The ultimate comfort food: Cacio e Pepe

January is finally upon us, which means cold weather and long nights… Elliot shares his go-to comfort food recipe to see you through the winter months.

As the coldest months of the year begin to take hold, cheap, minimal effort comfort foods become invaluable for cash and time-strapped students.

Foodies may recognise this dish, which is currently making a resurgence – with good reason. Described by Bon Appétit as ‘a stripped-back mac and cheese’, this recipe hails from ancient Rome (alongside pasta alla gricia and carbonara). Cacio e Pepe is simple, with a mere 6 ingredients, and less than 15 minutes cook time, making it the perfect late-night snack! It’s also an excellent introduction to using just starchy pasta water for creamy sauces (which is cheaper, tastier, and far less cloying than cream-based sauces). As ever, I advise against using pre-grated cheese, since the added starch (which prevents cheese clumping inside the bag) stops it melting properly.

Allergens

Milk, gluten

Portions

2

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp freshly ground, coarse black pepper

Kosher salt

225g spaghetti

2 tbsp (15g) unsalted butter

55g Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

 

Prep

  1. Finely grate cheese, and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to a medium-sized pan, pre-heating on low to medium-low (olive oil turns bitter when burned).
  3. Add 1 tsp black pepper to the hot oil, and cook until you hear sizzling, and the pepper is fragrant (if you smell bitterness, the pepper has burnt and you should discard and restart) – remove from heat immediately and set the pan aside.

Method

  1. In a large pan (different from the oil/pepper pan), add pasta, and just cover with water, along with a pinch of kosher salt. Heat over high, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. This method comes courtesy of Kenji-Lopez, and heavily concentrates the starchy water for far more effective sauces.
  2. Cook until pasta reaches al dente (1 minute less than package instructions) and immediately remove from heat.
  3. Immediately spoon 3 tbsp of the pasta water into the medium oil/pepper pan, and add 2 tbsp butter.
  4. Using a pair of tongs, transfer pasta to the medium, oiled pan (saving any remaining pasta water). Add cheese to pan, and place pan on the stove top, setting heat to low.
  5. Holding the pan handle in one hand, and fork in the other – shake and stir pan/pasta very vigorously. This melts the cheese, and most importantly, emulsifies the oils and starchy water (above link for method video).
  6. Continue until a creamy sauce has formed – add extra pasta water a tbsp at a time if too thick (i.e. if the melted cheese, oil, and water is too clumpy to resemble a creamy sauce). Remove from heat, season to taste with kosher salt, and dish immediately.
  7. Serve pasta with an extra drizzle of olive oil, and some more fresh grated cheese, to taste.

Halfway there! Tips to get through Dry January

Struggling with your Dry January challenge, or just wondering what it’s all about? Abi has some tips on how to stick with your goal of a booze-free January, and explores the benefits of reducing our alcohol consumption.

So you’ve celebrated the winter holiday and you’ve decided to try out Dry January. But we’re halfway through the month, and you’re tempted to head to Park Bar and give up. Or perhaps you’ve stumbled upon this article and want to attempt a half-dry January…

It’s often too easy to lose motivation. Here are some top tips to help you through the rest of the month:

  1. Remind yourself why. It’s often too easy to focus on the difficulty, and the days may feel like they’re dragging along. But you’re halfway! Focus on the reasons you are doing this. Want to improve your health? Consuming less alcohol allows your body to reset and even get better sleep. And a month of no alcohol is a month of no hangovers. Are you trying to save money post-Christmas? Some are doing Dry January to raise money for charity. Focus on your purpose for Dry January and remind yourself when you lose motivation or are finding it difficult.
  2. Get Involved. Divert your energy into a hobby you have neglected or try something new. You’ve got more time now, so why not attend the Give It a Go events (28th Jan-3rd Feb) and join a new society? The RU Not Drinking Much society do regular film nights you can enjoy with other students in an alcohol-free environment! As you keep yourself busy, you forget that you’ve had 31 days of no alcohol.
  3. Treat yourself! A month of no alcohol can save you some serious money. You can transfer this straight to your savings account or treat yourself. Go out for a nice meal or do some online shopping and buy those shoes you’ve been looking out for. Why not go explore nearby cities- London, Oxford and Bath are only a short train journey away.
  4. Ask for Help. It’s very difficult to attempt Dry January when you’re tempted by cheap drinks, start of term socials and general student settings. Let your friends and family know you are doing a Dry January and ask for help and encouragement. Maybe get a friend to do it with you or get yourself involved with them. This will make it a lot easier!

The charity championing Dry January is Alcohol Change UK, who approximate that there is an alcohol-related death in the UK every hour! Whether it’s the classic Park Bar snakebite or a glass of wine- remember to drink responsibly. Good luck!

Acing Your New Year’s Resolutions

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions for 2019? Taz has some advice for successfully setting and achieving your goals this year.

