First of all, congratulations and welcome to King's! We hope you will all have a fabulous time here and we have no doubt that before long you will realise how wonderful it is to be a member of King's College in Cambtidge!
Depending on where you come from, you may be new ot the college system. However, please know that you are not alone, and if you encounter any difficult, you can always seek help from the KCGS International Students' Officer, and other member of the KCGS Executive Committee, or any of the various offices within King's that are there to support you, such as the Graduate Tutors. Our contact details can all be found on the this website.
Freshers' Week Priorities
It is easy to lose sight of certain practical concerns during freshers' week with so many events on offer. here is a list of practical things to consider - in order of priority:
- Arrive at the Porters' Lodge to pick up your room key, C1 key, and ID.
- Retrieve the password for your Cambridge computer accounts (email, Raven etc.) and set up Eduroam (for wi-fi internet access across the University).
- Research banks and make an appointment to set up an account. Request a letter from the Graduate Tutor's secretary (Caroline White) for setting up a UK bank account, if required.
- Get a SIM card for your phone.
- Register with a National Health Service (NHS) GP surgery (preferably within the first week; see the welfare section of the website for more information).
- Register with a Police station if you come from a country requiring registration by the UKBA.
- Register with Vicky Few, the college nurse.
- Consider buying anything you now need, but couldn't bring with you: e.g. formal attire, if planning on looking particularly smart on formal swaps.
- Relax, drink plenty of fluids, be fabulous!
Setting up a Bank Account
You will normally have to be a registered student before you can open a bank account, so bring enough funds to tide you over if you plan to move to Cambridge early. If you plan to transfer your tuition fees from your home bank account to your UK bank account, remember that transferring funds will depend up on your home bank's procedures and this could take more time than you expect, and may also incur a fee. You should discuss this with your bank before leaving home, and remember to bring sufficient funds - say travellers' cheques or credit cards - with you to cover any delays. British banks have strict regulations about opening bank accounts and international students have at times been subject to greater scrutiny as they have no credit history. It is vitally important that you begin this process as soon as possible as most funding bodies disburse funds to you through the college directly which in turn normally requires a UK bank account. Generally speaking, if you come prepared and follow the Bank's instructions to the letter, you should not have a problem.
Which bank? If you are unsure about which type of account or bank to choose, rest assured that the basic account, often called a "current account", is the simplest to acquire and offers the same basic services at most banks. Many banks offer this simple type of account at no charge. Other types of account will have more bells and whistles, but undoubtedly require additional fees, larger account balances, and possibly a longer set-up time. For example, Natwest offers, for an additional fee, insurance for some of your personal belongings while HSBC can provide mixed currency accounts if you happen to have tens of thousands of pounds lying around to invest with them. Most bank ATMS in Cambridge are free for outside bank customers, so ATM availability should not factor into your decision. The list below includes the names and addresses of the major bank branches nearest to King's:If you get stuck, LSE has compiled some very useful information and each bank's requirements on this website: www2.lse.ac.uk/intranet/students/moneyMatters/bankAccounts/home.aspx
- Lloyds - 3 Sidney Street; 0845 300 0000
- HSBC - 52 St. Andrews Street; 0845 740 4404
- NatWest - 56 St. Andrews Street; 0845 600 2803
- Barclays - 35 Sidney Street; 0845 755 5555
- The Co-operative Bank - 75 Burleigh Street; 01223 316 289
Documentation. The bank may ask you to provide documentation certifying your identity such as a passport as well as a letter from the college confirming your student status, which you can request from Caroline White (caroline.white [at] kings.cam.ac.uk).
Pay careful attention to the requirements of the bank in terms of the content of this letter and be sure to communicate this information clearly to Caroline. In addition to her other duties, she is inundated with dozens of such requests so you should anticipate that it may take several days for her to get the letter to you. Usually the banks require your residential and college address as well as a brief note on your student status. In addition to this, the name of the bank along with its address might also be required in the heading.It is also very unlikely that you will be able to walk casually into a bank without an appointment during the first couple of weeks of term to set up an account due to the volume of requests. Setting up a current account is usually rather quick and painless process once you have all the necessary forms. However, deciding on a bank, acquiring the necessary forms, setting up an appointment, and getting payment from your funding body may take a week or more.
