Things I would have done differently/wish I had known before arriving in Cardiff
It takes a day to unpack, and two weeks plus to settle in.
I am still not done with the things I need to do to feel officially done with moving in, so here are some things I wish I had done differently/knew about before coming to Cardiff:
1) That I had the choice of picking up my Biometric Residence Card from the Cardiff University Student’s Union. I didn’t see that option on my visa application, and I had to find my way to the nearest post office with just my google maps as my guide.
2) That I had gotten my ID and Residence card my first day in. It would have made opening my bank account much easier. I currently am still waiting for my appointment, so if you plan to go to Cardiff for a year, make getting an appointment at the bank of your choice a priority. One useful piece of advise is that the bank that is in the Student Union charges a fee for having an account with them. I chose to try for Lloyds, but everyone else seems to have as well. (There are two other Universities in Cardiff, and they have internationals as well)
3) The Student Union offers wristbands. They are competing with other “Fresher” events sets/wristbands (they may be called “freshers” but everyone seems to go). Know which set your flatmates are choosing, or you will be left out. I can only recommend the “Give it a Go” wristband. I did not really go to much of the dances, because I am used to being home at about 12am, and the dances don’t really start really getting big until 1.
4) Be warned that UK students stay up much later than their American counterparts, and are much more used to alcohol.
5) There are differences in bedding from where I am from; duvets need duvet covers, and duvet covers come with pillowcases, so there really is no need to buy separate cases.
6) Even though you’re told to try to scrounge from what other people leave behind, you are probably going to need to buy your own cooking gear. Know what kinds of things you need and how to check if they are good. The one good thing is that Cardiff holds a rummage sale for this kind of stuff, so dishes and silverware can be gotten cheap.
7) You need a phone for Tesco, and if the room’s welcome packet doesn’t change, there will be a simcard from Giff-Gaff inside of the playing card deck it gives. It appears to be one of the better options, and the one the international students at the help desk recommended to me. DO your own research, but be sure you know exactly what a company needs for registration before you get to the UK. I didn’t look at the application page, and that made me lose some time.
8) Clubs are for sports, and Societies are for what I’d think of as clubs. You can really only choose so many, and you have to pay a fee to be in any of them. Go to their “taster” or “Give it a Go” events before the Club fair if possible, certain clubs may have discounted joining fees, so knowing what you’re paying for is a good idea. I did a impulse buy, and am regretting it. I am not regretting the club I went to a taster of.
9) A second thing to note is that many club and society meeting schedules overlap, be sure to not pick more than a total of four to five in total to not feel like you’re skipping out on all of the events you’ve paid fees to go to.
10) Courses do not talk to each other, and all of them will have different methods of registering you for courses. Be Warned.
11) People wear dark colors, even at night. If you wear “light” anything, you will stand out. Even medium toned blues can stick out. I have seen bright colors, but I do not yet know when things are allowed, so good luck with your own wardrobe.
12) Unless you are in a science, assume you will have a lot of down time, and make sure you stay busy during them all. There are supposed to be a lot of papers that will sneak up on you.
13) Go to any International info sessions you get told about, and go to the study abroad office, not the International student’s office, to insure that you’ve heard about all the meetings just in case. Learning how to use the school’s tech is terrifying even after the how tos, so trying to do it by yourself is not advisable.
14) Cardiff offers free language courses. You do need to buy books from them. Wednesdays are a good slot for them, but Wednesdays are also educational half-days, so know that you are probably going to be missing out on club/society stuff to do the courses.
That’s all I can think of at the moment, I’ll do a better reflection on the City of Cardiff once I’ve seen more of it.
You can just stay mostly around the University and the closer parts of city centre without much effort.
P.S. Words mean different things here e.g. “college” basically means high school, and there really aren’t American style colleges in the UK, because college is something that people choose to do here, rather than feel they must like at home.