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'Academic environment is fantastic in the UK'
Rahul Bhattacharya
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June 27, 2007

With departure dates rapidly approaching, Indian students are booking tickets and preparing to leave for international universities.

To ease their concerns and answer their questions, we've asked students who are already studying abroad to share their experiences.

Today, Rahul Bhattacharya from West Bengal, who is earning his PhD in the UK, shares his story:

My name is Rahul Bhattacharya and I am in the UK studying for a PhD in engineering materials. I attend the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, England [Images]. I've finished one-and-a-half years of my two year programme.

I'm writing this to sum up my own experiences so that other students will know what to expect when they study in the UK.

Arrival and first impressions

I felt really lonely when I arrived in England. I was unaware of the people, the culture, the weather and the food. But, as time passed, I started loving the university and its surroundings. Strangely, Sheffield has become my city; it's like my second home now.

Looking back, it reminds you of leaving home for college in a different city in India -- you must live in a new place, meet new professors and make new friends.

In the UK, the first thing I noticed was the extreme weather. It was cold, grey and rainy. The English climate is so unpredictable that I never knew what to expect. It is said, 'Whenever you go out, bring your umbrella, even on a sunny day!'  

The high cost of household items was also a shock in the initial weeks. I couldn't believe how expensive it was to live in the UK. Even a bar of soap cost Rs 150! But now, spending a pound seems like spending a rupee, even if the conversion rate tells a different story (Rs 70 = 1 pound). 

Housing and transportation 

The most important activity after arrival is finding suitable accommodation. For undergraduates, the residence halls are probably a good option. But, for PhD students, it's advisable to share an apartment or townhouse with fellow students. There is little difference in terms of rent prices, but this kind of accommodation affords you more privacy.

In most cities in the UK, one can easily get a large flat or small house to share with other students. The rent is normally within 300 pounds a month, including all the bills (Rs 24,000). I've heard living in London [Images] is more expensive, so make arrangements if you are planning to study there.

All across the UK, the transportation system is great. In cities, the buses and trams are well-maintained, well-connected and a big help. The transportation system helps students in the daily commute to and from classes and other destinations.

Academic environment

The academic environment is fantastic at most UK universities. At Sheffield, for example, we have 24 hour access to the library and the Internet. Also, the students are well behaved and the staff is cooperative.

The student body is a rich mixture from many different countries and cultures, giving the university a true international character. This allows you to learn about new nations, new cultures, new economies and new political systems.

Also, there are many resources available for international students. For example, the student's union in any university is a great source of help if you have any problems. The union provides assistance to new students, helping them settle down.

Furthermore, many universities have an advice centre for international students. Here, counsellors give advice on all important aspects of life in a new country. It's great to be able to find all the information you need under one roof.

Finally, the international centre helps foreign students get involved in many activities, including sports, music, drama and countless others. If you have an interest or a passion, your university will probably have a like-minded club where you can join and participate.

Food and living

My dietary habits underwent a real change once I started life in the UK. Instead of curry and rice, I saw my classmates and professors eating sandwiches for lunch. At first, I was very concerned that I'd never be able to adjust.

Eventually, I fell in love with the wide variety of sandwiches available in university shops and nearby eateries. Now, I associate the taste and aroma of sandwiches, and not Indian food, with lunch!

There are many shops which sell that British specialty, chips and fish, which are an absolute delight to eat when served hot. There are also restaurants selling Indian food, though it's not the same as the food from home. Yet, the local residents seem to really like it!

There are also a few Asian shops in all cities which sell Indian food including spices like haldi (turmeric) and jeera (cumin). Having these options help; you can cook your own food if you get particularly homesick for proper Indian food.

Our very own Maggi noodles are readily available and a huge hit with most students. Some of my Indian classmates survive on Maggi alone, but for a Bengali like me, fish is a very important dish. I am able to find it at Bangladeshi restaurants and shops; eating fish always reminds me of home.

Nightlife in the UK universities is outstanding. There are so many options for you and your friends. My favourite activity is to enjoy a pint of beer at a local pub, listening to music in the background. Be warned, however; during the weekend, most pubs are overcrowded and can be overwhelming. If you're used to big crowds and lots of noise, you'll fit in perfectly.


Studying abroad has taught me a lot about the world and myself. I've learned a new education system. I've learned how to survive away from home. Last but not the least, I'm learning a different culture and people while preserving my own. This gives me great satisfaction.


~ Are you a student who is studying/ has studied abroad? What advice would you have for other students who may soon be pursuing studies in a foreign country? What are your experience as an international student? What were the things you wished you knew before you left home? Write to us at and we will feature your experiences right here.

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