Isis’ Story | UK

Written By: Isis Buffonge – Moved from Montserrat W.I | Currently studying MSc Mental Health: Psychological Therapies

Isis Harvey

Moving to the UK to study has definitely been…an experience. I’ve been here for a while now so I’ve gotten used to it but it has definitely been a journey.

I think the first year here was definitely the hardest. I was privileged enough to stay with my Aunty whose parents were from Montserrat for two years, so there was a sense of familiarity, but coming from a small island and moving to London was definitely a jump.

The Weather
The first thing my aunty told me was to make sure my jacket covers my knees and that was the best advice I was given! Your first winter is going to be unbearable. Invest in some gloves, a good jacket and layers. These days I’m trying to be a hot girl, but please do not freeze for fashion.
Also, the sun is lying. So when it’s February do not be brave, take your jacket everywhere and walk with an umbrella just in case.

I’m definitely not the best at making friends, which is probably the same for some of you and if you’re living on campus your flatmates might not always be your kind of people. It may sound daunting at first but if you’re like me and not the most outgoing person I would definitely recommend joining societies, whether social or academic. It may feel daunting at first, and I definitely walked out of every social event I went into within five minutes when I was in first year, but it really helped me make great friends and connections. University can be really stressful at times and the isolation can really hit you when you’re living on campus, put yourself out there!

Honestly, take every discount you can get. UniDays, the discount packs they give you during freshers, all of them!! Living on your own is expensive.
On that note, please do not shop at your campus store. I learnt this the hard way, trying to buy chicken and they’re charging me £5k. Even if it’s a bus ride away go into town to do your shopping or get home delivery from a cheaper store. ASDA has been my go-to store for a while and LIDL and ALDI are similar prices. Meal plans and planning a weekly budget are
also always good ideas.

If a part-time job is manageable and you want one that is flexible and fits with your schedule most student unions advertise student jobs on their website. Some universities also have a site advertising part-time student jobs related to specific fields if you’re looking for a way to gain experience and extra cash at the same time.

Some universities also offer a variety of bursaries. The university I went to for my undergraduate degree offered a bursary to all students who received AAB or above at A-Level or equivalent, with continuation of the bursary of you gained a 2:1 or above for each year of study. Other universities also offer hardship funds or financial assistance for academic equipment, if you don’t see them advertised you can always email the finance department.

Mental Health
School will actually have you crying in a field at 1am lmao, I have been there. Make sure to ask what mental health support is available. Whether you need support for stress, or more serious mental health difficulties your university should have a service available for you.

These are some of the access options I was aware of during undergrad:
– The nursing service – If you’re having an immediate crisis and your university has a nursing service you can go directly to them to be seen. They can provide immediate support and then guide you to your university’s wellbeing service.

– The wellbeing service – You can go directly to this service. In some universities this service will allow you to access a wellbeing support worker who can discuss any academic support you may need due to your mental state, such as an Individual Learning Plan which can recommend extensions on assignments. Depending on the severity of your situation they may recommend you contact your GP.

– Your university GP – If things are really not going well, you can do a mental health assessment with your GP. This is usually really simple and they tend to ask a few questions assessing your mood. In some cases, they may recommend medication or self-referral to a psychological therapies service. Therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy is free on the NHS and can be useful for individuals struggling with depression and anxiety, so if you think you need it and that it might work for yourself-refer!

– DSA – If you have a learning disability, or if during the year you realise your mental health is seriously affecting your academic performance and your GP has confirmed that you have a long-term mental health condition, you will be eligible for Disabled Students Allowance, which can provide funding for any specialist equipment you may need, such as a new laptop, editing software or a mentor. I know many of us come from cultural backgrounds where there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness or discussions about mental health, so if you’re not comfortable with these options that’s fine. Anonymous services such as your local nightline, Samaritans and Shout are available if you need someone to talk to without revealing your identity.

Master’s Students
Applications are usual open by January and I would definitely recommend applying early as some courses have a smaller intake limit and fill up fast. Most courses will need a personal statement and at least two references. If you’re currently in undergrad it would be really beneficial to develop a good relationship with your academic advisor or supervisor so you
can get a good reference from them.

Financing Master’s is definitely a lot harder than undergraduate in terms of funding available and I was lucky enough to not have to fund mine by myself so I’m really speaking from a place of privilege here.
For those of you eligible, you can apply for a post-graduate loan from student finance, but the maximum given is around £11k, which just about covers tuition and a few month’s rent.

Some university’s offer scholarships and if you’re currently in an undergraduate programme it might be useful to enquire about scholarships your department has available for post-grad or discounts they have for students who choose to continue to post-graduate at that university.

It’s definitely beneficial to think about accommodation prices when choosing the location you want to do your Master’s in. Both campus and off campus accommodation seem to be cheaper up north. Also, also in some cases, off campus accommodation is more affordable so make sure to take this into account.

Also, very random but georgette.adisa on Instagram posts a lot of content about being an international student studying in the UK and how to make the most of it, including travel tips and accommodation tips.

I would love to share your story. If you are studying or studied anywhere in the world and would love to give your tips and share your experience, you can email me at

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