Written by Erin Karn, BA Art and Film

What is it?

The University of Reading have added a new feature to their website: the ability to talk to student ambassadors. This allows prospective students the chance to ask any and all their questions about student life to those who have already experienced it.

It’s extremely simple to make an account – all it requires is your name and e-mail – and then you can start chatting immediately. There’s also a blog feed where the ambassadors have uploaded useful articles about common worries, such as ‘The Wonderful World of Accommodation Choices’, ‘University, Disability and You’ and ‘Optional Modules – How to Choose’.

Why is it useful?

I personally think this is a great idea that the University should continue to expand. Currently there is a nice bank of students studying a wide variety of subjects from Maths to Physical Geography to English Literature. The webpage allows you to filter by level of study, degree subject and home country of the student ambassador. Once you’ve found the perfect student to talk to, you can ask a variety of questions.

When I was waiting to come to university, I had a lot of questions about what I could do in Reading, details about accommodation and what certain societies are like from a student perspective. This new feature would’ve allowed me to have a conversation about these topics with someone who has either experienced them personally, or has friends who did. The profiles for each ‘buddy’ allow you to not only learn more about them before you talk, but also to see their hobbies, therefore allowing questions about societies and other interests. This is important seeing as we have a huge variety of societies and activities on campus; I believe this would’ve helped inform my choice of university or settle any of my queries about the university social activities.

Would I like to see it develop?

As this concept develops, I hope that more ambassadors from other degree courses will join the system, allowing more subject-specific questions to be asked for all courses. Similarly, all the ambassadors are currently undergraduates, however as the system grows I expect ambassadors from postgraduate schemes to join Unibuddy. As more ambassadors join, the range of countries will expand conveying the multicultural student community at the University of Reading. However, currently there are students who speak various different languages who will chat to you in the language you are most comfortable with.

How could you contact students before and how does this compare?

Though there are sites like The Student Room and groups on Facebook where you can meet your Student Hall’s JCR (the group of students who run your Freshers activities), Unibuddy allows you to have a one-on-one conversation with a student with specific interests. You already know what you can talk to them about without guessing, and you’re guaranteed to get a detailed response. It would be a nice development if the site allowed you to sort by societies, interests and languages spoken, however all the information is on each easy-to-read profile.

This webpage is easy to navigate, unlike the crowded forums of The Student Room, and more official than the Facebook groups. I think the ability to chat to students will be incredibly helpful for prospective students and I’m sure it will become even more of an asset as it develops in time.