Whilst cliché New Year’s Resolutions to ‘Get Fit’ and ‘Get stuck in’ with uni work may seem very contemporary ideas, New Year’s Resolutions date back to over 4000 years ago. New Year’s Resolutions can be a great way to secure a fresh start for yourself and overcome any challenges from the previous year.

The best way to form your New Year’s Resolution is to make a list of all the things that you’re hoping to achieve by the end of the year (whether that be university, lifestyle or relationship related) and to identify your largest priority or an overall goal within the list. Top tip: Try to avoid generalised resolutions such as ‘Lose weight’ or ‘Get more Firsts in my assignments’. The best way to achieve health or grade related resolutions is to create resolutions which are more specific and therefore ones which will offer a larger sense of achievement by December.

Resolutions such as these might be a good starting point:

  • Plan and cook at least 5 healthy meals a week
  • Schedule my revision more effectively using a revision planner
  • Keep in more regular contact with family and friends from home
  • Join a new sports society
  • Take a managerial role in group projects more often

The next stage once you have your Resolution…

The next step to securing that fresh start is coming up with an achievable action plan which will get you well on your way to success. Here’s a few questions you may want to consider before diving straight into the deep-end and trying to achieve your resolution in one go before January is up!

How will you maintain the resolution throughout the whole year?

The key to achieving your resolution is your diary. Use a coloured pen to produce a sub-goal for each month. Doing this will help you to piece together your smaller monthly steps into one larger achievement at the end of the year.

What sacrifices will you need to make to achieve your resolution?

This is very important to consider- you don’t want to throw yourself into anything which you won’t be able to handle alongside your other commitments. For instance, if planning to cook healthier meals, you’ll need to factor this into your shopping list and consider how going home or weekly takeaway routines might affect this.

If you achieve your resolution early in the year, can you extend it to achieve an even bigger goal?

If you enter the year with a flying start and have your resolution down to a ‘T’ by March, use this success as motivation to strive further. If you decided to join a new society to meet more people whilst increasing your fitness, why not find some part-time work so that you can save to go on the sports tour?

The best thing about New Year’s Resolutions is they’re completely personal and controlled by YOU. Use this to your advantage in 2019 and make a change which will help you for the rest of your student life and beyond.

Where to look for help

 If you’re stuck for ideas, or simply the motivation to start, the university’s Life Tools programme is offering a huge variety of workshops this term ranging from ‘Techniques for increasing concentration and memory’, to ‘Achieving your potential’. They’re a great starting point for those looking to make an independent change.

Motivational message for first term essay deadlines

Third year English Literature student, Grace, gives some advice to new students that have completed their first term at university…

First of all, well done for making it this far. University is no easy feat and the first term in my opinion was the hardest as not only are you adjusting to University teaching but also adjusting to University life. Adapting to coming back from a day at University and having to do your own washing and cooking your dinner. (I apologize if you were already doing this before University and were not wrapped in cotton wool like myself). However, regardless first term can be physically and mentally draining at times. If you ever feel like you aren’t capable just remind yourself that you would not have got this far if you weren’t.

 

Writing academically at University is something that I had never come across before. Writing to the standard and level of comprehension required to do well at university is something that had never been expected of me throughout school. So that itself is something you find yourself having to very quickly adapt and get used to. The main piece of advice I would give to prepare yourself for this is to plan your time and plan your essays. Planning was something I had never really given much thought or time to prior to University. I cannot stress how effective and useful I found planning my work to be. By now I’m sure you will have recognised the level of independence that is expected when writing your essays. You don’t have a teacher over your shoulder reminding you to get your work done. However, it is also worth mentioning that if you don’t do as well as you hope, don’t panic. There is a reason that first year doesn’t count towards your final degree, a seminar leader told me that it’s because the department and university appreciate how different university is. This leaves room for practising, making mistakes and learning from them. But most importantly, stay positive, stay confident, and keep going!

 

 

How to solve issues with your landlord

Having issues with your accommodation and not sure how to proceed? Take a look at Elliot’s step-by-step guide to addressing problems with your landlord and ensuring your voice is heard.

I’ve got more than my share of stories dealing with housing issues as a student tenant. Today, I want to share the step-by-step process that I use to resolve issues with problematic management – particularly when they’re determined to ignore you.

Why does this happen?

Short answer – there isn’t really incentive for a lazy property manager to fix issues or upgrade a student home.

  • Undergrads are, on the whole, inexperienced with escalating an issue in an attention-grabbing way.
  • Student houses are generally filled every year (regardless of state of house)
  • Students can be too polite – simply carrying on if ignored.

So: this article aims to offer a solution to these issues by breaking down the process of escalating an issue with an absentee or difficult landlord (without resorting to shouting down a phone).

But first, there’s something that you MUST do:

Be a good tenant

Because it’s literally in your contract.

