Mindful about money

Whether you’re a new student about to start studying with us, or returning and want to be savvy with your finances, student Nozomi shares some of her tips on saving. 

You wake up to the sound of your alarm on a Monday morning. After a weekend with friends and family, and perhaps even a holiday not long ago – you are struck by the realisation that it is August and you’ll be at university in a month or so and that means buying your own groceries, paying bills and that money matters.

But affording student life doesn’t need to mean two part-time jobs along with your studies and an anti-social life. There are loads of ways you can be saving money to make it easier for you to spend time with friends at university, go home for a weekend and most importantly, focus on your degree. Here are a few ways to save!

Student Bank Account

If you’re starting university this September, have a look at opening a student bank account. A student bank account gives you an overdraft (a money safety net, so to speak) with different branches offering students different benefits along with a student bank account. At the University of Reading, we have a Santander on campus which offers students a free 4-year 16-25 Railcard! Have a browse around to see what suits you best before settling on one bank.

16-25 Railcard

If you don’t choose to open an account with Santander or if you are not eligible for a student bank account as you may be an international student, you can still choose to purchase a 16-25 Railcard. This will save you 1/3 on train fares making journeys home and day outs much cheaper. Look out for student deals and Black Friday offers for an even cheaper price when buying a railcard!

NUS Extra Card

An NUS Extra Card give you a variety of student discounts such as 10% off at ASOS, up to 40% off a meal out at Pizza Express and with a new Co-op on campus at Reading, we’re going to make full advantage of the NUS 10% off discount at the Co-op.

An NUS Extra Card also gives you free ISIC. The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is internationally accepted as certified proof of student status. Thus, giving you discounts when you go back home or if you go on holiday!

Student Discount Websites

If paying for an NUS Extra Card doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry – you can still get student deals online. By registering student status using your university email address, websites such as UNiDAYS and StudentBeans offer you lots of student discounts from food to tech and everything in between!

Trials and Freebies

Trials are often marketed towards students – giving us some freebies for a period of time. For instance, Amazon Prime offers students a 6-months free trail and also 50% off if you were to purchase. Students also get 50% off Spotify premium.

Here’s some free software that are useful to students:

  • Microsoft Office – Using your student email account, your university will be able to provide you with all the Microsoft Office software you could ever dream of. The link shows you how we get it at the University of Reading.
  • Avast – Avast is a free and fairly comprehensive antivirus software. Definitely worth having to protect your computer. Compatible with PC, Mac and Linux.
  • Google Drive – It’s super simple to use and lets you to create basic documents, spreadsheets and presentations online making group work much easier at University.

From Your University

Yes, I know this one sounds crazy – we pay to go to University, not the other way round! Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean the University doesn’t offer us any financial help. It’s worth checking whether you might be able to get a bursary, grant or even a scholarship from your University and/or Department at University.

 

Hopefully this article has helped you chill out and bit knowing that there are so many ways to cut down your costs when you’re a University student. So lay back, relax and enjoy the rest of your summer!

See the Money Matters pages on Essentials for more information.

To bring or not to bring: Being an international student in the UK

Greetings! This is Andy, second year History M.Phil Graduate Student. Like many of you I wanted to pack my house in my suitcase when I was preparing to study in the UK. For me packing for university was an experience I had already had but many years ago, back in my own country; when I did my undergraduate degree I was only two hours away from home. It was easy for my parents to bring forgotten items up to me. This time, I was traveling to a different country and on the other side of the world. I couldn’t just call home if I forgot anything.

First and foremost, make sure you have your passport, ID, CAS letter and any other information that is required by immigration neatly organized and ready to give to immigration once you get off the plane. It is not a good idea to place this in your checked baggage. You see your bags AFTER you have a nice visit with Border Control.

You know your favourite hair dryer? Shaver? Or other electrical items? Just leave them at home. Yes, you can buy a transformer or power converter, but from personal experience and a visit to a Travelodge, I do not recommend it. I blew the circuit breaker for my whole room with one I bought from Amazon. You can buy new hair dryers or shavers for a good price at Boots or Asda.

