The Reading Aesthetic

There’s a special something about the University of Reading and the town of Reading that really appealed to Collin, who joined us on the Study Abroad Programme from the University of Rhode Island. Read on to get a taste of that aesthetic!

Coming from a small New England town in the United States, I grew up appreciating nature for all the beauty it has to offer. At first glance I was a little skeptical about the urban location of the University of Reading and how many cities these days are more focused on buildings than plants and animals.

It only took me a few hours to realize the University of Reading has both the benefits of an urban setting while still keeping its natural roots. It’s amazing how the University is able to combine modern buildings, historical buildings, and a vast amount of biodiversity all on the same campus. It is safe to say Reading has surpassed my expectations and continues to surprise me.

Another great thing about Reading is the downtown area. There are so many stores, restaurants, and events that its almost impossible to visit them all even though it is only about a 10-minute bus ride. The streets have a very old-town English feel to them, even though they are stocked with all the latest stores (many of which can only be found in England). It makes for a great place to adventure with friends for shopping and other activities such as getting coffee or tea.

There is an overabundance of different types of restaurants with food from all over the world. Its quite remarkable how much culture and diversity they have jammed into one small city. There’s also numerous festivals that take place during the year like the Oktoberfest celebration that is held in town every year. During the winter term they even have the town decorated with Christmas decorations with a large tree in the town center. It is a very beautiful setup and rivals even some of the larger European cities.

There’s no place like home…

…at University of Reading student accommodation! Join Kiara as she shares her experiences of living, socialising and eating in halls…

One major stereotype about American universities is the concept of a shared dorm room. For many students, living in these halls acts as a rite of passage. I was lucky back when I was a “fresher” (British English has grown on me) to have had a residence hall that was a little atypical—in the best possible way. My home university, The University of Texas at Dallas, became an undergraduate institution in 1991, and didn’t have residence halls on campus until the mid-2000s. When I moved in, I was blessed with a state of the art flat: my own sink, countertop space, and private bedroom despite sharing the flat with two others. Instead of sharing showers and toilets with the entire floor, I only had to share with my flatmates. It was a pretty sweet gig.

Living in such close proximity to other students stimulated the quick formation of friendships. By the end of the year, I had realized that my closest friends were the ones whom I saw daily—at dinnertime. Sharing meals was such a social experience. Everybody needs to eat, and it was all the better to share that time with friends.

When choosing my accommodations at Reading, I had to think long and hard about what I valued most in a hall: proximity to food and proximity to campus. Thus, I ended up in St. Pat’s! Though it ended up not being the closest hall to my classes, I grew to appreciate the daily walk past the lake. The lake and Harris Gardens quickly became some of my favorite places on campus. They’re absolutely beautiful in the fall!

Alas, food! St. Pat’s is situated right next to “Shams,” as I’ve grown to call the Shamrock Cafe. Open five days a week, Shams proved to be a convenient place to catch a bite with the other students from my block. In no time at all, I had forged friendships with students from Wales, England, France, and China. Over our shared dinners, we learned about one another’s school systems, families, and vernaculars, just to name a few things. Despite being here for three months, the number of differences in British and American English still surprises me. Moreover, I did not realize that regional slang and accents were so different in the UK! Despite the US being so much bigger, there is not nearly as much variation in accent from region to region. You’ll find a little bit of “y’all” with a southern drawl, but it’s the difference is not as stark as the difference between Welsh and London slang.

My flatmates and I have been through a lot together. Nothing brings you together quite like three 1AM fire drills over the span of two weeks. Looking back on it, we all laugh at how routine it became. We’ve also had some good nights out at the Union. It’s always more fun with a group of friends! Before I leave, we are planning to do a Secret Santa event. It’ll be funny to see what kinds of gifts are exchanged after a few months of knowing one another.

I’m really happy with my choice in hall. Food facilitated friendships tend to be some of the best. The people I’ve met are hilarious and a lot of fun to be around. Despite the fact that they sometimes leave the kitchen a mess, I love them nonetheless. I look forward to keeping in touch with them after I return to the USA!

