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International Programs

United Kingdom: Hull Student Experience

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THE HOST UNIVERSITY

The University of Hull is located in Hull, a small town on the water. Hull is only one hour (by train) from the historical city of York (a must-see for all). Also, Scarsborough and Leeds are a quick and usually inexpensive train ride away. Since Hull is located on a seaport, the winds are extremely icy and cold. It rains a lot and is usually gray. Temperatures range from 25°F - 60°F.

ACADEMIC LIFE

Hull requires less time in the classroom than in US systems. You spend about 9 hours per week in lectures and tutorial groups, as compared to 15 hours at home. Most classes or modules are divided into lectures (class time) and seminar/tutorials (lab). Lectures are large classes, about 100+ students and seminar/tutorials are small groups of around 10 students. Independent learning is stressed much more here that at home. Essays and written exams are the usual way of assessment. Most important thing to remember is that the grading system is different (apparently it is difficult to get a 70%, so if you get a 50%, don't worry, you are doing well). Don't bring writing paper--the size is different. The classes are not graded based on continued assessment; you generally have one essay and one exam, or two papers for each class which are worth a large percentage. Essay assignments tend to ask for a lot of quotes and academic references. Each class hands out a handbook that gives an overview of the course. There are often long book lists, but these are recommended reading and are not required to purchase (they specify the ones you do need to buy.) Reading is still extremely important and you should take the suggestions seriously. You can find most of the books in the university library.

The university gives you an e-mail account, but it is suggested you open a hotmail or Yahoo account before you leave because school e-mail tends to break down a lot. You can use internet facilities at the library or the computer center. You can also seek help for your assignments at the Study Advice Center in the library.

Registration here does not involve any computers, so be prepared for long queues and disorganization. Luckily, you only have to do it once.

Hull has an excellent Student Union. It is well run and has more activities than you can handle and facilities that accommodate everyone. There is a wonderful students association, a job exchange and volunteer center, two bars, a café, a fitness center, and a nightclub. There is also a Waterstone’s bookstore, which sells textbooks, and a student store, containing basic groceries, school supplies, and University of Hull clothing. The Student Union is basically the social center of the university. There are many clubs and organizations to get involved with, as well as a variety of athletic teams, which welcome all skill levels. There are quizzes every Tuesday and Karaoke nights every Thursday. Discos are held every Friday and Saturday on campus. The students are very friendly. There is not much to do in the city, so the students stick together and it is lots of fun. Students have discounted entry to nightclubs at least once a week. British students go out every night of the week. You will quickly become accustomed to the dress code for these places. Many clubs have theme nights where the students dress up in costumes!

A good organization to look into is the International Students Association, or ISA. They provide support for all visiting students and organize social events to help students adjust to living in a new country. Some events include dances, karaoke nights, football tournaments, and a culture night. They also organize trips throughout the UK and Europe for their members at very convenient prices.

SHOPPING (Top)

The city centre is your best bet for shopping. In addition to Princes Quay Mall, the streets are lined with every kind of shop. There is a second mall, called St. Stephens, located right next to the train station.

Grocery shopping can be tricky. The only big supermarket, Tesco, which is located in the St. Stephens Mall, is out of the way. The best alternatives are Netto, Fultons Foods, Kwik Save, and Aldi. Stay clear of Jacksons, they are ridiculously expensive. Another great place to shop is Newland Avenue, which is right by the student houses on Cranbrook Ave. Newland has a Tesco Express, a Laundromat, a post office, several butchers, clothes stores, specialty shops, cafes, a blockbuster, and more. The best place to buy your produce and meat is from the market downtown. The prices are cheaper than the supermarkets and the quality tends to be better as well. 

If you want to buy clothes, there are plenty of shops for different price ranges. For nice affordable clothes, there is an H&M and Top Shop in St. Stephens. The cheapest clothes are at Primark, which is at Princes Quay Mall. Primark is the British version of JcPenny, so they have cheap, good-quality clothing (shirts as low as 2 pounds), as well as other household goods, such as linen, towels, pillows, etc. 

