When you come to the UK from Nigeria, especially for the first time and as an adult, from the airport, you will observe that life in the UK is totally different from what it is in Nigeria. A lot of things will confuse you, but with this guide to living in the UK as a Nigerian student, you should be able to settle in fairly easily and get on with the program faster.
Before I start, if you are not sure about what to consider when choosing a university in the UK read this guide.
1. Network and ask a lot of questions
The UK is an island, but you shouldn’t be when you come to the UK.
More than any other time, you need to network, make friends and acquaintances, and join groups where you’ll meet people with similar interests as you.
For example, if you came to the UK as a student, join your school groups- especially the groups with fellow Nigerian students. If you came to work, get acquainted with your colleagues.
Religious gatherings in the UK have also proven to be good places to make friends/ acquaintances. Take advantage of them.
When you network or join these communities where you’ll meet with people with shared interests, learn from other people’s experiences and ask questions.
A lot of mistakes Nigerians make in the UK can be avoided by asking questions and listening to other people share their experiences. If you are not sure of something- at work, in school, on the road… pretty much anywhere, ask questions. People here are very willing to help or point you in the direction of someone who can answer your questions if they can’t. So don’t be shy or proud to ask questions.
Networking could also require that you attend conferences. They don’t have to be academics-related or conferences organized by your school. They could be conferences where you can learn more about things you are interested in, or where you can meet with people in industries you have interested in.
2. Make use of school resources
Schools in the UK have different resources to help students. Library resources, study resources, writing resources, etc. One of the first things you may observe when you start studying in the UK is that the learning culture and system here is different from what you have been used to in Nigeria. It may take a while for you to absorb this new reality. I’ll advise you to absorb it quickly and take advantage of all the resources from your first semester.
Lecturers in the UK are approachable. In fact, they feel bad if students don’t approach them for help with their studies. Some lecturers are fine with helping you review your assignment before submission. They won’t help you write it. They’ll tell you what to do to make it better so you get good grades.
All the texts you need for your courses are in the library. If you don’t find hard copies, you’ll find digital copies. If you don’t find either, you have the right to write to the library to request for it. If you need help with writing, there are writing workshops the school organizes you can sign up for.
There are also other resources the school provides you could benefit from, eg: counseling, interview preparation guide.
3. Start your assignments early
From the start of the semester, you’ll know when your assignments are due. Most module coordinators split the assessments for their course into 2. For some, it’s 3.
In some schools, you take one course/ month before moving on to another course the next month. But most schools don’t do this, You take all your courses for the semester simultaneously. This means your due submission dates for your assignments will be back to back.
At the beginning of the semester, it may look like you have a lot of time to complete your assignments because their due submission dates will be 1 – 2 months ahead. But if you don’t start your assignments early, you’ll soon discover that you have little time as submission dates for different courses are usually just days or one or 2 weeks apart from each other.
In a case where you can’t submit your assignment before the deadline, ask for an extension. Your module leader/ course adviser can furnish you with details on how to go about this. You can also check your school portal for how to.
4. Have someone you talk to
This point is for your mental health.
Unlike in Nigeria, in the UK most people keep to themselves. The most caring question you’ll be asked for a long time is ‘you o-rai?’ (are you all right?). Your neighbor won’t hail you on the road or ask you how you are doing or why your face isn’t bright. Here, there’s no ‘market woman’ who will genuinely care about how your family is doing, and if you hear from your parents often. And these little conversations here and there are things that keep us sane in Nigeria. (I didn’t know this till I came here).
So, it will help your mental health greatly if you have close family or friends you can share how you feel with often because when you come to the UK, the culture and tradition shift will put you on a roller coaster of emotions.
5. Learn how to use Google Maps quickly
Google Maps is a very useful tool here. In addition to using Google Maps to navigate your way from point A to point B, you can use it to know what bus or train to hop on, what time your bus/ train is coming, what bus stop to wait for the bus at, and when to end your trip.