Eagles Abroad!

Sarah from University of Mary Washington offers some great pointers for studying abroad at Reading…

As the semester is winding down and examination preparation is in its midst, I am taking a moment to reflect on what has happened in the past three months of my abroad experience. A lot has happened and it has been hectic, joyful, and quite the learning experience. Let me tell you, it does rain. And yes, take your umbrella with you.

At University of Reading I am enrolled in modules in the Henley Business School. I am an International Business major and Henley’s excellence in emphasizing international study was a real draw for me! Studying at a university in the United Kingdom was definitely a transition. It places much more importance on self-learning than traditional American institutions. In all honesty, I did not know how to handle all my “free” time when I initially began my modules! However, I soon began to smoothly transition to UK study habits and joined clubs to fill my time.

One club that was extremely beneficial to my time abroad was the Erasmus Society. The Erasmus Society gave me the opportunity to meet and travel with international students and others who were interested in study abroad. It was a welcoming and friendly community which allowed me to create long lasting friendships while exploring parts of the UK’s most interesting landmarks and cities.

Speaking of traveling, the UK has allowed me to experience some of the most memorable travel experiences. I have travelled by train, plane, and bus exploring the UK. Whether the trips were planned by the amazing Erasmus & Study Abroad office, the Erasmus Society, or my own personal trip advising, I have seen and done things that I will cherish for a lifetime.

One of my favourite memories while traveling the UK was getting to see the Crown jewels at the Tower of London. I am a real fan of the “The Crown” on Netflix so getting to experience the monarchy’s history was a real treat! Even though navigating the Tube did take some getting use to!

Getting to go abroad was an amazing experience and it cannot be summed up in nearly one post. I am glad I chose to come the United Kingdom as my abroad destination and even happier that I chose the University of Reading as my abroad university!

A Gateway to Europe…

Join Michaela as she takes a break from her studies at Easter and leaves her home away from home at Reading to explore more of Europe!

When you study abroad at somewhere like the University of Reading, you inadvertently discover a home away from home. At the same time, you are also inspired to leave that home and explore.

Having come from a family who has encouraged me to see the world, I took full advantage of the University of Reading’s Easter Break between spring and summer term. After my last class that Friday, I headed to London Gatwick with my weekend duffle bag to start my 24 day-long trip in Madrid. Through the Erasmus programme, I found travel partners as well as places to stay along my trip since my new friends from school live in all different countries.

14 cities, 6 countries, and 1 British Territory later, I had felt a range of emotions. Accomplished for surviving various metros in foreign languages by myself, bliss from eating delicious food, exhausting from overnight trains and endless walking, and above everything else: appreciation.

If it wasn’t for this school and in part the funding from my blog scholarship, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to see so much. This school has a unique ability to help you surface your passions and to realize everything you’re already capable of, which is something every student can benefit from.

Not only did Reading give me the courage and resources to explore so much, but it also gave me a place to miss.

By the end of my travels, I started to feel homesick for Reading and the people it brings together.

Exploring new places solo

If you, like Hedyieh from Colorado State University, are coming from outside of Europe to join the Study Abroad Programme at Reading, you’ll find Reading an ideal base for exploring the Continent, either with friends or solo…

Now this is not for everyone, but I wish it could be. If the fear of being alone or traveling alone scares you and bothers you more than it benefits you I do not suggest you travel alone BUT if you are just making excuses, stop making them. There are many different types of traveling: going with your family, going with friends to a party destination, going with friends to sight see, small group travels, large group travels, solo, etc. All of these types should be experienced if possible because you learn something different with each way of traveling and it helps make you a better individual overall.

Traveling completely solo was something I had never done before. I have travelled alone to meet friends or go to camp but I have never just travelled to a destination alone and stay alone. My first trip was to Paris and I was completely hesitant on whether or not I should do it because all the friends I was supposed to travel with could not make it to the trip. That fear was the only thing that was holding me back.