For other household items, you can find them at the big Tesco in St. Stephens. The big Tesco is similar to Target or Wal-Mart, where they have clothes, electronics, cleaning supplies, appliances and other household goods as well as groceries. Sign up for a Tesco club card if you shop there often; it is free to apply and every few months you are mailed coupons specific to your shopping patterns. You can also purchase household items from any Argos store; one is located across from the train station and there are several more throughout downtown. You can also find toiletries at one of the many pharmacies or drug stores around the city. The largest one is Boots, located downtown. They offer a discount card as well. Collect all the discount cards you can, as every saving helps!

Hull is a small town, but there are many different things to do. There are several museums, all with free admission, a skating rink, a bowling alley, an aquarium, bars, clubs, two cinemas, theaters, plenty of restaurants, and a football stadium. There is also Old Town, which has many historic buildings and beautiful parks. Take the time to explore; there is always something new to see.

HOUSING (Top)

There are several different accommodations to choose from. Some are just a block away from campus and some are two miles away. The Student Houses (homes that house between 6-10 people) and the Taylor Court Flats (traditional dorm rooms) are a 3 minute walk from campus.  The other dorm buildings (such as the Lawns) are located in Cottingham, a small district of Hull, and require a bus ride to campus. Most international students are housed in coed student houses (small town houses). There are two main streets of student houses so it is easy to meet people. The houses are very close to campus--a one minute walk so there is no excuse for being late. The rent is cheap about £35 per week, which is about half of what one would pay for the same type of housing in London. These houses have a stove and oven but no microwaves. Most kitchens are fully equipped, students need to provide their own dishes and silverware, but you can buy what you need here. The student houses have a washing machine, but do not have dryers; you will need to purchase a drying rack downtown. Beds, desks and wardrobes are provided, but students need to bring or buy linens for their beds. A good investment is a bed duvet, which you can get here for less than £10. Every room has its own phone and if a student has a computer they can log on to the internet. The rooms are small and plain, as is the rest of the house, but pictures and posters make the dull walls bearable. Bring as little as possible with you (heavy suitcases are difficult to travel with and you can get most of what you need here.) If you do not want to share a room you will be sent to Head Leasing Office. They operate under the school. The housing is owned by a landlord, but you only deal with the office and you pay the school.

Bring very few electrical appliances with you; it is easier to buy those items here, such as hairdryers; you can buy them cheap and sell them before you leave. Most US electrical items that you need to bring, such as laptops, camera chargers, and cell phones, already have transformers built into them – check to make sure. If this is the case, you will only need British adaptors to plug them in. If they do not, you can always bring a converter and adaptor for them, but it is best to leave them at home and buy new British ones to avoid harming the equipment.

It is very important to get your housing application in on time, call and make sure it has been received. You can choose to pay in full or in three installmentsnd va. Both options have their benefits. I found it best to pay in installments, as the poulue decreased throughout the year, saving me money. It also makes it easier to change accommodation if you need to.

Bring pictures and a few small items from home to decorate your room. It makes a world of difference!

TRANSPORTATION

The best way to get around town is by bus. If you live in the Taylor Court Flats or the Student Houses, you do not need to buy a semester bus pass unless you plan to go downtown every day, but it is recommended for the students staying in Cottingham. There are two main bus companies operating in Hull; East Yorkshire and Stagecoach, both of which offer semester passes. Stagecoach also offers a weekly pass and a ten-ride pass that lasts for a month. The main buses you will use are the 15, 105, and 115, which take you from downtown to the University and to Cottingham. The bus depot is part of the train station, which is in the center of downtown. 

MONEY AND BANKING (Top)

You will have the option of opening an account or using your American bank. The main advantage to a British account is no ATM fees, but wiring money to the account can be expensive. Forget traveler’s checks--use your ATM card when you get here. Some opened a bank account at HSBC bank and deposited traveler’s checks. Later they closed that account and began using their home account and withdrawing money using their ATM card. The value of pounds and dollars tends to fluctuate, so you may want to keep your money in US dollars and pull out pounds using your ATM card to protect the value of your savings. Almost every store accepts your ATM and credit cards, but the UK operates with a data chip system, so make sure to inform them your cards from home are swipe cards; it helps avoid confusion.

