The Most Detailed Guide to Surviving in the UK: For Indian Students

If you are an Indian student going to the UK for the first time, life is not going to be easy. The difficult increases if you are alone and are on a low budget. However, if you follow the right steps and take the right decisions and are aware of how to deal with different problems, then you will do fine.

As a new Indian student living in the UK, ensure that you have a meal plan that gives you the required nutrition. Keep a track of your academic timelines and stay ahead of them. Create a schedule that also takes into account the time you need for studies and working part-time. Also, never forget to enjoy your time while you are in a new city. Who knows what all you will learn?

I hope that you have already done the tasks you need to complete in the first week. If you haven’t, this checklist might give you an idea of the things that you might have missed.

Step 1: Create a meal plan for yourself.

So, now you are living in the UK and are probably excited to see what kind of routine you need to establish for yourself. The very first thing that I tell anyone who is starting a new life in the UK is to sort out your food. This is because that is one of the very major shocks you would feel while moving away from home.

If your family has decided to stay back in India, then it is unlikely that you have anyone cooking for you. And, you need to ensure that you are getting proper nutrition. I do not mean to say that you must get someone to cook food for yourself. If you can afford a cook/chef who can cook regularly for you, it’s good.

Person Eating Image
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

If you cannot, then create a meal plan for yourself. Creating a meal plan is something that I myself found very difficult. This was because I was confused between having the same food that I was having in India or trying something new. The problem with cooking Indian food is that it takes a lot of time and effort.

To be honest, I battled with this confusion for a couple days. On some days, I would make dal for myself (which would take a huge amount of my time). On other days, I would get something from McDonald’s. After a few weeks, I realised that I could neither afford McDonald’s everyday nor waste my time cooking for hours! So, I settled for a simple meal plan where I decided to eat more vegetables, chicken and rice. I know, it sounds really bad.

Image of healthy foods like salads
Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

But, trust me. The simpler your food choices are, the more time, effort, and money you will save. Therefore, try creating a meal plan with food that you actually like. With me, I’d never liked eating baked chicken with stir-fried vegetables and dry rice. In fact, before moving to London, I had never even tried to eat that clean. However, as days passed I grew fond of it.

My advice to you, then would be to look out for something that you like. You can follow the guide below to create your own meal plan.

  1. List down the food that you normally like. This could be meat, vegetables, rice, chapatti, dal, or anything else that you are quite fond of.
  2. Understand what meal would take the most of your time and effort. It would be highly recommended that you make that meal only once a week. Or, you could make that meal in bulk and use it for 2 – 3 days in summer and 4 – 5 days in winter.
  3. Understand the healthier/tastier alternatives for yourself. For instance, for me, baked chicken and vegetables (decently spiced) along with steamed rice/noodles/pasta was a go-to. It would be helpful if you have such alternatives as they will really help you in opting for those kinds of meals that give you the energy and nutrition you need and also help you save your time.
  4. Make a list of all those items that you would like to have but don’t have the time to cook regularly. For instance, a staple meal of dal and rice, or dal and chapatti. Or chicken gravy and rice. List down all such meals and then you can decide a fixed day for those meals, preferably a day when you are not too busy. For instance, if you are relatively free on Sundays, then you can decide to cook those meals on that day. If you have a friend who can help, then cooking will be more enjoyable.
  5. Understand the cooking/preparation time. Usually, heavier or fancier meals require a lot of time when it comes to preparation. For instance, preparing and kneading a dough is a time-consuming effort. However, setting rice to boil in an electronic rice cooker does not require any preparation time. So, it would be helpful if you can decide what meals require more preparation time. I would recommend consuming meals that have a less prepping time on a regular basis.

Here is a chart that I used to have for myself for my meal plans. It just helped me save time on thinking what I wanted to eat that evening. Alternatively, you can make a chart of your own basis your own preferences.