After a week of thinking I knew that if I did not make it to France I would highly regret it and at the end of the term I did not know if there would be time to squeeze in France, so I just went for it. I was in Amsterdam with a friend the weekend before visiting Paris which was perfect.

Once Monday came around I caught an 8 hour bus ride from Amsterdam to Paris and it went by so quickly. I was super nervous about so many things from navigating alone, to eating alone, and to having my evenings alone. I have always had friends to lean on and join at hostels when making more friends, almost like a safety cushion, I was nervous that I was not going to be able to make friends on my own and that I would look silly or desperate approaching strangers at the hostel. All of these nerves are normal and good, the best way to get over them is by just being yourself and going for everything you want. You have already arrived and booked the trip so why not do more.

Since I arrived into France at an awkward time, there was just enough room for me to see one place before the sun completely set, I quickly made it to the metro station and chose to see the Eiffel Tower. It was absolutely stunning in person. I could not believe something I see in pictures and learn about was finally in front of me, I was in awe. I made it back to my hostel by dinner time and I was able to chat amongst a few people which was not so bad for the first day.

On the second day I really experienced traveling alone. I had to eat breakfast and lunch alone, the thought of that made me so anxious but then I realized so many people around me were doing the same and no one was watching. Sight seeing alone was also nerve racking at first but slowly everything came together. When you travel alone you really get time to think, travel at your pace, and just dive into peace and quiet.

The third day was absolutely perfect. I woke up early to get into the Louvre near opening time. Going alone was the best choice I made because I ended up spending 6 hours inside, doing everything at my pace. If I were with people I do not know how it would have all happened. Afterwards I walked down the Seine to the Notre Dame and I finally got a message from my stomach telling me it was hungry. Lunch was perfect. I walked down the Seine with a baguette in one hand and a liter of Prosecco in the other. It was so beautiful and quiet and the sun was out shining down on Paris.

I got to make my way back to the Louvre through the gardens and down the Champs Elysees and I finally reached the Arc de Triumph. As the sun set I was smiling and soaking up all the incredible time I got for myself in the 3 days. I do not know if it was because no one was around influencing my thoughts or if I never put in time for myself like I just did but everything fell into place. I really appreciated myself and my capabilities. I learned the city within 48 hours, never got lost, never got robbed, and learned to accept that it’s okay to be alone, it’s actually really healthy to do so once in awhile.

We can get so caught up in our daily routine and get sucked into this bubble we never noticed. Traveling really wakes you up from all the closed curtains and traveling alone challenges you as an individual to think. You think about what you are doing with your life, you think about what you want out of life, you think about everything you are seeing and experiencing. It is like doing a puzzle on your own and you finally see the big picture instead of each piece alone.

So if you are reading this and you run into a weekend or a few days where no one can travel with you, it’s okay you should still go! Do not skip out on a trip because no one else can come with you, go for you! Bring a book and a journal or camera and just indulge in everything you do!! Be safe, be smart, and be cautious!!

 

Making (simulated) millions at ICMA!

In March 2017, Dan from University of Mary Washington joined us for our Study Abroad Programme Trading Room Challenge at the on-campus ICMA Centre. Read on to learn more…

When most people talk about their study abroad they talk about the places they travelled to and the sites they got to see but a great experiences from my time at the University of Reading was participating in a trading room simulation at the ICMA Centre at the University of Reading Henley Business School. The ICMA trading room is a fully functioning and equipped trading room capable of simulating the real life market and training finance students at the Henley Business School. I personally am a Business major and was super excited to see what a trading simulation would be like.

Going into the simulation I had very little experience in a trading environment but never the less couldn’t wait to give it a shot. When I got there all the participants were seated and briefly explained the rules and how the simulation would work. I remember the teacher explaining the controls saying it normally takes students over a year of classes and training to get to the trading room but you all are going to learn in 15 minutes.