Your laptop and cell phone chargers are easy to get a different cord or transformer. There are a few stores on the high street that carry parts. Apple is there as well. So, if you are a Mac user all your bits and bobs can be taken care of by their fabulous helpers. Pens and pencils and desk supplies you can buy here for pennies, so you can leave those things at home if you want.

Clothing wise, try to pack light. Everyone says, ‘leave your sweaters at home’. They are right, you can buy them here and they take up space in the suit case. Bring an umbrella. This is England. It rains quite often.

If you are coming with your family to study, here are a few tips as a mature student with children. One piece of advice is to have your children pick their favourite toy and make a play sac for them for the plane and some things for them to have while they are here. If they have a tablet, bring it. It will save your sanity. Crayons and colouring books are also a great thing to pack as well. They even have them for adults!

Think you are going to miss your family? Pack some pictures without the frames. Wilko and Primark all have inexpensive frames and you can purchase them and place them in once you are settled.

Finally, if you have any medical conditions that need monitoring, make sure you get a current prescription for any medication and bring the necessary medical records with you. Keep these on you and give them to your new GP.

To second the above, if you wear glasses or contacts, bring them but don’t worry about packing a huge bottle of solution.  Having your prescription handy is also a good thing. If you must have solution for contacts; it needs to follow airline regulations. You can get new ones, and save space once you arrive at Boots.

These tips are the most important ones and ones I remember using. Yes, I did forget a few things, but it wasn’t detrimental. But as always, the summer holiday is dwindling down and we’re getting closer to the start of the new academic year. Happy packing and safe travels!

Here comes the sun

The summer is still in full swing! Second year student Nozomi takes us through her top tips on making the most of the rest of the summer…

Summer Ball has come and gone and you’ve said your ‘see you laters’ to your flatmates and coursemates. You may have even already gone on holiday. Now you’re sat at home having a well-deserved break after another busy academic year. But now you’re thinking, well, what’s next?

In all honesty, I believe it can be anything. All of us at university now have an entire world ahead of us. We’re at a point in our lives where we can choose to do whatever we want – travel, learn a new skill, get a job in anything we want to do – we have it all ahead of us.

But we all have to start somewhere, and for me, I’ve decided to focus on me and gain more work experience to help me decide what exactly it is that I want to do next.
So here are some things you might want to do this summer before the stress of lectures, seminars, tutorials and coursework all kicks in.

Give that CV a boost

The University Careers Centre offers us advice on their website or you could pop into Carrington to speak to careers consultants one-to-one about it too.The internet can give you lots of CV help as well! There are lots of website like this that could help you get going.

 

Take a minute

But remember not to stress out and get overwhelmed thinking about CVs and the future. Go see a film, go to the beach with some friends, watch some Netflix.

 

Try something new

While you have the time and the sun is shining, try something new – join the gym, cook new recipes, pick up a book.

 

Work Experience

Depending on what you are interested in, you could browse these websites for some work experience. UoR Job Shop is the place to go for part-time work, graduate jobs & even available to us one year after graduation!

Some other resources that might be helpful…
Studentgems – freelance and part-time work
EventStaffing.co.uk – event and festival work
InRetail – retail work
Internwise – internships
RateMyPlacement – internships and placements
Milkround – graduate jobs
Save The Graduate – graduate jobs
TARGETjobs – graduate jobs
So why not? Summer can be relaxing and productive at the same time! Keep busy having fun and improving yourself.

What I’m doing this Summer to achieve my career goals

Our next blog comes from second year student Rikki, who tells us all about what she’s up to this summer to help her get a head start on her career!

Finding a career after University isn’t always easy, so I’ve really learnt the importance of work experience and paid jobs to help complement your final degree. During term time, it can be extremely difficult to balance lectures, coursework, social life and day to day duties along with outside work. This is why I particularly focus on building my CV and portfolio during the Summer holidays.