VACATION AND TRAVEL

Many visiting students take trips around the United Kingdom and Europe during long weekends, winter break, and spring break. If you wish to travel around the United Kingdom, you can save money on your train tickets by buying them from the train station in advance. You can also get train tickets for a very low discount at www.thetrainline.com. Invest in a student railcard as soon as possible! It costs around 25 pounds and you need to bring a passport sized photo when you buy it at any train station, but it saves you a lot of money on train tickets.   

If you wish to fly to Europe, you can find affordable flights through RyanAir (ryanair.com), EasyJet (easyjet.com), FlyBe (flybe.com), and BMIBaby (bmibaby.com), all discount airlines. The closest airport is Manchester Airport, but you can also fly from Birmingham International, Humberside Airport, and several airports in London. You can

also save money by staying in hostels. You can locate nice affordable hostels and hotels through studentuniverse.com and hostelworld.com.

You may also want to purchase an International Student Identity Card, which you must purchase in the United States before coming to study abroad. They cost around $25, but they provide significant savings in cities all over the world, including museums and tour sites, as it gives you student discounts.   

Travel as often as you can! Cities in the UK and Europe are very accessible, and every city has something amazing to see and great people to meet. It will give you wonderful stories to tell and experiences you will remember forever!

Arriving in the United Kingdom

If you fly into London, you'll have to take a train from King’s Cross Station to Hull. If you come in from Heathrow, you can take the Paddington Connect to Paddington Station (signs direct you through Heathrow and it costs around 6 pounds), then take the Metro from Paddington to King’s Cross. The underground sounds confusing, but it is easy to navigate with a tube map. Ask for help if you need it!

It takes around two and a half hours on the train from London to Hull. Since you will have large luggage, you can grab a taxi from the Hull train station. Taxi’s average about 5 pounds for the ride from the station to the student houses.

When you first arrive, stop by the International Office at the Dennison Center or the office in the Venn Building (the first brick building when you come in the main entrance.) You can pick up maps of the campus and Hull, as well as other important information. Everyone is very kind and helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Pay close attention to arrival dates, both for when your houses will be available and when orientation is. You can always stay in a hotel if you arrive early, but it is easier to arrive during the specified international student days. You might also want to buy a plane ticket with open-ended dates, especially for returning home. Final schedules do not come out until April and you never know if you will want to travel at the end of the semester. If open-ended tickets are too expensive, choose a date after the semester ends (you can find the dates on the University of Hull website), just to be safe.

There is a possibility the student houses will not have interest access turned on when you arrive. The computer center is very helpful and has plenty of computers with internet access that you can use in case this happens, and they will help you set up network connections when they become available. They also sell blank CDs, disks, cords, programs, and other computer accessories you may need.

Telephone/Cell Phones

You may want to consider getting a British cell phone, as UK phone companies tend to have cheaper international rates than the US. There are several phone stores located downtown. You can choose between getting a monthly plan or pay-as-you-go. Pay-as-you-go phones are good for minimal use. You load money onto your phone using a swipe card (most grocery stores and the post office offer this service.) The cheapest way to make international calls is to download Skype, which allows you to make video calls for free.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (Top)

Buy a map of the city. You can get them at any gas station, the best maps are A-Z or local Red Book. Most people are extremely friendly, if you get lost ask for help.

Another important thing to do is register with a GIP (General Practitioner). There is a vaccination that you need to receive from them. There is one right in front of the university, but the University hosts a registration day, so you will or should get a list of them.

It can be hard to adjust to British food. There are Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Italian restaurants, but it is very difficult to find Mexican food. There is only one Mexican restaurant downtown. You can buy ingredients to make your own meals, but it is considered a luxury, so it tends to be expensive. One tip: you can use deli wraps in place of flour tortillas; they work just as well and are much cheaper! There are also many Subways, two Starbucks, a Pizza Hut, and several McDonald’s in case you crave American fast food. And of course, try the Fish and Chips – they are always delicious!

The weather is extremely cold in Hull, usually due to the strong winds that blow in from the Humber River. It rains often, usually at night, and does snow in the winter. Invest in an umbrella, a heavy coat and a scarf – it will come in handy!

10% of the student population consists of international students, so the campus is extremely diverse. You will meet people from all over the world. Be open and sensitive to other cultures. Everyone is very friendly and interested in your culture. They will ask a lot of questions, so don’t be afraid to do the same! It’s amazing what you’ll learn!