The simulation worked like this. We all had a starting amount of money and no stocks. We could choose from a limited number of stocks such as Google and Morgan Stanley to buy and sell. Every 15 seconds there would be a ‘call’ from another bank asking for a buying and selling price, and based off what you enter the bank either buys or sells stocks from you. The entire market was influenced by simulated news events. There was a contest amongst the group for who could make the most money and who could make the least money.

So, after very little explanation the simulation started and we were off. The whole hour long simulation passed in a blur. It seemed to only take around 5 minutes. The entire room was dead quiet except for the sound of frantic clicking and typing.

Looking back the trading room simulation was an amazing experience. As a Business major it was cool to experience how stock trading works in a real time environment. Study abroad is not just about the experiences you know you will have by traveling and experiencing new things. It is also about the small unexpected experiences you have along the way that you will always remember.

NB: The Erasmus & Study Abroad Office would like to thank Dr Michael Smith of the ICMA Centre for facilitating this event for Study Abroad Programme students.

Exploring far and wide in Enhancement Week…

Taylor from the University of Georgia used her Week 6 in February 2017 to venture to the Republic of Ireland and Scotland. How will you use yours? Taylor will likely give you some ideas!

At the University of Reading, Week 6 is known as Enhancement Week. Enhancement Week aka ‘Opportunities Week’ gives students time and hosts events to develop their study skills, personal goals, and employability. I choose to spend that week going on my first trip outside of England since arriving. Some of my friends chose to travel to Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. I chose to start a little closer to Reading in Ireland and Scotland. Many people find they get the most out of a trip traveling solo, but I am a people’s person. I was able to find another study abroad student from Missouri to join me, Laura. Although Laura and I do not have much in common, it was nice to have a travel buddy. We made four major stops: Dublin, Glasgow, Isle of Skye, and Edinburgh. The total trip lasted for eleven days, so I’ll do my best to condense all my adventures.

Our first stop, Dublin, Ireland, was for three days where we met up with another study abroad student from New Jersey named Terry. Our hostel, Barnacles Hostel Dublin, was in the center of the area known as Temple Bar. We spent our time seeing sights such as Christ Church Cathedral, the Guinness Factory, and the Dublin Zoo. The Guinness Factory is a must and I recommend saving your free beer that comes with your entry ticket for Guinness’ Gravity Bar. One night, we went on a pub tour where we went to Whelan’s Pub, the pub where P.S. I Love You was filmed!

Next stop was Glasgow, Scotland. We only spent a night there to meet up with our tour bus the next morning. That tour bus, Rabbie’s, would take me on an adventure I will never forget. Over the course of three days, Laura and I became friends with ten strangers. We drove through the Scottish Highlands stopping in Glencoe where the James Bond movie Skyfall was filmed, Fort William, and finally landing in Portree on the Isle of Skye where we would spend the next two nights.

From what I had seen that first day, Scotland was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, but I would still only be amazed the next two days. Day two we started in the Fairy Glenn. I felt as if I had walked onto the set of Lord of the Rings in the hobbit’s Shire. It was beautiful and magical. After, we stopped on the shores of Glendale and Staffin Bay Beach where we saw real fossilized dinosaur footprints.

Unfortunately, day three came and it was time to leave the Isle of Skye. We would catch a ride to Edinburgh, but on the way back we stopped for a tour at the Eilean Donan Castle and walked around the Loch Ness for lunch. My words do not do justice to the beauty I experienced in the North. If you ever get the chance to go, you will not regret it. The last five days, Laura and I would spend in Edinburgh. By this time, we were exhausted, but still wanted to see more. My favorite part of Edinburgh was the Zoo. It was incredibly open and interactive. I walked through a marsupial exhibit and stood two feet from a wallaby. All in all, I am forever grateful for this experience and look forward to more trips during my time abroad.