Setting up a phone contract
There are various telephone companies you can choose from that offer different tariffs for monthly contracts (ranging from £10 to £50 per month) as well as pay-as-you-go (pre-paid). Most people prefer the flexibility and cost of pay-as-you-go, as a fixed contract does not ideally suit the itinerant lifestyle of the Cambridge grad student. A contract also involves a more lengthy set up procedure, but may be best-suited for those who are sure they wish to purchase a new smartphone. Beware that you may be ineligible for certain contracts that require long-term residency in the UK. A pay-as-you-go card can be obtained in minutes for as little as £10 at Carphone Warehouse (in Lion Yard and also on Market Street next to TK Maxx). To compare pay-as-you-go and contract plans refer to the following:
Anecdotaly, Vodafone seems to provide the best coverage but is the most expensive. They do however offer a 10% student discount of their contracts. Many people seem to be happy with O2 or Three, which are cheaper. Another cheap alternative is giffgaff, a no-frills option which uses O2's network but lacks the same level of customer support and charges extra for calling "official" numbers such as businesses. You must order a giffgaff sim card online, and there is a little bit more setup required. At any rate, if you are most concerned with a data plan, 4G speeds have just arrived in Cambridge and even 3G speeds being elusive at times. A good way to see which mobile provider would be best for you is to buy the cheapest pay as you go sim cards sold at Carphone warehouse for around £10 to £15 pounds). If you're not happy with the coverage, you can work your way up in cost to another provider. So for example you can start with an O2 or Three pay-as-you-go sim, and if you are happy with O2, get giffgaff, and if not, move on to Vodafone, EE, etc.
A very useful thing to know: If you use Skype, it would be good to consider the company Three (in the Grand Arcade and also on Market Street) because you can use Skype directly on your mobile phone, which is very convenient for cheap international calls. You can call Skype-to-Skype, SkypeOut, and Skype chat, but it doesn't support SkypeIn. For more information, check out their website: www.three.co.uk/Home. You can also buy minutes on Skype to call mobile phones and landlines in other countries at very low prices.
For people who need to call the USA frequently, another good option for smartphone users is talkatone, which allows you to make free calls over WiFi to any US number. You will only receive incoming calls if you are online at the time and will have to set up a Google Voice account.
You can easily get around Cambridge by foot, bus or on a bicycle.
Getting to King's
In order of proximity to Cambridge, Stansted, Luton, and Heathrow are the international airports which students prefer to use. Express trains leave frequently from Stansted and take about 35 minutes. Luton is serviced by National Express bus service and takes roughly an hour and a half.
Heathrow presents the greatest headache for the international Cambridge student. There are four ways to get to Cambridge from Heathrow. The most convenient but most time-consuming option is to take a National Express bus to Parker's Piece. This option can take between 2.5 to 4 hours and costs between £25 and £30. This option may not be the cheapest if you have many bags. You are allocated space for two pieces of luggage with each additional piece charged at £10. Remember that your carry-on is most likely too big to take on the bus with you. The second option is to take the Piccadilly Line underground train to King's Cross, and then catch a First Capital Connect train to Cambridge. The third option, which is a little faster but not ideal if you have many bags, is to take the Heathrow Express from Heathrow to Paddington and then transfer to King's Cross to take the First Capital Connect train to Cambridge. The final option is to find another student or two who is arriving around the time you arrive and split a taxi, which costs around £85. This may seem like the most expensive option but it takes less than half the time of the bus, you will dropped off door-to-door.
Bicycles are the most common form of transport for students in Cambridge and there are many places for you to purchase one. You can purchase a used bike for a fraction of the cost of a new bike and used bike shops are plentiful in Cambridge. For new bikes, go to Station Cycles near the Galleria mall and near the train station as well as Claude Butler on Mill Road.
- Ben Hayward & Sons (Trumpington Street)
- Cambridge Cycle Centre (on Boltoph Lane)
- Howes Cycles (on Regent Street)
- "The Bike Man" Market Square bike stall (in the Market)
You can look out for second-hand bikes sold by other students. The website www.gumtree.com usually has a long list of used bikes for sale. Also, the Police Station also holds a bicycle auction where they sell unclaimed recovered stolen bikes at low prices.
