International week is all fun and games, and you'll make great friends. But as you internationals arrive a few days early, there's a risk that you'll end up elite and cliquey and isolated, with no friends. This isn't really something we recommend (although us internationals are superior by far).
Odds are you'll be travelling to Durham by air or rail. Most of these connections stop in Newcastle, however, so you'll need to get here somehow. If you fly in to Newcastle, you'll be picked up by the uni. However, this tips will be handy upon departure. You have two main options:
Unless you've paid to keep your room, it'll have to be cleared each holiday. If you're worried about storage over the holidays, like we were when we first came, this is the time to chillax. The single rooms have under-bed storage (you'll need padlocks), and being all international and precious, you're allowed to use College's communal storage areas (the “voids” underneath the Old Wing blocks.). The shared rooms don't have under-bed storage, so get to use the voids anyway. This special treatment comes in very handy if you, like us, have too much stuff and are too mean to donate it to charity. Just ask the lovely porters for a box.
In general, UK banks don't make it easy for international students or British expats to open new accounts. Be warned: you won't be eligible for pretty much any of the student accounts or deals, won't get a chequebook and probably won't get any overdraft. Some international accounts even charge you for the privilege of storing your money. Most of the major banks have branches in Durham (around the Market Place), so talk to them and see what they can offer you. In our experience, Natwest is one of the most helpful – they may let you have a basic account, with a low level of interest and a cash-card – but we can't guarantee anything. Good luck, fresher!
Applications can take a while to be processed, so if you need a visa you should apply as soon as your university confirmation letter arrives. Once you reach Durham, you may need to register with the police to confirm your arrival. This has to be done within your first 7 days in Britain. A visa is not the same as a work permit, however, so be careful of accepting any part-time work – check the given stipulations (or talk to one of the Senior Tutors).