A myriad of experiences on Reading’s doorstep…

Cameron, who joined the University of Reading Study Abroad Programme from the University of Florida in January – June 2017, found there were so many experiences to be had within a short journey from Reading. Join him as he takes a trip to the British Museum in London…

One of the experiences that I have had during my time at the University of Reading was a trip I made to the British Museum in London. While I’m aware that museums are not exactly a great many people’s cup of tea, I for one love them. I think it comes from being someone that has always loved history. The British Museum is particularly interesting in that there are numerous artefacts from across the world that are on display. For one they have jewellery from Sumer that is close to five thousand years old, as well as sarcophagi from Ancient Egyptian tombs. Not to mention a rather impressive collection of Ancient Greek sculptures.

To me perhaps the most striking were the carvings on display from the Ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. These carvings were actually part of the interior decoration of the royal palace and depict scenes from the daily life of the rulers of Assyria to their military conquests. Also, for anyone with an interest in medieval history like me, they have numerous artefacts from the Saxon and Viking period in England. This encompasses artefacts from the 7th century Sutton Hoo burials, including the ornate and famous helmet. In all honesty the British Museum is a must see for history buffs, but keep in mind that the place is huge and it would take most of a day to actually enjoy all of it.

Finally, if anyone is interested in visiting the Museum, it’s only a half-hour train ride from Reading to London, and a ticket for a train ride covering both the round trip to London and unlimited trips on the London Underground for a day costs only about £20.

Do you want a cuppa tea?

Well by all means sit back and relax with a cuppa as Sarah, studying abroad from the University of Mary Washington from January – June 2017, reflects on the British food and drink she encountered while here, and a whole lot more besides…

Yes, the Brits do drink tea as much as you think. It has only been a few weeks since I arrived at the University of Reading and I am loving every minute of it! Before I arrived in the United Kingdom, I had never been to the UK or mainland Europe. So when the University of Reading Erasmus & Study Abroad Office offered a trip to explore the sites within the UK I jumped on the chance to explore! One of my first trips within the United Kingdom was to the little village of Bourton on the Water and the Blenheim Palace!

Bourton on the Water is your quintessential English village with traditional cottages, elegant low bridges, and beautiful parkways. Here, I experienced my first full English breakfast at an English tea room!

I also got to tour Blenheim Palace! The Palace was built for the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, in the 18th century. It is also the childhood home of Winston Churchill. The Palace was an incredible sight to see! The Palace was filled with decorative china and intricate portraits, paintings, and tapestries. There were also vast areas of gardens (including a waterfall) and land for grazing sheep.

This was an amazing first trip after getting settled into my accommodation in Windsor Hall. The best part about living in Windsor Hall is the close knit community of study abroad students. Being so close allows us to bond over our study abroad experiences and creates an amazing way to make new friendships. Living right outside of Park Eat also has its perks. Park Eat is truly the life of the campus. It is a place where people gather to watch sports games and highlights, meet up with friends after modules for food and drink, and prep for a fun night at the Union! I can’t wait to see what else awaits during the rest of my study abroad experience!

 

 

Creating friendships that last a lifetime…

For Michaela, from the University of Rhode Island, its the people she met at the University of Reading that made her Study Abroad Programme experience here a home away from home. Join her as she reflects on January – June 2017…

When you take part in a study abroad program, you sign up for more than what’s proposed in the name “Study Abroad’. Not only do you leave an academic system that you’ve already adjusted to, but you leave your old university home and respective social groups.

Coming from the University of Rhode Island, where the campus acts as a student city filled with familiar faces, I knew no one here. However, I soon realized that didn’t mean I was alone. Since the first day of orientation, I’ve met countless other international students which turned into a close group of friends. I’ve also become friends with my English flat mates, as well as the English flat mates of my international friends. With their help, I have created lifetime friends and experienced the social life they have to offer.

The Erasmus and study abroad team has helped expose me to new places around the UK and test the waters of exploration through the comfort of the University. The picturesque Whiteknights campus continuously gives me a friendly and safe atmosphere while its location gives easy access to England’s capital and a subsequent gateway to all over Europe.

In a time where everything is new and you’re forced to immerse yourself into a culture that is unique to your own, the University of Reading and its community has managed to make it a home away from home.