Life in the UK as an international student

Students on campus

The UK is a multicultural country that embraces diversity, and its rich history and cultural attractions are world famous. It welcomes thousands of international students every year.

Life in the UK for international students

The UK welcomes thousands of international students and visitors each year. Gaining an education in the UK, you will be part of a global tradition of travelling for education which goes back centuries.

Sheffield is a welcoming and friendly place. It offers an excellent student experience in a city that is well connected to the rest of the UK and provides many opportunities to explore British culture.

Pre-arrival preparations and challenges

Before you arrive in the UK there are various things you must take into consideration. It is important you have a student visa, organise accommodation and ensure your finances are secure enough for you to live and study in the UK.

Other tasks that can help make the move feel more comfortable are familiarising yourself with the local culture, including important events that take place throughout the year and understanding what the weather will be like where you are studying.

Overcoming homesickness may be a challenge, however, the strong support system available to you at the University of Sheffield International College can help ease the transition. It’s also important to remember that you are not alone and many other international students will be living in the UK for the first time too.

First impressions of the UK educational system and campus life

When studying in the UK, the majority of your learning will take place in the form of lectures, seminars and independent learning. There is a big emphasis on doing your own research and reading to further your knowledge and critical thinking skills – these will be important when trying to impress future employers.

The University of Sheffield is a proud member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities. It has a global reputation for excellent teaching, research, student experience and is 13th in the UK (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024). Russell Group universities have a strong focus on community, with the University of Sheffield being within the top 50 most international universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2023), highlighting its commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive academic environment.

Sheffield’s campus is a vibrant multicultural community that has a welcoming atmosphere. Home to over 350 clubs and societies and a Students' Union that has been voted number one for the past six years in a row by the Whatuni Student Choice Awards (2017-2023), there are plenty of opportunities for you to make friends and discover new hobbies.

Navigating Sheffield: A welcoming city for international students

The local people of Sheffield are usually happy to give you directions if you are lost. Some will even help you find your way around, which is a big advantage while you are getting used to your new life in the UK. There are two universities in Sheffield, and the city is home to over 60,000 students. It is always worth considering that there are other people in the city who are going through a similar experience to you.

Geovanni's inspiring journey at the University of Sheffield

Getting around

Train travel in the UK

You can take the train to most parts of the UK. It is a great way to see more of the British countryside and notice the differences between towns and cities across the country. For example, you can board the train at Sheffield for journeys to:

  • Manchester – less than 1 hour away
  • East Midlands - 1 hour 30 minutes away
  • Birmingham – around 2 hours away
  • London – just over 2 hours away
  • Cambridge – around 2 hours 45 minutes away
  • Edinburgh – around 3 hours 45 minutes away

Air travel in the UK

Around 1 hour and 15 minutes away, Manchester Airport is one of the UK’s largest airports. From here you can take flights within Europe and around the world. Flights depart for U.S. cities like Philadelphia and Orlando, or Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Travel time from Sheffield to UK airports:

  • Manchester Airport – 1 hour 15 minutes by train
  • Birmingham Airport – 1 hour 45 minutes by train
  • London Heathrow Airport – 4 hours by train, or 3 hours by train plus aeroplane from Manchester

Tram travel in Sheffield

Sheffield is one of the few places in the UK which has its own tram service to help people travel across the city. Known as the Supertram, the tram runs seven days a week from early in the morning up until midnight.

Weather in the UK

The weather in the UK is different during each of the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. The differences between seasons are not as extreme as in some countries. Most people always carry a coat or umbrella because the weather can change quickly and rain can fall at any time of year.

Sheffield is in the northeast of England. It can get a little more rain than places on the south coast, but temperatures are rarely as low as those in Scotland. On average, the warmest and sunniest month is July, when temperatures can reach around 20C. Temperatures in January are usually around 5C, and the driest month is March.

Living in Sheffield: during your degree and after graduation

The city of Sheffield is small enough to find your way around easily, but big enough to provide everything you need to enjoy a fun and fulfilling student life. You can visit restaurants, shopping, theatre and cinemas with your new friends during your free time away from studying.

International students can start their career in the UK with the Graduate Immigration Route, a 2-year post-study work visa when they graduate from a UK university. This is a valuable opportunity for students studying at Sheffield, as the University is among the top 20 most targeted UK universities by graduate employers (High Fliers Research 2023), making it an excellent place to begin your future career.

Your student home

The University and the International College organise events to help you get to know others with similar interests. Living in student accommodation is another great way to make friends. You will meet international students from a range of different backgrounds, as well as students from the UK who can help you understand British culture and customs.

Living in student housing gives you the chance to take responsibility for yourself and gain independence too. One way you'll be able to be independent is through grocery shopping. You'll be able to find supermarkets and smaller specialist shops all over the city. Food shops in the UK are very multicultural, allowing you to find cuisine from your home country (as well as your friends' countries) alongside trying stereotypically British food.

Support when you need it

If you ever need someone to listen and advise you on any issues you may experience, you can access the strong support network at the International College. It can be anything from worries about your academic subjects to personal problems like homesickness. Connecting with other students will help you feel more settled and create a network of friends to explore the UK with.

Health services

The University of Sheffield stands as one of the two universities in the UK with its own dedicated Health Service, operating as a National Health Service (NHS) General Practice specifically designed for student health. Students also have the option to seek medical assistance from any other GPs.

Shin from Myanmar

Born in Myanmar. Made in Sheffield.

I’m a big foodie, so I thought food would be a big problem. Coming here, seeing the variety of restaurants that make me really happy and especially the nature, it’s really photogenic. Everywhere I go I can whip out my phone and take a few pictures and I’m pretty sure there’ll be a nice view somewhere.

Shin from Myanmar
Studied International Foundation Year Science and Engineering
Progressed to BEng Bioengineering


Why choose the UK for international studies?

The UK is an excellent choice for international students as it offers world-renowned universities, a diverse and inclusive academic environment and a rich cultural experience. With a range of top-notch courses and globally recognised qualifications, studying in the UK provides a unique opportunity for personal, academic growth and career growth.

How can international students cope with homesickness and maintain mental well-being?

Homesickness can be a difficult challenge for international students. The University of Sheffield International College has a strong support team available to help students with any concerns they have, providing valuable information and guidance.

What are the benefits of studying in the UK?

Studying in the UK offers numerous benefits, including exposure to global perspectives, opportunities for personal growth and top-quality degrees that allow you to stand out to future employers.