Starting my IMFSE track in Edinburgh, I would say that the student life at the University of Edinburgh is all about successfully combining classes with social events that are scheduled for the whole semester. Better yet the best time to get a sense of social life is during Welcome Week which usually lasts 9 days. However, there is a catch of having such a long welcome week for which if you are prepared, you can have the best experience. Thus, for any incoming short-term students to have the most efficient and interesting experience during Welcome Week, I listed lessons learned from my experience during that time last year:
1. Any incoming international student must do an International Check-in. Usually, International Check-in lasts 6 days: Saturday – Monday, Wednesday – Friday. If you don’t like standing on the queue for a very long time or waking up very early, you should go to the international check-in on Saturday. To give you an idea about the comparison of the queue below photos were taken on Saturday and Monday.
Picture 1: Dan checked-in on Saturday (1st day of check-in). It took him less than 5 minutes to do so and with no queue.
Picture 2. The photo was taken on Monday (3rd day of check-in). The camera could not grasp the whole extent of the queue.
2. Registering with a General Practitioner is also an important step. There are 2 options to do so: either register with University GP or your local GP where you will be living during studies at the University. Although the queue for University GP registration could be very long, you can fill out the registration form before and bring it to the registration point which will shorten the time of the process.
3. The trickiest task to do for an incoming student (especially for a Scholarship student) is opening a bank account. In the past, short-term students could open a bank account in few banks provided that students show the required documents. However, starting last year, some UK banks have changed their requirements and do not accept Short-term Visa students anymore. Having been to all the banks in Edinburgh, I can say that international students (non-EU students) can only open a bank account in the Bank of Scotland (I asked students from EU and they do not seem to have this problem). So, here is what you need to provide to the Bank of Scotland to open a bank account (NOTE: this information purely comes from experience that me and my peers had and you will not be able to find this online, because most information given on websites of the banks applies only to holders of General Tier-4 visa):
a. Passport, Short-term student visa.
b. If you live in the university accommodation, you can get a Bank Letter where your address is stated. However, as it is stated in the Bank Letter that it is only for use in conjunction with Tier-4 Visa, Bank of Scotland do not accept it. In this situation, the bank asks for a Letter of Introduction from your General Practitioner, where information about you is stated. Unfortunately, university GP does not provide a Letter of Introduction for students, so you should first try registering with a local General practitioner.
c. So, if you live in the university accommodation and for some reason, you could not register with the local GP, go to the bank branch explain your situation and ask if they can do a “Waiver”. “Waiver” is a procedure that banks do if you cannot verify your permanent address of stay during your studies. As it was explained to us, they will call the university’s Accommodation, Catering, and Events office phone number given in the Bank Letter.
d. If you live in Private accommodation, you have multiple choices of documents you can provide to the bank. This can be a Letter of Introduction from your General Practitioner, the official contract between you and your landlord, bills for utilities with your full name and address.
Sandesh, Karim and I faced this situation of opening a bank account and it took us about a week to solve this problem because before us nobody had experienced it.
Other than facing these minor problems, Welcome Week was full of interesting events. Hopefully, when you are there, you will be able to avoid queues and enjoy the full spectrum of events offered by the student societies of the university. Be sure to take advantage of free trips, tours, and lunches, visit Societies and Sports fair, and remember all classes/activities at the university gym are FREE during the Welcome Week, so definitely try that out. You can download “UoE Events” app to keep track of event schedules.