 16 (or 19 if in full-time education) don't normally pay for treatments. Your spouse will be eligible for the same healthcare as you.

What is British food? Typically, breakfast is cereal with milk and toast; lunches are soup, sandwiches or salad; and dinner or supper is typically meat or fish and vegetables, usually including potatoes.

What if I don't like it? In bigger towns and cities you can buy all kinds of foods from ethnic shops and supermarkets. There's a huge variety of takeaways and restaurants - some very cheap - for Chinese, Indian, Italian, Thai, Turkish and Japanese food. Plus, you can always find British favourites, such as fish and chips.

Comments