DayMealTime Required (Cooking Time – CT/Preparation Time – PT)
MondayBreakfast – 2 whole Eggs + 2 Slices of Toasted Bread + Boiled Potato/Cereal + Nuts (Almonds/Walnuts/Peanuts)

Lunch – Baked Chicken + Brocolli + Beans + Pasta/Noodles

Evening Snack – Ham and Cheese Sandwich/Sausage Sandwich/Vegetable Sandwich

Dinner – Baked Chicken + 1 Bowl of Brown Rice + Unsweetened Yoghurt
Breakfast15 minutes (5m PT + 10m CT)

Lunch 25 minutes (10m PT + 15m CT)

Evening Snack5 minutes (5m PT)

Dinner20 minutes (5m PT + 15m CT)

Total Time/Day: 1.5 hours max.
Tuesday Breakfast – 2 whole Eggs + 2 Slices of Toasted Bread + Boiled Potato/Cereal + Nuts (Almonds/Walnuts/Peanuts)

Lunch – Baked Chicken + Brocolli + Beans + Pasta/Noodles

Evening Snack – Ham and Cheese Sandwich/Sausage Sandwich/Vegetable Sandwich

Dinner – Baked Chicken + 1 Bowl of Brown Rice + Unsweetened Yoghurt
Breakfast15 minutes (5m PT + 10m CT)

Lunch 25 minutes (10m PT + 15m CT)

Evening Snack5 minutes (5m PT)

Dinner20 minutes (5m PT + 15m CT)

Total Time/Day: 1.5 hours max.
Wednesday Breakfast – 2 whole Eggs + 2 Slices of Toasted Bread / Smoothie (strawberry + Blueberry + Banana)/Boiled Potato/Cereal

Lunch – Outside (a sandwich/burger)

Evening Snack – Cookies/Fruits

Dinner Baked Chicken + 1 Bowl of Brown Rice + Unsweetened Yoghurt
Breakfast15 minutes (5m PT + 10m CT)

Lunch – NA

Dinner20 minutes (5m PT + 15m CT)

Total Time/Day: 40 minutes max.
Thursday Breakfast – 2 whole Eggs + 2 Slices of Toasted Bread + Boiled Potato/Cereal

Lunch – Baked Chicken + Brocolli + Beans + Pasta/Noodles

Evening Snack – Ham and Cheese Sandwich/Sausage Sandwich/Vegetable Sandwich

Dinner – Baked Chicken + 1 Bowl of Brown Rice + Unsweetened Yoghurt
Breakfast15 minutes (5m PT + 10m CT)

Lunch 25 minutes (10m PT + 15m CT)

Evening Snack5 minutes (5m PT)

Dinner20 minutes (5m PT + 15m CT)

Total Time/Day: 1.5 hours max.
Friday Breakfast 2 whole Eggs + 2 Slices of Toasted Bread / Smoothie (strawberry + Blueberry + Banana)/Boiled Potato/Cereal

Lunch – Baked Chicken + Brocolli + Beans + Pasta/Noodles

Evening Snack – Cookies/Fruits

Dinner Outside
Breakfast15 minutes (5m PT + 10m CT)

Lunch 25 minutes (10m PT + 15m CT)

Evening Snack5 minutes (5m PT)

Dinner – NA

Total Time/Day: 50 minutes max.
SaturdayBreakfast – 2 whole Eggs + 2 Slices of Toasted Bread + Boiled Potato/Cereal

Lunch – Baked Chicken + Brocolli + Beans + Pasta/Noodles

Evening Snack – Cookies/Fruits

Dinner Outside
Breakfast15 minutes (5m PT + 10m CT)

Lunch 25 minutes (10m PT + 15m CT)

Evening Snack5 minutes (5m PT)

Dinner – NA

Total Time/Day: 50 minutes max.
SundayBreakfast – anything of your choice

Lunch – anything of your choice

Dinner – anything of your choice
A sample meal plan for a week.

This is a very ideal plan. I would be lying to you if I’d say that I have always followed it to the t. However, this is a workable plan and something that you can follow or take an idea from.

Remember: Our aim is to reduce the time you spend in the kitchen.

This is just the prepping and the cooking time. Don’t forget that if you are living in a shared accommodation then you would need to account for the time spent in washing up after cooking!

Why is time so important while creating a meal plan?

Image of Meal Plan written in puzzle blocks and kept on a plate
Photo by Vegan Liftz on Unsplash

Because you have very limited time when it comes to studying. When you have to do other tasks such as washing, cleaning your room, doing your part-time job and travelling to university or the library, you would want to spend your time on essential things only.

