Sunday, 15 September 2013

All my bags are packed I'm ready to go...but what to pack??!!

The road not taken...

With the admission done, student visa in hand and all the other formalities over, an international student going abroad for studies is possibly the most confused, now!

How cold will it be there? What utensils to take along? How much will I cook? How many notebooks? HOW MUCH WEIGHT IS ALLOWED??!

According to my daughter's friend who went to UK a year before her, "This country has 3 seasons, cold, colder and coldest, so when you land in September end, its going to be cold and from there on it just gets colder"!!

And so we went ahead and bought all possible warm clothes and sweaters that we could find in the hot and humid september in Delhi! In fact we bought a lot of stuff which, after she reached Leeds realized:
(a)  all of it wasn't as much of use (b) added to the weight (c) costed the same and (d) somethings were actually lesser!

So here's a list of things an Indian student should look into while you are packing. Use it a as a guide or a checklist to customise a list matching your individual needs.


1. Warm inners (1 pair, leggings and upper) - The buildings are heated, so layering is a better idea than wearing warm inners which cannot be removed if you're hot. However you would require it if you're planning a day out in the thick of the winters.
2. Sweaters/Cardigans - 2/3 for home-wear, 4/5 for wearing 'out' (Sweaters are sold at 'Primark' for low cost and a huge variety, should you require more after reaching).
3. Jackets - 1 thick, heavy.  2 light (Easier for layering). 1 hoodie (buy one from the University store with the logo and wear it proudly!)
4. Jeans - 2/3 pairs of jeans, different colours/shades (so that it doesn't look as if you are wearing the same for months!)
5. T-shirts/tops - At least one for each day of the week (easier for laundering, once a week).
6. A couple of fancy party wear, especially for the girls. Though my daughter says "at least 4 dresses"!
6. Shoes - Slippers/close toed slip ons for the room. 1 pair of comfortable walking (sports/lifestyle) shoes. Plus 1 pair formal/party wear. Again girls, more if you have the space.
7. Socks - 6 pairs cotton, 2/3 pairs woollen.
8. Clothes hangers - 8 to 10. Depending on your kind of clothes and space available.
9. A formal set of clothing - keep it separate (cleaned and ironed) for special days like attending job interviews, etc.
10. Towels. 2 full sized, 2 hand towels. Whites are difficult to maintain. The thinner cotton ones are quicker to dry. Plus a bathrobe, especially if you are sharing a bathroom. This too, I would suggest not to go in for the thick lush kind. Keeping space and drying time in mind.
11. Scarves/stoles -2/3, 1 pair - woollen gloves


1. Pens, highlighters, markers, pencils, erasers, scale, sketch pens.
2. Notebooks  - one for each of your subject (more or less and thickness, you know the best). These tend to be the heaviest so keep the net suitcase weight in mind.
5. Binders, folders and loose punched sheets.
6. Board pins, post its, cello tape, double sided tapes, pair of scissors.
7. A pouch to hold your daily stationery.
8. A bag (entirely your style) for taking to the University everyday.


Here the important factor to consider would be the kind of accommodation you're getting, catered or non-catered. If you're pampered, have no idea of cooking and can spare the extra cost, go in for catered (especially for the 1st year, after which you might find your bearings!). If otherwise, choose self catered accommodation.

1. A 'kitchen pack' is available at most University accommodation. Do check it out before you leave and see if it meets your requirement. The cost is fine and the kilos you save could be priceless. However you could put together similar items, more specific to your requirement, so read ahead.
2.  1 small 2/3 litre pressure cooker. 'Prestige' has brought out a new model which can be used both with gas stove with flame and induction cooking. Some kitchens might have only induction method.
3. 1 round (10 inch or less circumference) non-stick griddle (tawa), without raised edges. 1 small kadhai. 1 small saucepan.
4. 1 lid to cover any of the above. Choose the lid to cover your biggest sized utensil, it can be used for the smaller ones too.
5. 1 wooden spatula, 1 ladle. 1 all purpose knife, 1 potato peeler, 1 tea strainer
6. Dining set - 2 full plates, 2 quarter plates, 2 tea cups/mugs, 2 glasses, 4 teaspoons, 2 tablespoons, 2 forks, 2 small/soup bowls. 1 medium sized bowl esp for microwave cooking. (You can buy the light weight, non chipping 'corelle' or go in for melamine). These sets meant for students are available at popular stores in UK itself and are pretty cheap. So you needn't bother if you don't have the space.
7. 4 kitchen towels
8. Buy a liquid dish washing soap after you reach. Avoid messy spills as far as possible.
9. 1 soap case and 2 dish washing scrubs.
10.  Spices - the bottled 'shaker' kinds are easier to take and use. Available in any of the modern food stores.
11. Take pickles only if you cant live without them! Try to get double seals. Avoid messy spills. There is a story on the net about an Indian student bound for US and the pickle packet leaked. He had a big suitcase full of everything dipped in oil inside! So be careful.
12. 2 - water bottles, 1 - tiffin box
13. 3/4 - plastic boxes of different sizes to store things in the fridge/cupboard.
14.  Zip - lock plastic pouches - 1 medium pack (having about 8 -10 pouches) for easy organization.
15. 1 - small chopping board
16. Can/Tin opener, bottle opener.
17. Rice and wheat flour (1 kilo each or less depending on your requirement, to begin with).
18. A few packets of 'Maggi'. Rest you can buy as required.
19. Packets of ready to cook kinds. 5 to 7 of your favourites, again to begin with.
There is 'Poundland' and '99p' stores where you'll find a lot of things for less like ketchup, spreads, cornflakes, muesli, juices, etc. Go there and find out gradually.
20. Don't buy electrical items like kettle, toasters or grinders. Most of the times you will find these in the kitchens or students leaving universities would be selling these.