At uni

I study English Language here at the University of Reading, but hope to eventually pursue a career in either marketing or PR, which are both extremely competitive fields… I took an Introduction to Marketing module as part of my degree to provide me with a solid foundation, but the reality of working in a marketing firm is very different to learning the theory in a lecture. So, after achieving 82% in my final exam, I decided to get some practical experience by joining a local marketing company in my home town.

Getting work experience

The agency I worked for focused on a direct, face-to-face approach which involved both residential and events marketing. Although this was just a Summer job, the training was invaluable and enabled me to gain further confidence and enhance my verbal communication skills. I also learnt the importance of networking and building rapport.

Using my resources

Even though I sourced this opportunity myself, I have also used the University’s careers service to enable me to secure both paid and volunteering work. This all also contributes to the University’s employability award (the RED award), which I am hoping to have completed over the Summer- it looks great on your CV! I would highly recommend emailing the careers service at the University of Reading (careers@reading.ac.uk), giving them a call (0118 378 8359) or simply visiting their job shop in the Carrington building on campus- their friendly team are always more than happy to help.

My blog

Finally, during the Summer months, I have had more time to concentrate on my own beauty blog (www.lusciouslane.blogspot.com) which I created over 4 years ago. This has already given me a huge insight into digital marketing and PR, enabling me to further stand out against the majority whilst pursuing my hobbies of creative writing and photography.

In the future…

Going forward, it is my aim to secure a Summer internship with L’Oreal next year, which has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. The global cosmetics company own a huge range of makeup and skincare brands from luxury brands like YSL and Diesel to drugstore companies like Vichy and La Roche Posay. After initially discovering their Summer internships, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain some first-hand insight into what work would be like in one of the world’s leading beauty brands.

Ultimately, using your contacts and time efficiently during the Summer can mean making money, keeping busy and enhancing your future prospects. It really is a win-win situation!

Summer activities around Reading

Mature student Andy, MPhil History, takes us through her top tips for keeping busy in and around Reading this summer. Got your family with you? Andy has it covered.

As the Summer continues many of us have the burning question in our minds ‘What to do with all this free time’? Some of us won’t be returning home to our families, and if you’re a mature student you may have a family of your own to entertain.

The University of Reading and our state of the art train station are fortunate to be central to many locations in the south of England. For those who drive, there are vast opportunities quite close to campus for outings and endless amounts of fun.

Reading: There are many family friendly activities taking place in our town. The Reading Museum hosts many kid friendly activities, is located off Broad Street and is very accessible. Best bit is it’s FREE!  For festivals and other events it’s always helpful to visit getreading.co.uk for neighbouring areas such as Woodley, Wokingham, and Earley. For the Oracle, visit: theoracle.com. The Reading Music Festival is also set to return on the bank holiday weekend in August.

The City of London: Traveling to London for a round trip with a ‘Friends and Family’ discount card (£30 per year) from National Rail Cards, runs at £18 to Paddington Station. London has many museums, and historical attractions that are open almost every day. Foodie, shopper, to museum hopper places to visit include: the Victoria and Albert Museum, Household Cavalry Museum (home of the famous horseguards) Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Museum, The Tower of London, Hyde Park, Harrods Department Store just to name a few.  This isn’t even mentioning all the shows to watch in London’s famous West End. All are must see and suitable for families and students alike.

Windsor: Easily accessible from Reading, holds the famous Windsor Castle, Castle Gardens, and St. George’s Cathedral and Legoland.  To visit Legoland it is suggested you book your tickets in advanced. Prices are listed as £35 per individual. Careful eyes can find discount coupons on several goods purchased at shops such as one currently with Cadburys for a voucher for ‘Buy one adult ticket and get a free’.