6. Stay warm and prepare for winter
Half the year, the weather in the UK is cold and dull and this can affect your mood negatively. It can even cause depression. The UK is characterized by four seasons- spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Met Office records that winter lasts for 3 months (December – February). But I tell you most solemnly, winter lasts for up to 6 months in the UK. You need to be psychologically, emotionally, and even financially prepared for winter. You need to be financially prepared for winter because you will have to spend more keeping your house warm when winter comes.
7. As often as you can, eat your local dishes
This is also another factor that will help you with your mental health and emotional stability.
Before I came to the UK, I knew food affects the mood but I didn’t know how much it does. I thought it was just hunger that made people have mood swings. I didn’t imagine that not eating the meals you are used to could affect your mood as well.
There was a time I stayed for a couple of weeks without tasting soup, and my mood during that period wasn’t great. I thought it was stress from school and trying to adjust to the UK that was making me feel gloomy for weeks. But as soon as I ate eba and egusi soup, I was instantly happy. Eziokwu m (true talk)!
Buying Nigerian foodstuff isn’t as expensive as you may think. In the guide I published on how to prepare when coming to the UK from Nigeria, I wrote that there are many African stores in the UK where you can buy local Nigerian foodstuff in the UK. If you can’t find a store that does by using Google, ask Nigerians and other Africans in your community.
8. Take advantage of student discounts and student offers
Coaches, rail lines, some stores, and some companies give student discounts. Taking advantage of them will save you some money. But while taking advantage of them, don’t take it as an excuse to spend unnecessarily.
9. Spend wisely
It’s easy to think 50p, £1, £3, £5 do not matter much when making unplanned expenses on unnecessary things because the reasonable denominations in Nigeria are triple digited and the purchasing power of the naira is abysmal. But every pence matters in the UK.
10. Take time to rest
Coming to the UK puts a lot of people in a lot of debt. A lot of Nigerians work back to back so they can clear their debts, sort the balance on their school fees, sort the necessary bills, send money home and pay their taxes. I understand. But whilst working to make ends meet, remember to take time to rest.
11. Beware of public funds
Beware of public funds and any other thing that could jeopardize your chances of achieving your goals in the UK especially if you plan to stay after your studies.
As a student on a UK study visa, your visa condition exempts you from public funds. Unfortunately, the system does NOT make it impossible for you to access public funds- even though you should NOT benefit from it. This means you may apply for and GET benefits that are classified as public funds, and this is a violation of your visa terms that can cost you your post-study visa. So be careful when applying to benefit from government-sponsored offers. If you are not sure about whether you ought to benefit from an offer, contact your school’s information center.
There are other conditions attached to your study visa, such as how many hours you can work weekly, the type of jobs you cannot take, self-employment prohibition, etc. Again, if there’s anything you are not so sure about, contact your school or the gov.uk website for information.
Questions related to Guide to Living in the UK as a Nigerian Student people also ask
What happens if I work over 20 hours on a UK student visa?
As a full-time student, you are restricted to working for just 20 hours a week when school is in session. You can work for up to 40 hours during the holiday. Some schools also limit full-time students to 20 hours per week even during the holidays. If you flout this rule, you risk losing the opportunity to renew your visa after your studies.
Is Studying in the UK worth it?
In my opinion, it is absolutely worth it?, especially when you study in a good school. A lot of schools in the UK offer quality education and have course modules that are practical as well as theoretical. So if you have chosen a good university, you will enjoy studying in the UK. Studying in the UK also gives you the opportunity to meet people from so many countries. The UK is multi-ethnic, and you will meet people from countries you did not even know exists.
Is it easy to work and study in the UK?
If you can create a balance between work and studies, then it will be relatively easy for you to work and study. With your school timetable in mind, you can choose what days to pick shifts so you don’t miss classes and other important school functions.
This guide to living in the UK as a Nigerian student is not exhaustive. You will still learn a lot from your experience and when you interact with people. Living in the UK as a Nigerian student is interesting, adventurous, and challenging. You may not figure a lot of things out quickly when you come. But don’t beat yourself about it. Have a long-term plan when you come. It won’t hurt to keep what you want to do after your studies in mind from day 1 of your arrival in the UK as it will guide you on certain decisions to take.