Preparing for your exchange

As an exchange student coming to study at the University of Surrey, there are a number of things you must do before you travel to the UK. 

What to pack

Orientation dates

For UK public holidays and University closure dates visit our key dates page.

Please note the nursing programme has different semester dates. 

2019/20: Spring / Semester 2

  • Arrive: Wednesday 5 February 2020
  • Exchange Orientation (obligatory): 6-7 February
  • Teaching: 10 February - 22 May
  • Spring vacation: 30 March - 24 April (no mandatory classes)
  • Revision Week: 25 - 29 May
  • Exams: 1 - 19 June
  • Depart: 20/21 June 

2020/21: Autumn / Semester 1

  • Arrive: Wednesday 16 September 2020
  • Exchange Orientation (obligatory): 17-18 September
  • Welcome Week: 21-25 September
  • Teaching: 28 September – 18 December
  • Winter vacation: 19 December – 3 January (no mandatory classes)
  • Revision Week: 4-8 January 2021 (some classes)
  • Exams: 11-29 January, including Saturdays
  • Depart: 30/31 January

2020/21: Spring / Semester 2

  • Arrive: Wednesday 3 February 2021
  • Exchange Orientation (obligatory): 4-5 February
  • Teaching: 8 February – 14 May
  • Spring vacation: 30 March – 24 April (no mandatory classes)
  • Revision Week: 17-21 May
  • Exams: 24 May - 11 June*
  • Depart: 12/13 June 2021

Before you leave

We suggest you start preparations as early as you can to ensure that the transition from home to Surrey is an exciting and rewarding experience and to ensure that you do not miss any essential activities at the beginning of the academic year which might have a negative impact on your academic success.

For information to help you prepare for life and study in the UK, visit our International Study Centre website

If you have a current passport/national identity card from a European Economic Area (EEA) country (includes all EU member states, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland) or from Switzerland, you will not need a visa to come and study in the UK. 

If you do not have a passport from an EEA country or Switzerland, you will need to either:

  • request a Short-term Study Visa at the port of entry as you enter the UK - this is for non-visa nationals* only, who are studying or doing research in the UK for up to 6 months as part of their overseas degree. You will need to carry all of the necessary supporting documents for the Short-term Study Visa in your hand luggage to show at the border when you arrive and every time you re-enter the UK during your stay. No cost.
  • apply for a Short-term Study Visa before you travel - this is for visa nationals*, who are studying or doing research in the UK for up to 6 months as part of their overseas degree. Non-visa nationals may also apply for this in advance of travel to avoid having to show the supporting documents every time they re-enter the UK during their stay. Visa fee payable.
  • apply for a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa** before you travel - this is for students staying longer than 6 months and/or wishing to study AND work, including paid work, voluntary work, work experience, work placements or internships. NB: to be eligible for a Tier 4 visa students must meet the University of Surrey’s English language requirement of a minimum of IELTS 6.5, with 6.0 in each component, or IELTS 7.0, with 7.0 in each component, for student nurses. Citizens of most countries will need to pay a Health Surcharge of £150, as well as a substantial visa fee. 

* Visa nationals are citizens of certain countries who need to apply for a UK visa in advance of travel - for a current list of countries, see Appendix 2 of the UK's immigration rules. If you complete the visa check on the UK Visas and Immigration website to find out which visa you need, visa nationals will be told they need a Short-term Study Visa, whilst non-visa nationals will be told they do not need a visa, but should bring supporting documents with them to show at the border.

**As a Tier 4 sponsor, the University of Surrey is responsible for monitoring students and their attendance at classes during their studies.

Our Global Engagement Office will email students who need a visa with more detailed information about the different visas and will ask them to confirm which visa they will require.

For further information about visas and the supporting documents you need to provide, please see UKCISA’s visas and immigration page or the University’s visa page.

For advice regarding visas, please contact the University’s International Student Support team on or Tel: 0044 1483 686868.  

Full details the types of accommodation available, and accommodation fees and application process, visit our accommodation page.

All students should take out travel insurance before travelling to the UK. Students who travel to another country for a holiday during their studies in the UK must take out additional travel insurance.

The University has a Student Health Centre, Guildowns Group Practice, on the main Stag Hill campus. The Royal Surrey County Hospital is also nearby and has an Accident & Emergency department.

Details of who is entitled to free treatment under the UK’s National Health Service, the NHS, are available on the UKCISA website. The following NHS treatment is free for everyone:

• emergency hospital treatment (but not follow-up treatment)
• family planning services
• diagnosis and treatment of certain communicable diseases
• compulsory psychiatric treatment

If you are an EU/EEA student or an international student, living in Guildford and studying at Surrey for more than 6 months, you are eligible for the same free NHS healthcare as a UK citizen, which includes everything except prescriptions, eye tests and glasses, and dental treatment. Prescriptions for medicine currently cost £8.05 per item. You should register with the University’s Student Health Centre, Guildowns Group Practice, at the university registration session during orientation. Please complete and print out the Guildowns patient health questionnairebefore you travel and bring it to the university registration session. The University Medical Centre is open from 8:30am to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday, throughout the year, except on Wednesday afternoons. Routine appointments can be made to see a doctor or nurse by booking with reception Tel: 01483 409309. If you are living outside Guildford, you can find your nearest doctors’ surgery (general practitioner, or GP) to register with on the NHS choices website.

