Applying to University is always a stressful time no matter where you are or who you are. However, something that definitely makes this more difficult is being an English teenager who lives in Spain, or in fact, any other country.
Having been there and done this myself, I am here to help those of you who are thinking about applying to University in the UK along with your parents who may well need a helping hand when it comes to filling out the dreaded student finance forms. At the age now of 21, I am in my final year of studying at University and have just received my final lot of student finance, so trust me, no one can explain the difficulties to you better than I can!
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Applying to an English University is done in the same way whether you are living in Spain, England or even the Artic, and that is through the UCAS system. Throughout this process there are no residential related problems, and this is based purely on your results, which would normally be your GCSEs and A-Levels although I am unsure of what the process would be if you have studied the Spanish ESO and Bachillerato qualifications. Therefore to literally apply to University is not a problem.
If you are from a fortunate background, or perhaps have a very generous grandparent, you will be able to self-fund your degree and maintenance costs, for a grand total of around £54,000 for the course of 3 years. Therefore, you will not have to deal directly with Student finance and it will not be a problem that you have lived in Spain in the years leading up to your degree.
However, like myself, if this is just not an option for you then the only alternative is to turn to Student finance, a governmental company that issues loans to support you throughout your course, which are re-payable once you have graduated.
There are two main sections to your loan, the first is the tuition loan, which will be paid for you not matter where you live in the EU, and the second part is the maintenance loan, which is available to help cover additional costs such as housing and bills.
The maintenance loan is means tested, meaning that what you will be given depends on your parent’s income and financial status and this is where the majority of problems begin to occur, when you live in Spain. To be eligible for the maintenance loan, you must have been resident in England for 3 years prior to the start of your course and have a UK permanent address. If your parents still have a house in England this may not be as much of a problem and you may well be able to find a way around it. However, when it comes to income and financial statistics there are more hurdles.
Firstly, if your parents are employed in Spain their income will be in Euros, and this will all need to be converted back into pounds sterling. Then there are further complications, such as whether they still have earnings from the UK, if they have a house there, do they receive a state UK pension etc.
The list is endless. Tax documentation may need to be translated, in which case that is a costly job and a trip to the lawyer’s office.
The purpose of this is not to scare you into not applying to University, you should just be aware that the forms you need to fill out (yes forms, if you were UK resident this could be done online), are far from straightforward if you are not from a conventional family living in the UK.
From my own perspective, as I moved to the UK at the beginning of my A-levels, I had in fact been resident in the UK for the necessary time before beginning university. However, as my parents are self-employed this was our one main complication.
There are many different boxes that you can put your information into, for example for us we were unsure whether to put their income as foreign income, salary/wages or from self-employment, and I’m sure this will be the same for many of you. I was advise, depending on your situation that you try to pick a box and maintain it throughout every application you make, this is what we did and so far so good (touch wood).
Putting all the financial and technical issues behind, it is also important to think about the logistics of going to University in the UK after you have been living in Spain with your family.
I left home at 17 and moved to England to study my A-levels, and so I was actually a year premature in the moving country department. For my parents this was a lot to handle and it caused tensions between our family.
For me personally, this new chapter excited me in my life but the realisation of being so far from home soon kicked in at full force. I then went on to University, and although I’d been out of the nest for some time now, it didn’t make it any easier for me. My parent’s came over to help move me into campus in the first year, but their visits became less and less frequent as they still had their own lives in Spain, and I had no way to argue seeing as I was the one that left.
Whilst sitting in your bedroom at Uni with all your friends’ parent’s coming over to take them for lunch, or to pick them up at the holidays, be prepared for a lonely few days. As my journey through University continued this didn’t get any easier for me to handle. Both my parents and myself missed out on occasions such as moving me out of campus and into new houses, reading weeks, events happening on campus etc. Of course you must remember, that flying home is not as easy as just hopping onto the next train, and in occasions such as school holidays this is going to be very costly.
Housing is the next issue. Depending on how much you know about university, after the first year of living in campus accommodation, you will need to find student accommodation, normally in the form of a house shares off of campus. In order to do this you will be asked for a guarantor, which MUST be based in the UK. This means your parents will not be able to act as your guarantor.
There is a strict criterion for people who do, and do not qualify for this, for example they must have a regular income and be able to pay your rent if you should fail to. If you do not have any family members or older friends that could do this for you, your only alternative would be to pay for your whole years accommodation upfront at the beginning of the tenancy. Now, if you are from a fortunate background, this will be no problem for you, however if not, this is a potentially massive hurdle and could jeopardise your place at University, so I really urge both you and your parents to think about who would be able to act as a guarantor before heading off to University.
As you can gather, there are many hurdles and obstacles in your way of getting to University in the UK after living in Spain. However it is definitely not impossible, and I know a lot of people who have managed to find ways around these things in one-way or another, including myself. The best piece of advice I can give to you, as a teenager living in Spain is, that when it comes to things like this nothing will be straightforward, but don’t give up if it is something you really want to do it, there are ways around it.
For more information visit: UK Student Finance
About the Author: Melissa Garrett
Born in Colchester, Essex, Melissa spent 5 years attending an English Private school in Marbella. After leaving the English International College, she returned to the United Kingdom to continue to study her A-levels. She then went on to attend The University of Kent where she is currently studying English Language and Linguistics. She regularly returns to her family home in Marbella, and has now been here for a total of 8 years.