Know what's in store before you go

STUDYING ABROAD

On-arrival formalities: Please call your family as soon as you arrive, for reassurance. Ensure that you have made prior arrangements with the university for pick-up services.

In case there is no one to pick you up, do not panic. Go to the nearest phone booth and contact your university/institution. They may also guide you to the National Express Coaches that are located right outside the airport.

Orientation
This is a ‘must attend’, in order to learn about your new surroundings and to avoid any daunting experience in the new country of your stay. Most universities go to great lengths to welcome its fresh batch of students.

This is a good platform to meet and make friends with students from all over the world, staff and faculty. This is the time when students receive class time-tables and ID cards. You must familiarise yourself with the route to and from your accommodation to your classroom and university facilities.

Enrolment and personal tutor
The most important thing to do on arrival is to enrols yourself at your institution. During enrolment, the university will provide its fresh batch of students with advice on courses and combinations that can be taken. Students will be assigned a personal tutor too.

It is then left to the student to visit the assigned tutor and keep him/her abreast of any problems they may face during their stay. These tutors are open to any form of clarification, so use this option whenever required.

Services on campus
All universities are usually well geared to welcome international students and offer a wide range of services for their welfare. These include international student advisor, non-academic support, computing facilities, career advisors, campus recruitment, etc.

Samaritans: 24-hour support
‘The Samaritans’ is a charitable organisation that provides confidential support to individuals in emotional distress. Link: www.samaritans.org; Phone: (0845) 790 9090

Register with a doctor
Registration with the local general practitioner is done during the orientation week. If you arrive after the orientation week, register within the first few days of your arrival. The university usually provides a list of recommended doctors.

With the exception of charges for some prescriptions, the NHS remains free for anyone who is a resident in the UK. The consultants are free but medicines need to be paid for.

Work rules
Before starting the hunt for a job in the UK, make sure that your visa permits you to work. If yes, check if there is a limit on the maximum number of hours allowed per week. Note that UK immigration rules for work are now based on a new points-based system. For more details on the rules for working in the UK, log onto www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk.

Don’t try to work illegally. If you are caught, you will probably be sent back to your home country (deported). If this happens, you may find it difficult to travel abroad in the future.

Culture shock
As a race, the British are more reserved than Europeans and Americans. They are also very particular about etiquette and public decorum. Here are few areas that you need to pay attention to:

*Use the magic words as often as required . ‘Please’, ‘excuse me’, ‘thank you’, and ‘sorry’.
*They say punctuality is the politeness of Kings. Get to your lecture/ appointments five minutes early rather than five minutes late.
*Queuing up: The British strictly believe in forming a queue for everything. Boarding a bus, buying cinema tickets, etc. So never jump the queue.
*Chivalry: Opening and holding doors for others, especially women, is highly regarded in this country. Give up your seat for an elderly person when on a bus. Be courteous.
*Politeness comes in many forms including switching off your mobile phone when in class or a meeting. Requesting rather than demanding or ordering others is another form of politeness.
*Cleanliness is next to godliness. Keep your room and the common areas clean and do not damage any public property. Be aware of your noise level when in a group. Civic sense is considered highly in the UK.

Alcohol and drinks
One of the cultural aspects of British society is to drink and socialise. Students do not have to necessarily drink to be accepted. It is just as easy to have an orange juice and have a good time. In the UK, it is illegal to buy alcohol if you are less than 18 years of age. It is also illegal to carry and use any sort of drugs, unless they are prescribed by a doctor.
If you require any kind of advice regarding housing, drugs, etc., visit the following website: www.bbc.co.uk/crime/law , www.prepareforsuccess.org.uk

Education system
You should expect to have a mixture of lectures, seminars (or small discussions groups) and ‘tutorials’. Tutorials are weekly one-on-one sessions or small group discussions with a ‘tutor’, or professor. Your teachers probably will grade you on the basis of various oral and written tests throughout the year. When you finish your degree, you will be classed in one of the following ways:

*70% & above — distinction/First
*60% - 69% — (2:1)
*50% - 59% — (2:2)
*40% - 49% — (Third)
*40% + (Pass) — which includes reassessment marks.

One of the main things students will notice is that all British universities and colleges place emphasis on private study. Students are not spoonfed. They are expected to do their studies, including project work and assignments on their own. So if you want to make the most of your degree, remember this quote “you get out of your degree what you put in yourself.”

Plagiarism
International students at times face allegations of ‘plagiarism’. Indian students too have faced this problem and it is important that they are fully aware of what plagiarism is and the means to avoid it. The penalty for plagiarism at times is dismissal from the university or withdrawal of the degree award.

You should be aware that all projects and assignments are processed through a university software that enables the institution to identify if the work is original or has been copied. If a student knowingly allows another student to copy, both parties will be guilty of collision.

Examples of plagiarism which apply both to conventional sources and information downloaded from the internet are:
*Inclusion of more than a single phrase from another’s work without the use of quotation marks and appropriate acknowledgement of source;
*Summarising another’s work by changing a few words or altering the order of presentation without acknowledgement;
*Copying another’s work as it is;
*Use of another’s ideas without acknowledgement or the presentation of work as if it is the student’s own.
If you are unclear about how to reference material, you should consult the lecturer who has set the assignment.

(The writer is Director, The Chopras)

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