If you are studying at the University of Surrey for less than 6 months, you will not be covered by the NHS, except for the free services listed above, and you are advised to take out private health insurance, unless you are from an EU country or a country with a reciprocal health agreement. EU students will receive some free and some reduced-cost treatment. Should you fall ill or need treatment, you may register as a temporary private patient at the University’s Student Health Centre or at your local GP (see NHS choices website for your local GP). The treatment charges are available from the Student Health Centre or GP reception.

If you are eligible for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) (typically EU citizens), please apply for one. The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare, being flown back home, or lost or stolen property. Therefore, it is important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, please see the government website for the latest updates. 

It is important to let the doctor know of any significant medical problems you have as soon as possible, so that appropriate arrangements can be made for your support. In particular, the doctor would need to know about any important on-going problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, mental health problems etc. You should bring with you any medical notes you have concerning your illness, together with enough medication for a least the first month.

A pharmacy is also a useful source of information and a pharmacist can provide basic medications for minor illnesses such as colds, coughs or hay fever - over-the-counter medicines may also be cheaper than prescription medication. There is a small pharmacy in the University shop and several local pharmacies near the University. You should make an appointment to see the doctor if symptoms persist. You can also call NHS Direct for help and advice by simply dialling 111 at any time or visit their website.

The University has a Centre for Wellbeing, which provides counselling and emotional support for a wide range of personal issues and mental health problems. The Centre offers 20-minute drop-in sessions or you can arrange a longer session by telephoning 01483 689498 or emailing

We recommend booking your travel as early as possible to get the best price. However, students who need to apply for a visa are advised to get their visa first.

Please note the exchange arrival and departure dates when booking your travel.

If you will be taking exams at Surrey, please do not book your return/onward travel for before the end of the exam period (exam timetables will be available a month before the start of the exam period). Also, be aware that unusually heavy spring snowfall can result in examinations being postponed!

Erasmus students taking assignment-only modules should note that the minimum stay to be eligible for Erasmus+ study exchange funding is 3 months. 

The International Student Support team organises a Meet and Greet service to meet and collect students from our nearest international airports, London Gatwick and London Heathrow, on the exchange arrival day in September, and from Heathrow only in February. 

Making your own way to the University? 

For directions to the University if you are travelling independently, please visit the travelling to the University information on the international pre-departure website.

The University’s offers a Buddy Scheme to enable new international/exchange students to meet current Surrey students.The Buddy Scheme is designed to help you in settling in and getting to know the campus and Guildford. The Global Engagement Office will be in touch asking if you are interested in this scheme before your exchange begins. You will be given contact details for your assigned Surrey buddy who you can contact before you arrive, ask any questions you may have and arrange to meet up with them during your first few days at Surrey.  

You should bring a small amount of UK sterling with you for expenses at the airport, travel to the campus and initial living costs, but you should not need more than GB£200. It is also a good idea to obtain a credit card from home as a contingency and for getting cash from ATM machines, although there is likely to be a handling fee for each transaction, or you can bring sterling travellers’ cheques to pay for accommodation. Any money that you need to use urgently to pay accommodation fees should be in a bank draft made out to the ‘University of Surrey’, not yourself. Do not carry funds in a bank draft made out in your own name as you will need to open a bank account and allow up to four weeks for the money to clear.

Just before you leave

Your academic department at Surrey should email you with a link to your personalised study timetable a couple of weeks before your arrival. You will have a meeting scheduled with your Departmental Exchange Coordinator or Administrator during the Orientation (February) or Welcome Week (September) at which you may make any changes that may be necessary to your study programme before you finalise your learning agreement.

As soon as you are notified through the applicant portal, set up your IT account. Keep your confirmation of registration as you will need to show this when you register in person at the University.

All students must register with the University of Surrey and there are 2 parts to the registration process. The first is to complete our online Initial Registration Form before your arrival. To do this, you must first have set up your Surrey IT/email account. You will be emailed with a link to the pre-registration form before your arrival. On completion of the form, you will have the option to download or print off your ‘Confirmation of Pre-Registration’ certificate, which you must bring with you to Surrey.

The second part of the process is to attend a registration session during your first few days at Surrey to which you must bring your passport and an electronic copy or print-out of your ‘Confirmation of Pre-Registration’.

Students walking along the River Wey

Your first few days

Now you are prepared, find out what needs to be done in your first few days to enable a smooth transition to your time at Surrey.