1.  A bedding pack is usually available in the accommodation. Find out and apply before hand.
2. 1 - single bedsheets plus pillow cover.
3. Shower caddy (a small plastic basket to hold your toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, tooth brush, tooth paste, shower gel, loofah). Which you can take in to the bathroom and bring back with you to your room if sharing a bathroom. Fill in with small size of each. Buy there itself when you run out.
4. Smallest pack of washing powder for the washing machine to take you through your first washes.
5. Bathroom scrub and rubber gloves.
6. Feather duster/duster cloth
7. Dust bin (Check if it isn't already there in the room).
8. Small Laundry hamper (collapsible, for easy packing). Available in 'Hometown'. Check the circumference with your biggest size suitcase.
9. Hairdryer/straightener
10. Universal electrical adapters - 2
11. One small table lamp
12. Mobiles - Keep 2. Or a dual sim mobile. Take the one you are using and buy a sim from a local store there itself. The second, buy a cheap mobile in India and use a 'Lyca/Lebarra' sim (most of the stores in UK sell it for free).  You may also find them at 'British Council' exhibitions or the Visa office. The cost of calling India is very cheap with a 'Lyca' sim. If you use an i-phone, you can 'facetime' for free!
13. Iron (check availability in accommodation before buying)
14. 2 - Extension cords
15. USB sticks
16. Emergency sewing kit (sewing needles and 3 different coloured threads)
17. Spare glasses and contact lenses if you wear.(Take in bulk, depending on your usage, these will be expensive).


First aid box - Basic medicine for cold, cough, fever, aches and pains, ointments for sores, burns and a packet of bandaid. Of course you know best which medicine you use more often. Put all of these in a see through plastic pouch or plastic box.

Family pictures - Do take some happy pictures of your loved ones and pets to be pinned to your board to tide you over homesickness.

RELAX and enjoy the journey of one of the most exciting phases of your life!

Friday, 24 May 2013

IELTS - The way to go

IELTS - International English Language Testing System. This is one of the approved English Language tests by the UK Border Agency to show your English competency for a student visa. There are other tests that you can take instead, like the PTE (Pearson's Test of English). My daughter took the IELTS because it was also the requirement of certain Universities for admission.

Here are a few important points to understand:

1. There are 2 versions of this test. IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic. You take the General Training version if you want to study or train at an undergraduate level. You take the Academic version if you want to study at the graduate level or higher. Be sure which version you need before applying.

2. The only valid ID is your passport.

3. You will get your results within 13 days of taking the test.

4. I found booking through booking through the British Council the best way.

5. The British Council site also has all the information you could possibly require on how to prepare for the test. If you score above 70% - 75% in CBSE exam, you can prepare on your own with help of all the material provided by this site, as well as a host of other sites on the internet. But you do require practice, however good you consider yourself to be. If your English is not up to the mark you must go through a preparatory course.

6. The listening, reading and writing components are held together without any breaks on the test day. The speaking test is conducted separately, 7 days before or after the main exam date. My daughter had it on the same day, after a gap of a few hours.

7. The complete test takes 2 hours 45 minutes. Listening - 30 minutes, Reading - 60 minutes, Writing - 60 minutes and Speaking - 11 to 14 minutes.

8. You can take the test on any of the available 48 test dates in a year. Find out the exact dates here, the official IELTS site.

9. The test fee is INR 9300 as of July 2013.

10. Register early. You may not get the date you want. The places fill fast. You need time to prepare, take the test and get the result. A re-sit if required. Find out more about re-sitting here.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The DREAM offer!

Close on the heels of the the second offer came the third and the fourth offer, both conditional and very achievable.

And amongst all of them came the dream offer from The University of Leeds. The offer that my daughter had been waiting for. BA (Hons) Broadcast Journalism with a conditional offer to score about 78% in the 12th board exam. I distinctly remember her jumping up and down with joy and relief for days! And the rest of the days of the exam period went relatively stress free!