The biggest mistake that I made when I was studying my Master’s in London was that I never understood the importance of time. Although I did not spend much of it cooking, I did do things that I could have avoided.

By following a set meal plan, you know an approximate amount of minutes that you need to spend in the kitchen. This will then help you to divide your time to other more important things.

But are there not cheaper alternatives to cooking? Say ordering tiffin from outside?

Image of a Tiffin with Chickpeas inside it
Photo by Rahul Chakraborty on Unsplash

Indeed there are. In fact, you would be able to find hundreds of tiffin suppliers who would give you Indian food. I used to live at Claredale House, London in 2018 and I remember there was a Gujarati guy who had a myriad of options like rajma rice, noodles, vada pao, and a host of other items that I cannot recall.

I am sure if you ask around you are likely to find thousands of options when it comes to getting Indian food. Moreover, if you are tired of Indian food (like I was, to be honest) then you would even be able to find authentic food from other countries.

I, personally, cooked my own food because I just like to know what’s in my food. But, if you ask around, I am sure that you will find someone or the other selling that type of food.

And what if I were to eat at cheap restaurants such as McDonald’s or Burger King?

Image of a burger and some chips
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Burger King is not cheap. A decently sized meal at McDonald’s UK would cost you around £3.50 (INR 330); they run a “Wrap of the Day” which costs about £1.99 for a (as the name suggests) wrap of that day. The food is okay, it’s mostly fresh and does an okayish job in filling your stomach.

Anything other than that like a local restaurant chain like Kebabish, or Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc would cost you similar prices for similar quantity. Apart from the very local chains like the corner fish and chips shop, all restaurants tend to maintain a good level of hygiene.

I would say that buying food from these restaurants is completely upto you. I would not recommend it though because it is not as healthy as home-cooked food. Yes, buying food outside does seem like a good time-saving strategy. But, think about this.

You might save your time in cooking food by buying food from outside. You would then spend more money. And when you spend more money, you work more hours to get more money. It, then, naturally impacts the time you have for your studies.

Get the point? And to save your time and money have I given you the meal plan. It is not an absolute, you can work your way around it. But having a plan that you can fall back on will always help. And save you some extra bucks for beer as well.

But what if I were to buy frozen food from Tesco or Sainsbury’s?

Frozen Chicken Tikka Masala and rice costs about £5 from Tesco. Expect a similar price for other gravy and rice combinations at all these supermarkets. The quantity of that food is too small (expect 5-6 spoons of rice). It is very mildly spiced. It lacks the oomph.

Also, could you expect yourself to be eating frozen food for a really long time? I don’t know. I wouldn’t recommend this option, at all. Once off, it’s fine. But, not for a regular basis.

Okay, but is cooking food not costly?

No. 750g chicken thighs for about £2 at Lidl. £.70 for a flower of Brocolli. £2 for rice. £3 for salt and other spices that would last you about 100 meals. Cooking your own food is dirt cheap. Unless you have some very specific requirements, of course.

In short, what you would spend in a week would most likely be half of what you spend per three days eating out.

But what about nutrition? What are some good sources of protein, fats, carbs, sugar?

You would have plenty of options when it comes to consuming protein, whether animal-based or plant-based. I always relied on eggs, chicken, beef (sometimes), and lamb for animal-based protein. You might want to go for something like broccoli or green beans if meat is not your thing.

For fat, I mainly relied on walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, butter, etc. There are other much dirtier options as well. And for carbohydrates I heavily depended on rice, noodles, and pasta. To be honest, I never even tried nor missed having a chappati. Although you do get some ready-to-eat chapattis at local grocery stores, I was never fond of them.

To battle stressful times, I always relied on something like dark chocolate. A few chunks of delicious dark chocolate would often solve away most of my problems!

Okay, but I have not cooked before. Do you have some recipes?

I am glad you asked. Just give me a few more days and I will link up a page (on this website) that will give you some really cool recipes that will also save your time and money. I will also provide detailed nutrition information in those meal guides as well.

Step 2: Understand your schedule and create a plan of things you want to do when you are free.

My intention here is to ensure that whatever free time you have, it is properly utilised, even if that means you visiting some new places of your choice, meeting up with friends or the like.

