My advice to international students choosing a university

Fide Lai

As a prospective university student, selecting five universities from a sea of choices available on UCAS can be overwhelming. This may be an even more daunting task if you are an international student who does not have the opportunity to visit potential universities in person or speak to students and staff at these universities.

This article provides a few important considerations you can take into account during your university decision-making process. If you have any further questions, or simply want to chat to a student who was once in your shoes, the link to chat with our international student ambassadors can be found below!

Choosing the right course for you

When choosing a university course, it is important to consider both the facilities and the module structure of the course.

Firstly, you could consider the course structure at different universities, including the modules offered and the distribution of coursework, written examinations, and practical examinations. At Durham, students in first year are given the option of taking an open module in another discipline. This strengthens students’ interdisciplinary thinking and gives students the opportunity to learn about other areas of study, from business to theology to world history.

As a prospective LLB Law student also interested in areas of study such as economics, I was delighted to find that Durham’s Law course offered modules such as Law and Economics and Competition Law. The availability of these modules, which other universities did not have, was one of the reasons why I viewed Durham’s Law course highly as an option for me.

Secondly, you can look at the university’s facilities, such as laboratory equipment, libraries, and other resources related to your chosen course. This may be especially important for laboratory-based courses such as Chemistry, Physics and Biology.

In totality, you should consider the balance of theory and practical learning your chosen course provides, and whether the modules offered align with your personal interests and career goals. With world-class facilities and a commitment to student success, Durham University provides an exceptional environment for students to thrive and achieve their academic and professional goals.

To learn more about individual students’ experiences pertaining to specific courses or modules, speak with our international student ambassadors here.


The next factor that you can consider is the location of your university. Some students prefer attending university in urban and cosmopolitan areas. Other students prefer going to university in quieter, countryside areas such as Durham as they enjoy the cosier, college town experience. Having studied in Durham for the past few years, I appreciate and love the beautiful scenery and sights on the way to school or the supermarket. Such views are hard to come by in other university locations across the UK.

While Durham is found in a quieter part of the UK, it has great connectivity to airports (35min drive to Newcastle International Airport) and bigger cities (direct express train to London and Manchester) which is a great plus if you are thinking of visiting your friends in other cities or flying home to your loved ones. Personally, I have taken the train to places including Manchester, Glasgow, and Cambridge, and found it very convenient to get there.

The location of your preferred university can also influence the prices that you will pay for your degree, accommodation, and food. Typically, these things are generally more affordable in universities in the north of the UK, such as Durham.

All in all, there is no right or wrong preference – what’s important is that you choose a location that you will enjoy and can thrive best in.

To know more about what our students enjoy about Durham’s location, chat with our international student ambassadors here.

Student Experience

Another factor that you can consider is the type of student experience you want to have. Most universities will have university clubs and societies that students can join, and student accommodation through which you can build meaningful relationships with other students. Durham is just the same, and I have enjoyed learning to moot in Durham’s Mooting Society, enjoying a relaxing yoga session with Durham University Yoga and Pilates Society, and working on publishing legal journal articles with the Durham Asian Law Journal.

However, Durham’s unique collegiate system makes it exceptional and different from other universities. Every student in Durham is a member of a college, through which they have the opportunity to meet more friends and build more memories. Students can play sports, join clubs and societies, all within their college, which can provide a cosy environment. Students also get the chance to participate in formals, balls, and special College days – events and a space to call home which are hard to come by outside of Durham.

Personally, I really enjoyed getting to know other students in my college, South College, as they came from many different backgrounds and were studying a variety of subjects. I am still good friends with some of the people I met and stayed with in college! Outside of colleges, it can be quite difficult to make friends with other students that do not have mutual friends or interests, or study entirely different subjects from you.

For more information about the individual colleges (there are 17 of them!) and how to pick your very own, chat with our international student ambassadors here.

Discover more

To create a personalised International Student Prospectus, click here.

To chat with an international student ambassador, click here. We look forward to getting to know you!

To explore Durham’s colleges, check out our latest colleges guide.

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Fide Lai

Hi! I'm Fide, a third year LLB Law student at South College. In the future, I hope to embark on a community project that aims to educate and mentor kids from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. I'll be more than happy to answer your questions on Unibuddy Chat!

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