If you are going outside of city centre, there are buses going to various towns nearby. You can find the bus routes at www.stagecoachbus.com/uploads/cambridge_jul13a4.pdfand the time tables at http://www.stagecoachbus.com/tis-journey-select.aspx.
Generally, the buses run frequently from 07:00 - 18:00, Monday to Saturday; on Sunday, before 07:00, or after 18:00 Monday to Saturday, buses run on a 30 minute basis. Usually the first bus is around 05:00 and the last bus around midnight. Check the timetable before you go but be aware that sometimes they are not exactly on time.
Also, the University runs a cheap bus service (70p per ride) called Uni4, connecting the West Cambridge Site and Addenbrooke's via the city centre.
Trains and Coaches
There are frequent trains from/to King's Cross or Liverpool Street Station in London. You can go to London King's Cross within 50 minutes and London Liverpool Street within 1 hour 15 minutes. There are also frequent National Express Coaches from Cambridge Parkside Station to London Victoria station which take about 2.5 to 3 hours. If you travel frequently by train or by coach, it is advisable to get a 16-25 Railcard (£30 online; the three-year version of the card costs £70) or a Young Person's Coach Card (£11.50 including postage) which give you a third off most tickets. The 16-25 Railcard is also available to mature students (i.e. those over 25), as long as they get the application form (available at stations) signed and stamped by King's to verify their student status. For more details, see www.16-25railcard.co.uk and www.nationalexpress.com/coach/Offers/StudentCoachDeals.cfm
Transport in London
If you plan on spending much time in London, it is advisable to get yourself an Oyster card to make your trips much less expensive: www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/oyster?cid=fs076. Additionally if you have a 16-25 railcard, you can get link it to your Oyster card by speaking to any ticket office on the underground for even cheaper fares.
You can buy your household essentials at many places in Cambridge. TK Maxx and ASDA have a good selection of basic items at decent prices. One good store with cheap prices and a huge selection of goods is Argos, in the Grafton Centre. You can also order online to reserve goods or get them delivered, at www.argos.co.uk.
A more expensive choice is Marks & Spencer's at Market Square. Their household goods are often of a higher price but better quality. As a special note, hangers can be tricky to find; try going to a dry cleaner's and asking if you can have some spare ones - they often give them out for free! If that fails, there's always Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00FZF2IRI)
You can buy fruits, vegetables and many local products in the market at Market Square. For supermarkets, Sainsbury's (on Sidney Street, open until 23.30 except Sunday), and Marks & Spencer's (at Market Square) are the two most conveniently located supermarkets in Cambridge. There are also Aldi and Iceland (specialising in frozen food) on Histon Road. You can find bigger supermarkets like Tesco and ASDA further away from town or you can order them online and get them delivered. For delivery, Ocado has the biggest selection and most flexible delivery schedule. Waitrose, although not the cheapest, has better quality produce generally than Tesco, delivers for free if you spend more than £50, but does not have a very flexible delivery schedule.
A local organic farm sells its produce at Market Square on Sundays, and there are a number of companies that provide farm-share vegetable boxes to your door (Abel & Cole, Cambridge Organic Food Co). Revital, on Bridge St, is the closest health food store to King's but does not stock fresh produce. You can find gluten-free bread, tofu, and vitamins there, and they offer a 10% student discount, but bring an extra bag or they will charge you. Arjuna on Mill Road is Cambridge's best health food store with some organic produce, bulk grains and nuts, as well as other vegetarian-friendly foods. Revital and Arjuna are both good places to shop if you prefer to eat organic. There are other Chinese, Eastern European, Indian and Korean supermarkets (and many exotic restaurants) all along Mill Road.
Get in touch with other internationals!
It's important to get to know the locals, and at times you may also want to get in touch with others from familiar cultures. There are many university wide societies based on cultures and interests (for a list, please see www.societies.cam.ac.uk) and better yet, iCUSU provides international related information including calendar of events, which can be found at www.international.cusu.cam.ac.uk.
Enjoy your stay and keep in touch!