The biggest mistake that I made when I was in your situation was that I never did take the initiative to step out of my room and go exploring. The first few months of my stay in London I simply was in my room, too shy and timid to meet new people, let alone have new adventures. This took a huge emotional toll on me and it impacted my academics majorly.

Avyan, MA, Queen Mary University of London
Image of a Calendar
Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

You know how people often talk about having a bucket list of things especially when you are going to a new place? They are right in most cases. Having that “one place that I really want to go” in your list of things to do while in the UK would really help you explore a life beyond your daily routine. Also, the more you go out, the more chances you will have of meeting new people.

If you are not the people person, then it is completely okay. You can go out to some places of your liking by yourself. Go out to a restaurant that you have been wishing to go to. Or buy that one meal for yourself that you have been craving for.

The idea is to explore. The more you explore, the lesser the chances of falling into depression.

But you know how things are right now, with the government restrictions because of the coronavirus. How can I even think of going out?

Image of a street in the UK
Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Simply by finding a way around it. UK is not in a lockdown and is not going to be under one unless there is an unmanageable rise in cases. Find a time that is convenient for you and see if there are any restrictions to entry to places you want to go to.

A Google search will reveal a lot of information about it. In fact, you can even get in touch with your university and I am sure you will get a lot of information about opening times of museums, theatres and so on. Or, just board a bus and get to that theatre! Simply walk in and ask the guys their opening times.

But is the “explore my city” phase not limited to my first weeks of being in the city? What do I do once I am done exploring all those places?

Re-visit the places you found interesting. Book a train ticket to travel to another city, say, Oxford/Cambridge. Perhaps take your friends to all the places you have been to. Go out on a food trail or on an international cuisine trail.

Look out for some events on Meetup. Check what’s happening in your city on TimeOut. Check the Students’ Union at your university and see if they are organising any events.

Even when you think, “Oh, I have nothing to do right now…” there are plenty of things that you can still do.

But what if I really don’t want to go out? What if I want to stay in my room and sip on my coffee and study?

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

That’s entirely up to you. In that case, I would just suggest that you monitor your emotional health really closely. What often happens when we are away from home is that we are unable to engage ourselves as much as we were able to when we are at home.

But, as long as you are able to find something interesting to do, it’s good.

Okay, here’s the thing. I am too shy to go out by myself. I haven’t yet made a friend circle. I don’t know how I would want to do things by myself. This is my first time away from home.

I am glad you asked this question. I will be publishing much more detailed guides for people who are quite introverted to actually take the initiative to go out. In fact, I will also be talking about it on the The Out from India Podcast. So keep a check on that and keep coming here to see when I have posted new content about the same.

Also, if you want a one-on-one session about it, or if you want to talk to someone you can even reach out to me directly at outfromindia20@gmail.com. I’d be happy to talk to you for 20 minutes and counsel you wherever I can. All for free.

Any places that you’d suggest that I can go to?

Sure, check out my article on things that students must do while they are in London. As of now, I only have that list for students in London, because I myself was in London.

However, you are free to browse through different list of places that you can go to in the UK on Google.

Step 3: Build a network of friends that you can rely and fall back on.

Making friends in a Western culture seems difficult. However, in reality, it is quite simple. This is because there are thousands of people like you, who are wondering how they would make friends in an indifferent white culture.

So, it is not the most difficult thing to do. However, I must admit that it is tough, especially for shy and introverted students who are going away from home for the very first time in their life. I was one of them.

The biggest mistake that I made was not being upfront enough to go to social events. This meant that I was unable to make good friends for a really long time. Not having friends impacted my emotional balance severely. This, in turn, impacted my academics.

Avyan, MA, Queen Mary University of London
Friends Standing Together in a Forest
Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash

When you are a student, it is actually easy to go out and make friends. If you already have some pals from home studying with you at the same university, great. If not, then your university will organise thousands cultural/social events where you can meet new people.

And don’t let that be a limiting factor. If for some reasons, you are unable to meet your kind of people, then there are other alternative options that you can try.

  1. Look for some social events on Meetup. In a cosmopolitan city like London, there are always some types of meet-and-greet, or social events happening.
  2. If you have a group of friends from back home who are with you in the same university, collect them and go out on trips. Or ask the friend you are closest to and go out with them to a bar/club/theatre, whichever works for you.
  3. Start with your flatmates. Perhaps there is one person who you find yourself closer to? Why don’t you two go out together to have a meal at a restaurant of your choice? Or just go out and explore a tourist attraction nearby.