Then came the offer from Nottingham Trent University with a very low score as the condition for the offer for their BA (Hons) Broadcast Journalism programme. It was a perfect back up, the insurance, easily achievable.

Later the fifth and the last offer came too. University of Westminster gave a conditional offer after a telephonic interview. Too many choices!

However my daughter decided to choose Leeds Uni's offer as her 'firm acceptance' and Nottingham Trent's offer as her 'insurance acceptance'. Do check the UCAS website's page to understand how to reply to your offers. It's very simple really and everything is clearly and lucidly explained. Check out the video too.

We, as parents and I, as a mother, cannot even begin to describe the relief I felt when my daughter had both of these offers in her hands. With only 2 subjects left for which she had to write the exam, we just had smiles on our faces throughout the said period and for much much later.

And very quickly out came my 'journal' and the jotting started yet again. This time around I was looking at the halls of residence, other accommodation, food, etc of both these universities, with the smile perfectly in place!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Stay Motivated - A Poem

This is my all time favourite poem learnt during my mid school years, which I pinned near my daughter's table to keep her morale high during the 12th Board Exam. Well, one amongst many beautiful poems and quotes.

Written by Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan, I find it to be very simplistically stated yet very powerful in content.

It's all about opening your mind to try. Believe in yourself and keep trying to the best of your abilities and you shall succeed. People who try never ever fail.

The poem is in Hindi. For my international audience, I've tried to bring out the essence of the poem in English.

Lehron se darkar nauka paar nahi hoti.
Koshish karne walon ki kabhi haar nahi hoti.

(A boat that's scared of the waves can never cross the sea,
The people who try never fail).
Nanhi chinti jab daana lekar chalti hai. Chadti deewaron par sau baar fhisalti hai.
Mann ka vishwaas ragon mein sahas bharta hai. Chadkar girna girkar chadna naa akharta hai.
Mehnat uski bekar har baar nahi hoti.
Koshish karne waalon ki Kabhie haar nahi hoti.

(The tiny ant carries a small grain in its mouth. Climbs up on the wall, slips and falls a hundred times. The self belief in the mind fills the body with courage. So the climbing up and falling down does discourage the ant. Ultimately its efforts do not go waste. 
People who try never fail).

Dubkiyan samundar mein gotakhor lagata hai. Ja ja kar khali haath laut kar aata hai.
Milte nahi sehaj hi moti gehre paani mein. Badhta dugna vishwaas isee hairani mein.
Muthi uski khaali har baar nahi hoti.
Koshish karne walon ki kabhi haar nahi hoti.

(The diver dives into the sea. He returns empty handed innumerable times. It's not easy to find  pearls in the deep waters, But this in turn doubles his enthusiasm, He does not return empty handed every time. 
People who try never fail.)
Asafalta ek chunauti hai sweekaar karo.  Kya kami reh gayi dekho or sudhar karo.
Jab tak na safal ho neend chain ko tyago tum. Sangharshon ka maidan chhor na bhago tum.
Kuch kiya bina hi jai jai kaar nahi hoti.
Koshish karne walon ki kabhi haar nahi hoti.

(Failure is a challenge, accept it, Recognize your shortcomings and rectify them. Till you achieve your dreams and succeed, shun rest and sleep. Never run away from the battlefield of struggle. Without genuinely deserving it, no one is ever praised.
People who try never fail.)

Monday, 25 March 2013

Finally, a conditional offer!

The not so patient waiting finally bore fruit. Not a sweet one but a ripe fruit nevertheless.

The second University to reply was Bournemouth. Though they made an offer, the conditional percentage seemed very high to achieve (at that point of time). Their website states a general entry requirement of less than 60% of the 12th class board exams for Indian students. However, and I assume because of the very high class media and journalism programmes and so the obvious competition, they asked for a score of above 85% for my daughter.

And so I strongly advise that one must email and ask the uni beforehand for specific subject entry requirements. The general entry requirements may be vastly different from subject specific requirements.

Consequently Bournemouth University's BA (Hons) Multimedia Journalism, a beautifully designed programme that was supposed to be a smart back up, the 'insurance', wasn't one anymore. You can't place a seemingly difficult to achieve conditional offer as your insurance.

This left my daughter roughly in the same square as she'd begun. Hoping desperately for the University of her topmost choice (now only one) to make an achievable offer. While still concertrating on the final exam at hand. Not an easy task, a child's life these days, honestly!

Fortunately the 3rd and 4th offer came close on the heels of this offer, right about this time and date, exactly a year ago!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Best Female On Screen!

My daughter has been nominated for 'Best Female On Screen' for NaSTA awards 2013!!

Here's her short video compilation.

Kudos to LSTV (Leeds Student TV) for their marvelous performance every week and for providing an extremely encouraging environment for each and everyone to learn and grow! I'm absolutely amazed and highly appreciative, having seen (as a student's mom) the insides and their working, nomination or not.
LSTV, may your tribe increase!!

This was a special post for this very update. I had to shout it out!