Excited but apprehensive; the two words that describe my feelings when I left the United States for Manchester. I had never been to Manchester, but decided to attend the university for its reputation and hands-on coursework. While I was excited for my program, I did not know what to expect for the practical realities of moving abroad. I had never been to Manchester, but my wife and I were seeking private accommodation, and to move in quickly at the start of the term. For me, the scene was set for quite a bit of learning in a short amount of time. Thinking back now, there are some things I think are useful to know when moving to Manchester. I think the following information is useful if you are an overseas student seeking private accommodation:
- Introduction week is a good way to be brought up to speed on what to expect from your course and a good opportunity to meet your classmates. While we didn't cover any formally assessed coursework, it was a good opportunity to feel comfortable with my course and offerings at the university before starting classes.
- In private accommodation, you may have to pay for gas, electricity, water, and internet. Interestingly, there are numerous gas and electricity providers, and you can shop around to find the best deals. The same goes for internet providers.
- It takes three weeks to have internet installed. This is fairly common across each provider, but expect it to take three weeks from signing the contract to start of service
- If you have private accommodation, depending on your circumstances, you may not have to pay council tax. Council tax is a mandatory charge by the city and covers road maintenance, garbage collection, and similar services. But, if you are a student, you may be exempt from paying council tax, or at least pay a reduced rate.
- You may have to be a fee to a letting agent when signing up for private accommodation. The letting fee is in addition to a security deposit and first month's rent. I personally used "Manchester Student Homes'" contract checking and recommendation services to make sure I knew what to expect. I also recommend having a significant amount of cash available for fees and to cover expenses for the first few weeks.
- For most international students, it may take some effort to open a UK bank account. For me, banks needed proof I was living in the UK, which meant I needed a utility bill with my name on it. In order to get a utility bill, one needs to have accommodation. Therefore, the process took a little time.
Overall, moving to Manchester was a nice experience. I have enjoyed my course so far, met wonderful people from all parts of the globe, and relished in the city's culture, art, and food scene. Moving was a learning opportunity, and armed with the above information, students seeking private accommodation will be just fine.