These are just some of the ways that you can use to meet new people.

I know all these methods, but I am too shy. Even if I go out to an event, how should I start a conversation with other people?

I am glad you asked. I was in exactly the same shoes as you are, perhaps even worse. I literally had crippling social anxiety in my first few months in London. I was the guy who would stand in a corner and not be courageous enough to strike up a conversation with anyone.

Don’t worry, I will publish a guide specifically for introverts that will help them deal with awkward social situations. Also, for some real-time tips and updates on the same, you can follow my podcast here.

Step 4: Keep a track of your deadlines closely and create a study plan.

I am the greatest procrastinator you know. During my Master’s I could hardly focus on getting things done. I got distracted too quickly. All this meant that I was unable to keep a track of my deadlines and I often failed to complete my work.

And, sometimes, I rushed towards completing the assignment so much that I barely focused on its quality. And that was the biggest mistake that I made.

I highly recommend all students who study in the UK to closely monitor a deadline. This is because when we are in a new city all by ourselves, we can get distracted by both essential and non-essential things. For instance, on a Monday morning you might want to postpone studies for the entire day and skip the library session or a group talk session that you’d booked for yourself. You might do this because you have essential tasks at hand such washing, cooking, getting some documents, meeting a friend, or the like.

2 days later, when you resume working on your project, you realise how important the Monday’s session was, and that you can’t re-book that session for the next 2 weeks. And your submission is just a week ahead of you. You made a silly mistake of not keeping a track of the deadline of the assignment. Now, because of the unavailability of the resources that you need to complete it, you submit incomplete work. Because of that you get a poor score, which you can’t fix.

Person Sitting on a Chair with His Hand on His Head
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

This is what happened to me most of the times. And it might seem normal to you. You might dismiss this as “Oh, but all of us make these tiny mistakes. It’s fine.” No, it’s not. Chances are that you only have a very limited number of projects to submit. And basis those limited number of projects will your grade be decided.

The more incomplete your work is, the worse your academic grades are. The worse your academic grades are, the more your disappointment at your own self.

To battle precisely that, I encourage all students to have a calendar on their study desk, on their mobile phones, on their laptops for keeping a track of following things:

  1. What assignment needs to be submitted when
  2. How many words need to be written and how many you’ve written already
  3. What resources you need to work on the assignment and where you can find them
  4. What is the availability of that resource (for instance, if you need to book a reading of a script at the library, then ask the library what slots are available)
  5. If that resource is missing, then you must contact your supervisor/have a discussion with your peers who might suggest alternate sources
  6. What other plans you have for that week/month and re-organise them according to the time you have kept aside for working on your assignment

Most of you might say that this is meticulous planning, or that students don’t necessarily need this level of organisation. I disagree with you completely. As a student living away from home, there are a thousand things that are waiting to distract you, a thousand things that you think you need to complete first, and a million reasons why you should postpone working on the assignment today, or this week.

This level of planning prevents you from falling into that hole of procrastination. The more you plan, the more time you can devote to working on your assignment. The more time you devote, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more satisfied you are.

But does that mean that while working on my assignments, I should forget that I have a life beyond academics?

People Enjoying
Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

No! The only reason why I am urging you to plan ahead is to ensure that you have enough time on your hands to enjoy your life as well. If you plan to work on a project 6 hours a day rigorously, then you have 2 hours in the evening to yourself every day. Do whatever you feel like!

If you do the majority of the work on your assignment weeks ahead, then you have more time for revision. You have more time for active discussion with your peers, and even get your assignments reviewed by a friend. All that will really help you in polishing your work. And, in the pursuit, you will learn a lot.

Okay, all of this sounds pretty fancy. But I have not done this level of meticulous planning before. In fact, I don’t want to plan so much. Why can’t I just do things?

A plan is your guide. If you ever feel distracted, or if you waste a few hours or a few days, then the plan will help you identifying how you can make up for the lost time.

Having said that, I agree, too much planning is also not always helpful. And if you don’t like to plan things, just sketch out a brief list of actions you need to perform every day. You can even maintain that to-do list for a week or a month. That will help you stay a bit more organised. Add assignment deadlines to the calendar on your phone. Add reminders 3 weeks, 2 weeks, 5 days and 2 days before the assignment submission.

