Two years ago I set out on a new journey to the land of the Scots. Excited yet nervous, I arrived at Dulles International Airport with my three suitcases in hand and my passport. I met up with my fellow WaMStA scholar, Susan, and the next thing we knew, we were flying thousands of miles high up in the sky. We giggling next to one another on the plane, planning our future and mentally preparing ourselves for the move. Less than twenty-four hours later, we were both in our new home, setting up our respective rooms, participating in orientation events, and adapting to our new environment. Generally speaking the move to Scotland was physically easy, unpacking and reorganizing our rooms was a piece of cake but since I treated the beginning of my adventure in Scotland as a temporary, “study abroad” move, I completely disregarded other aspects which were and are necessary for a successful transition. To ease all new students’ transitions into their new university, whether you find yourself coming to WM for the first time or St Andrews for the first time, there are a few things you should keep in mind and take care of as soon as you arrive at your destination:
1. Bank Accounts (US and UK)
Starting off my college career at William and Mary and spending the latter part of my life living in the states, my US bank accounts and all matters relating to it had already been taken care of by my parents (thank you mom and dad). My British bank account on the other hand was non-existent. Before you guys arrive to your new university, make sure to look up banks in the area and find what will suit you best! Ask around for some advice from other students and see what banks they signed up with and hopefully that can ease your decision. Based upon the decision you make, gather all documents necessary for opening an account up and make sure you’re prepared, so that when you arrive to the US or the UK you can quickly go to a bank, make an appointment, and hopefully get your request for an account approved. Make sure to bring the following items when you’re opening an account:
Proof of Education -> A letter from your school confirming that you have a place at the institution studying a course that is longer than 6 months. Your start and graduation dates should also be included in this letter. You can get this from the ASC center at St Andrews or the registrars office at WM.
Passport -> Needed for identification purposes. Also try to bring one more form of ID!
Some banks in St Andrews include, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, TSB, Bank of Scotland, Santander, and Clydesdale Bank. I signed up for an account with TSB and had no issues whatsoever regarding transferring money, depositing money, or making payments. If you guys are interested in asking me any questions about my experience with the bank please feel free to ask me!
P.S. You usually can’t sign up for a phone contract without a UK account, so this is definitely one of the first things you should take care of! And also a slight side note, during orientation week there are huge queues outside these banks filled with students wanting to open their account up, so make opening an account a priority!
2. Acquiring a phone/phone contract
A lot of people in our generation are tech savvy and for the most part have smart phones (iPhones, Androids, etc.), MAKE USE OF THESE when you move to a foreign country and try to avoid buy a new phone if possible. Most US companies have extra international fees and rates depending on the use of your phone, but in order to avoid these fees get your smart phone UNLOCKED before heading over to the UK. I mentioned to my phone company that I was moving away for a little while and asked if they could unlock my phone, and after a new Apple software download, my unlock was ready to go. But remember, if you unlock your phone through your phone carrier, you usually have to keep the contract you are currently on. Personally, my family discovered that it would be cheaper to do so than cancelling my line and paying those cancellation fees, plus I still had a phone line I could continue to use when I came home for breaks which was really convenient! If you guys have this option, it’ll make your life so much easier and will enable you to quickly and swiftly get a new SIM card/phone plan in the UK.
Personally, I ended up not signing up for a phone plan and instead embarked on a “Pay Monthly” plan which is very similar to Pay as You Go. This worked perfectly for me and it enabled me to have 300 minutes, 300 texts, and a certain amount of data for about 10 pounds a month. I found it to be cheaper for me than other options because I was almost always in a wifi area, and most of my messages were sent to iPhones so iMessage saved me a lot of money! But yet again, I would recommend you guys to look up plans and options that work best for you!
There are two phone stores in St Andrews which can help you make you decision when you first arrive to St Andrews: Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4 U. Make sure to check these two places out after you open your bank account and be realistic about how much you’ll use your phone!
3. Gym Membership
Membership at the tiny St Andrews Gym can cost you about 150 pounds per year and around 60 per semester (if you chose only to sign up for one semester vs the year). Keep in mind that if you want to play a sport at St Andrews you’re going to need to pay a 40 pound facilities fee if you do not have a gym membership, but if you do have one you don’t have to pay this facilities fee! DO THE MATH of how many times you’re actually going to go to the gym in a semester/year and from there you can decide whether you’re going to make the most of your membership or whether you’re going to vegetate and not use it at all. If you don’t have a gym membership it’ll be about 4 pounds per visit for you to enter and workout!
Changing from your usual routine and adapting to your new student life can be a bit difficult, but hopefully the information provided above will ease the difficulty for you guys. If you’re ever looking to get some advice on making the WaMStA transition easier feel free to email me, or if you’ll be at WM let me know so we can meet up for some coffee! I’m always here to help!