Winchester: A city of Saxon origin and the capitol of the old Wessex kingdom, the city of Winchester houses some of the most fascinating cites near reading within a half hour train ride.  For a start, the famous round table located in Winchester’s Great hall, and Winchester Cathedral, are sites to see.  Jane Austen fans would be interested to know that she is interned there. Throughout the summer, the cathedral is hosting monthly events, including ‘Jane Austen – Regency Tea and Readings’. The high street in Winchester houses many fascinating shopping experiences and places for lunch within its picturesque walls. The cities’ website hosts a wealth of information including free events.

 

More Summer inspiration

Our next list of summer tips comes from second year student Grace. Grace caught up with other students to find out about their ideal summer, and inspire the rest of us!

 

Exam revision takes up a significant amount of time before the summer holidays. This can lead to summer plans being easily forgotten or put to one side. If you are looking for some CV boosting, fun and last-minute ideas, or getting organised early for next summer, here are a few things six Reading University students are doing for their sunny season.

Why not broaden your horizons with some traveling?

“I’m currently traveling through Europe with Busabout, and it’s amazing!! I’ve been to Lake Como, now I’m in Switzerland, then we’re heading to Paris, Munich and Prague.”

Balancing an internship with a relaxing time abroad

“I’m going to Budapest to explore the main sites and bars for a week with friends, then I’m doing a 4-week editorial internship at a publishing company.”

“As an overseas student I spend most of my summer on the beach in Gibraltar. Though this summer also I’m going to visit morocco and Italy with some friends from university. Then I’ll return to Reading to take up a placement as part of my History Education module.”

Music Festivals are the place to be

“This summer I will be preparing for my dissertation, and working my regular part time job to save money. For fun, I’m going to lots of festivals including Field Day, Truck, Reading and more…”

Volunteering at home or away

“I’m going to America tomorrow to volunteer with the Salvation Army, then au pairing in Spain for a month, and then I’m doing work experience at the British museum!”

“This summer I am going to Bali in Indonesia for 5 weeks with a friend from the university. We are going out to volunteer and teach English in a local village school.”

 

Hopefully, these summer plans have given you plenty of food for thought on how you can get the most out of your summer!

 

Summer student stories!

Over the next few days we’ll be sharing some tips from our students about how they spend their summer holidays. We’re starting off with some last minute tips from year 3 student, Holly…

 

Do something you enjoy. I love watching tennis so got a ground pass for a day at the Wimbledon Championships

As a student, the summer holidays are arguably the best time of year. The weather picks up and you have no looming essay deadlines, exams to revise for, or lectures to go to. However, the summer is also a valuable time for us to gain some work experience, make a bit of money, or give back to our community or causes that we are passionate about.

If you have extensive summer plans already then that’s great! But as a final year undergraduate, I have learnt how to manage my summer holiday time wisely over the years and here are my top tips for you this summer.

  1. Take a minute to think about your passions. Whether that’s sports, art or film; make sure you do a little of what you enjoy.
  2. Take up something new. The summer is a great time to try out something new. For example, join a gym, learn to cook a new dish, read a new book or get creative.
  3. Think about your CV. See if you can pick up any work experience, a job to get a bit of cash or do some volunteer work. These all add to your CV, and show that you have taken some initiative over the summer holiday. Double bonus if you can combine your passions with some work or volunteering. As a geography student, I have always been passionate about the environment, so I spent some time volunteering for my local council to raise awareness of the importance of recycling in my local area. This was both interesting for me and added something a bit different to my CV. Some useful sites to find jobs and/or volunteer work can be found at the end of this article.
  4. Plan for the future. The summer holidays are the perfect time to plan what you want to achieve in the next year or so, and think more about career aspirations. Once you have a couple of goals in mind, work towards achieving them over the summer.
  5. Don’t forget that this is your summer holiday so make sure you take some time out to relax before the next busy academic year.

Welcome

Welcome to our new student blog, made for and written by students!

We will be publishing plenty of tips and experiences from current students, so keep tuned for the latest news.