A person writing something on a paper
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

All that will really help you stay focused. In short, if you don’t want to plan, don’t. But make sure that you have something to fall back on if you get distracted.

The biggest mistake that I made was that I never planned for my assignments. And even if I did plan, I could never execute it. Why? Because I just got distracted! And my inability to stay focused, or create a workable plan led to my academic downfall.

When you yourself couldn’t plan ahead, or when your plans failed how do you expect me to create a plan and follow it? How can I trust you?

Because I am telling you why you should create that plan. Look, what I did were massive mistakes that I can never undo in my life. However, I can show you a workaround so that you don’t have to go through the same thing.

A person staring at a laptop with a questioning gaze
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

I neither kept a track of my deadlines, nor had any idea how much amount of research was needed to work on an assignment. As a result of this, I always messed up with the number of days I needed to give myself to write a particular section. This was because I had never in my life done so much research as I was expected to do in my Master’s!

My plans failed because I had very little idea how much time I needed to devote to a particular section of the assignment, how much time to take out for research, and how much time should I spend discussing about it with my friends. Add to the constant feelings of loneliness, sadness, and an ongoing battle with social anxiety and a self-deprecating attitude.

I am guiding you to create a strategy that works best for you and that takes into account all the problems that you are facing right now. Trust me, you don’t want the disappointment that I feel (to this day) about not following a routine when it came to my academics. If I hadn’t failed, I wouldn’t have been here.

Okay, that all sounds fancy and motivational. But what are the things I should take into account then? And how should I create a plan that suits my needs?

Image of planning sheets and pens on table
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Here is a list of things that you must remember while creating a study plan:

  1. Understand the days on which you need to do tasks like washing, cleaning your room, buying groceries (or other essential items). If possible, take out 6 hours specifically for these tasks and finish each one of them during that time.
  2. Understand when you need to go to the library/laboratory to do some self-research. Understand if you need to access any specific resources during that time. If you do, then understand the availability of that resource and plan your schedule accordingly.
  3. Identify some break days, or preferably, break hours where you want to meet friends, go out for some events and engage socially with other people. A break hour could also mean cooking for yourself, or listening to music, or talking to family back home. Needless to say, these break hours/days need to be regulated. You shouldn’t think of taking entire days in a week off.
  4. Understand the amount of time you need to give yourself to write the assignment. For instance, if a particular project is 10k words long and requires an entire month, then understand the number of days you need for writing those many words. Also, understand the days you need to research for material for writing.
  5. Write down your pain points in that subject and seek your professor’s help as early as you can. If you are having trouble understanding a particular concept, or don’t know how to research a particular section of the assignment, ask your professor about it immediately. If you don’t then you risk never getting that problem resolved for you, because not all professors will help you at the last moment.

Okay, that’s a lot of theoretical information. How about I see a sample study plan?

I am glad you asked. I am still working on one and don’t have it ready yet. However, if you have understood much of what I wrote here and just want a little guidance on how you can create one for yourself, you can reach out to me personally for help. I’d be happy to give you 20 minutes and guide you on creating one for yourself. Don’t worry, I won’t charge you for it.

Step 5: Seek a part-time job (if you need it) and maintain a personal finances sheet.

This is a must if you are working part-time as a student. If you haven’t worked a lot in your life, then you probably don’t know how the little money you earn on the side often gets to your head. It got to mine.

The biggest mistake that I made was that I worked at the gambling shop for hours together, just to earn more money. And what did I spend that money on? Buying things that I did not need. And what did I lose chasing after a few extra pounds? A lot of very, very crucial time.

Avyan, MA Queen Mary University of London

I’ll be very honest here. I myself never maintained a personal finances sheet while I was studying. But I highly encourage each student in the UK to do so. Here are a few things that you must understand if you are working part-time.

  1. Why are you working part-time in the first place? Is it to finance your tuition fee, to pay off/save money for the EMI on your loan, to live a comfortable life and have some extra bucks to spend on exploring your city, or to financially support your family?
    • Basis your reason behind working part-time, you will have to decide how much you work, what kind of a part-time job you take up, and how you spend the money earned.
    • If you simply want to earn a few extra bucks, stay well within the 20-hour work/week capping. Devote more time to your academics than chasing after money.
    • If you have to work because you are saving up to pay off the EMI against your loan, think again. Should you be saving working part-time and saving money? Or should you be studying really hard, working efficiently on all the academic projects that you take up and getting a good score? Because, if you do the latter, then you have much higher chances of landing a well-paying job. And if you have a well-paying job, you can pay double the amount of your EMI and finish off the loan earlier.
    • If you must work because you need to support your family, then I highly recommend you to look for a job that pays you more/hour. I had a friend who worked as a delivery driver for a restaurant. He used to work 80 hours per week to earn about £1400 so he could support his family. His academic performance was always poor; his attendance at the university non-existent and he had no idea where he wanted to go with the current situation. And because he got so exhausted with the work, he would never complete his assignments on his own. He had absolutely no idea how he would land a well-paying job with his situation. If that is you and if you think that you want to work just because you want to earn money and if you are okay with your academics being pushed to the behind, then it’s fine. Otherwise, I would recommend you to get a job that pays much more per the hour.
  2. Decide how much time you must devote to your work versus how much time you should focus on studying. Working part-time may seem a very attractive thing to do. And earning a few extra bucks would give you the liberty to travel and spend money on the things you love. But then, you must ask yourself, do you really need that extra money? It’s understandable if you have a family and you need to support your kids as well. But if you are living alone and don’t have any dependents, then you must focus on your academics. Make a sheet of finances and decide how much you actually need per month. As long as you are able to make that much money, you should do fine.
Image of a Clipboard with Resume on It
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

That sounds good but what it’s really like working part-time while studying?

In a nutshell it’s tough. I always found that managing academics and my part-time job was tough because I often got distracted. Plus, working shifts on days when I really wanted to study often distracted.

Let’s say on a particular day my shift was starting at 1400 hours and ending at 2200 hours. If I sat down to study at 0900 hours, then I only had until 1300 hours to study. Deduct the time to cook food, get ready, take shower and I had less than 3 hours to study on such days. Yes, I could study after coming back home as well. Which I did. But then, often an evening shift like that was followed by a morning shift starting at 0700 hours.

You might argue that I could still adjust my studies around my part-time job. But let me ask you this, why should I? If you’d be in my position what would you do?

Would you adjust your studying schedule around your part-time job? Or, would you adjust your part-time job schedule around your studies?

Right. But then how do you expect me to not work and only focus on my studies? How am I supposed to support myself then?

I am encouraging you to list down your priorities. If working part-time is not your priority, then don’t chase after making that additional £100 each month by working 10 hours additional each week. If academics is your priority, adjust everything around it.

I made the mistake of not understanding what my priority was. I regret it.

But I have my family depending on me. I must work additional hours to support myself. So, does that mean that I will not be able to focus on my academics?

That’s entirely upto you. If you want to focus on your studies, along with supporting your family, you can!

However, if your focus is just to earn £1500/month working part-time so that you can pay off the bills, then you can do that too. In this case, you need not worry about your assignments. You may pay someone and get that done rather than sitting down in the library and doing it yourself.

But, if you do decide to give more importance to your academics than everything else, then:

  • Find a part-time job that pays you more per the hour.
  • Do some freelancing on the side.
  • Save up more money.
  • Take a personal loan, or an education loan.
  • Create a workable schedule that makes you sit and study for at-least 8 hours a day.
  • Cut down on wasteful family expenses.
  • Eat simple food for months.
  • Encourage your partner to get a job or do some freelancing, if that is a possibility.

It would be very difficult for you to do all this and ensure that you stay on track in your academics. But, it’s not impossible and there are certainly a thousand different ways that you can manage and do well.

I will soon be publishing a complete guide for the students who are also the breadwinners of their family and how they can manage their studies and job living in the UK. Keep watching this space for more, or connect with me here.

How do I get a part-time job for myself?

Person holding a briefcase and going to work
Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash
  1. Start with your university. Contact the Students’ Union and ask them if they have any job openings. Ask the cafe in your campus.
  2. Ask your professors if they are looking for any assistance for which they are willing to pay. Usually, university professors do receive some extra money which they can use to hire an academic assistant. You might get a job as a researcher/a professor’s assistant and so on.
  3. Walk in to the nearest cafes and stores and ask if they are looking for anyone. Usually, these cafes are always looking for additional help. You might get a decent job as a barista, a waiter or a shop assistant and may be able to make a decent amount of money. By decent, I mean anywhere between £7.50/hour – £12/hour.
  4. Create a one-page resume and send it out to employers with job openings on Indeed, Monster etc. Chances are that you might be able to get a job as a waiter/cashier/shop assistant.
  5. Look for some jobs on Fiverr, Upwork and other freelancing platforms. I’d admit that these freelancing jobs are a bit unreliable and if you have dependents, then you should only keep freelancing as the last option.

Finding a part-time job in the UK is not easy. Although London still has a lot of openings, but not all the other cities in the UK are the same. The approach, however, is usually similar for all cities. If you are looking for a much detailed step-by-step guide on how to find a part-time job in the UK, click here. If you want to know what my experience was working part-time at a gambling shop, click here.

Step 6: Work on a career path for yourself.

What is your plan once you are finished with your studies in the UK? Are you going to be looking for jobs or are you planning to start something of your own? Ask yourself these important questions and decide what you want out of your career.

The biggest mistake that I made was that I never could decide what exactly I wanted out of my career. I wanted to be an academic, but I hadn’t achieved a score to get a good scholarship. In short, I was confused.

Avyan, MA, Queen Mary University of London
Image of a notebook with scribbles about career options
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

That confusion of not knowing where you want to take your career will cost you the hard-earned money that you spend on getting the degree. You might argue that having the Graduate Route is helpful. But, what are you going to do in the 2 years that you live in the UK after completing your studies?

  • Do you plan to start something of your own?
  • Do you plan to apply for jobs in your career?
  • Do you want to start working part-time to earn money while you build your business?
  • Do you want to travel for a few months before you decide what you want to do next?
  • What is the condition of the industry that you wish to work in?
  • How is it doing financially in the UK?
  • How much are people earning? Are there enough jobs, if you were to apply for one?

All these are questions that you need to ask yourself and understand the answers. Although building a career is not always easy, you can still follow a process. Here are the steps:

  1. Consult the career department at your university and understand the condition of your industry.
  2. Ask your seniors/friends/mentors what kind of jobs you can take up after completing the course.
  3. Consult your professor about further education if you wish to pursue a PhD.
  4. Book a dedicated Career Counselling Session with Out from India. In the session, we will talk about your interests, where you want your career to take you, what the current condition of the industry is and decide a step-by-step process that you can follow.

Okay, but I have really specific questions like what would happen if I continue to work part-time even after my course finishes?

That depends on what your goal is. If your long-term goal is to start your own business and if you want to work on it while you earn something on the side, why not?

Photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash

I believe that working part-time is a great way to earn money while also continuously working on what you want. Or, you can take a break to think and decide where exactly you want to be.

But, my strongest advice would be to work on a plan and set some goals. Otherwise, you wouldn’t realise and you would end up wasting 2 crucial years of your life only working part-time!

And what if I have specific questions about the industry that I am in? What if I want more information about that?

The best thing would be to consult the career counselling department at your university. They would be able to help you out in discovering the specifics of your industry and find you a suitable solution.

The second option is for you to book a career counselling session with me. I would be more than happy to go over the nitty-gritty details of your industry, get the industry expert to make some predictions about your growth in the coming years and give you a step-by-step guide on what to do. You can find more details here.

Step 7: Don’t forget to enjoy!

People Dancing in a Crowd
Photo by Danny Howe on Unsplash

Here, I don’t necessarily have a guide for you that you must follow. What I have is just personal advice that I would like to give you. Don’t restrict yourself to living in the cycle of working part-time and studying. Or don’t just end up doing things that you have to do. Instead, find time for yourself and do the things that you enjoy.

For instance, it was only after a year of living in London that I realised that I enjoy drinking a few pegs of a good scotch every Friday while reading a book or watching something. And, on Saturdays I like to go for social events, meet new people and just enjoy my time.

The first few months I never stepped out of my room because I was too scared and shy to approach people and talk to them. But as months passed, I realised how much I loved doing exactly what I was scared of before.

So, my advice to you is this: Find time for yourself and do all those things that make you happy.