Ensure you can unequivocally check off every point under the ‘Tenant Obligations’ section. Generally, this includes paying rent on time (legally the most critical), avoiding noise complaints, and keeping the house in reasonable cleanliness and repair.

Fail to do this, and your case may not be considered favorably – or even backfire, endangering you legally.

If this warning doesn’t apply to you, without further ado, here’s how to escalate an issue with your landlord.

1.     Contact them

But: do it right. This is the most important step.

First: CALL whoever is responsible for maintenance – tell them:

  • Exactly what the issue is (e.g. top drawer of the small cabinet in the room at the back of the house on the 1st floor has a collapsed floor – as opposed to ‘my cabinet’s broken’).
  • Exactly what you want done (‘I’d like either the drawer replaced, or the cabinet replaced entirely’ instead of ‘I want it fixed’).
  • Why it’s an issue (‘I took the room understanding I would have 3 drawers worth of storage, and I currently only have 2’).

Don’t hang up until you’ve written down:

  • What they intend to do (e.g. either come and take a look, or pick up a replacement and install it).
  • When they intend to do it – this is CRITICAL, because it sets up a timeline after which you can start escalating. Note the date that you can expect to hear back from them, or expect to see them.
  • Or: if they’re unwilling – why.

If you can’t get in touch: leave a message asking them to call you back.

Second: follow up the call/message with an email. Repeat both your request, and what they said they’d do, including any dates and times mentioned. Include photos of the issue, since this signals that you have photo evidence.

You’re leaving a paper trail, and proof you attempted to have your issues resolved.

If you can’t contact them (or they ignore you)- send an email with the request anyway, make a note of the date you tried to call, and skip straight to step two now. Otherwise…

Third wait. And if they don’t get back to you by the date they set…

2.     Make an appointment with a Housing Advisor

Since the service is free: I recommend using RUSU Housing Advice –just make an appointment via phone or email, or do a drop-in session during Advice Hours.

To do this, you need a copy of your housing contract (you should have one from your estate agent or landlord. If you don’t, request it), a printout of the email you sent, and if they didn’t reply – the dates you tried to call.

The goal is to understand:

  • What part of the housing contract’s been breached
  • How serious it is
  • How to escalate

3.     Escalate

This part’s simple.

Most likely – you’re going to be advised speak to Reading Borough Council, (since they handle health and safety breaches).

As luck would have it – Technical Officers from the Civic Office sit in RUSU every other week, exactly for this purpose.

This is where the legal pressure starts to happen. Base your actions off your advisor’s recommendations.

4.     Keep records – and expect contact from management

You’re nearly done. A council officer will now contact house management, informing them of the upcoming visit.

It’s likely that management will, at the very last minute, be VERY willing to solve all issues; so have a complete list of desired outcomes ready before this point, so you can simply hand it over.

If management doesn’t resolve- then the council will instruct you on what escalation will follow.

Keep a record of what happens – and follow their instructions, keeping in constant contact and sticking to any and all deadlines.

Conclusion

Overall, escalating an issue with a difficult landlord is a pretty simple process:

  1. Contact them both by phone and in writing.
  2. If they don’t respond – go to a RUSU Housing Advisor with your contract.
  3. Based on their response, escalate the issue (most likely with Reading Borough Council).
  4. Keep your record handy– and wait for the inspection. If it isn’t resolved by this point, RBC will help you escalate this legally.

Remember to be polite and professional throughout (being firm or annoyed is fine – just keep it civil and don’t take things personally). For the most part, people are just trying to maintain things as best they can.

But –others very definitely see vulnerable students as an opportunity to get lazy.

If this is the case, you now know how to escalate. Don’t let yourself be ignored.

You – and your house – will be better for it.

How to Relax When You’re Stressed

Between studies, work, and socialising, university can be a stressful time. Lucy has some great advice to help you relax when stress levels start to rise!

Without a doubt, university can be incredibly stressful.  You’re at university to study, but your social life is just as important and so finding the perfect balance between the two can be pretty hard! Stress is all consuming and will have both a physical and mental effect, but it is easily avoidable. Here are my tips on how to relax:

  1. See your friends and family. Finding the right balance between work and play is crucial. Cutting out too much work will make you stressed, and cutting out too much play will do the same. Seeing friends is a good way to relax and have fun.
  2. Yoga and meditation. I cannot stress enough how amazing yoga is for stress relief. It is one of my favourite ways to chill when everything is getting a bit much. It encourages you to focus on what is happening right in that moment, to focus on your breathing and the sensations in your body. You may feel silly the first time you try yoga, but anyone can do it and it’s free. I would recommend Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. She makes it accessible and fun. Check out her yoga for stress video here.
  3. If yoga isn’t for you, plain old exercise is good for stress relief as it releases endorphins and makes you feel happy.
  4. It’s pretty hard to feel stressed when you’re laughing, so watch a funny movie or see a friend who makes you laugh.
  5. Don’t procrastinate. I know this is easier said than done, we’ve all been there at 2am desperately trying to finish that assignment that’s due the next day. Once you get an assignment, or even just a small piece of work, go and do it almost straight away, that way you have time to do it bit by bit, and there’s none of that stress when all of a sudden the deadline is closing in and you’ve not done anything.
  6. Make a schedule and carve out time for uni work. I like to set out an hour or two each day for any work I need to do, because then I’m not spending the entirety of a day studying. When I have multiple deadlines all at once, I set a week for each one. Focusing on one thing at a time really helps.
  7. Never work later than 7pm (8pm at the very latest). The later you work the more you damage your sleep. The quality of your sleep is so important to stress relief and therefore try to relax in the evenings. Take some time for yourself by watching some TV or eating your favourite food.

Remember that stress can always be easily relieved, not just through these tips but also through many more. The main thing is that you don’t let the stress build up inside you until it all becomes too much. Notice the symptoms early and focus on yourself and how you feel.

Happy Holidays and Happier Studying!

Christmas is coming! Liam shares his tips on staying productive during the holidays.

Hey guys, as the festive season (and a well-deserved break) is approaching, I thought I would share 4 quick tips on how I improved the quality of my studying during the holidays.

My hometown, Milton Keynes, during the festive season is amazing.

  1. Balance

The term ‘holidays’ can certainly be a deceiving one. While it is perfectly reasonable to have as much fun as you can during this time, it is also perfectly reasonable to make sure you get some studying done. In other words, it is about learning to create a harmony between work and play. Personally, I found that if I spent my mornings studying, I could spend the rest of my day binging Queer Eye on Netflix. (It really is such a wonderful, wholesome TV show.)

  1. Planning ahead

I know, I know, the last thing you want to be thinking about is the next term when you have finally entered the holidays. However, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to check how your modules are structured for the next term. Typically, I look at my reading lists to see what books I have to study for each week. In fact, during the holidays I tend to read the first halves of my reading lists, which significantly reduces my workload for the following term.

  1. Schedules

Looking at a schedule during the holidays is akin to having to sit through Antiques Roadshow—it is not the most exhilarating thing. Despite all that, a schedule is a way of providing your day with some structure, and it makes you aware of the fact that you need to reserve some time for yourself to study. Having a schedule does not have to be an overcomplicated, month-long Excel spreadsheet. In actuality, I spare 5 minutes every morning to write a Word document with a few tasks and some accompanying time slots. For example, “Read 70 pages of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest from 10:00am to 11:00am’.

  1. Study Space

I will keep this one short and snappy as my word count is running out (I am sure you are all relieved by that). When I am at home during the holidays it can be a bit on the noisy side, so I found some local study spaces—such as my library and Starbucks—to keep myself focused on my work.

In my hometown, Campbell Park is such a relaxing place to study.

Well, I hope those tips helped out! Have a great holiday, guys!

Saving Money at University

Money has a habit of disappearing quickly – especially when you have rent, bills and a social life to juggle! Take a look at Emily’s top tips on making your money go further at university…

As someone who knows the woes of living on a tight budget while waiting for their next termly student finance deposit, here are 6 handy tips to stretch your student loan:

  1. Get a part-time job. You may think you don’t have the time to work on top of your studies but the University offers part-time work even on campus so you don’t have the excuse of a long commute. If you check out CampusJobs online or speak to them in the Carrington building, you can find roles that fit into your timetable and help fund some extra spending.
  2. Buy course books second-hand. Amazon may lure you in with a brand-new copy, but Blackwell’s offer great discounts, price matches with other online sellers, has free delivery even to campus and stocks second-hand copies that will help save you a few pennies. Top tip: you can also sell your course books back to Blackwell’s once you have finished with them!
  3. Take advantage of student discounts. TOTUM Cards (previously known as NUS cards) give you 10% off every time you shop at the Co-op and other retailers, but don’t forget UniDays for free offers for lots of the restaurants in Reading. Invest in a National Express coach card and a Railcard too to save up to 30% on your trips back home!
  4. Food budgeting is key to saving money. Visit cheaper supermarkets like ALDI, ASDA or Iceland and you can get offers for students such as money off when you do a big shop. You won’t always get your branded baked beans, but their alternatives taste just as good. Try to allot a certain spending amount each week, cap it and plan all your meals ahead: Co-Op meal deals every single day at lunchtime get expensive.
  5. Buying in bulk also helps; it may seem expensive at first but it works out cheaper overall for long-life food items. You’ll have all your essentials for weeks and have cheaper shopping trips after that.
  6. Try not to impulse buy (even if the Oracle is always tempting you with its offers). Be the boss of your budget and manage what you spend so that you don’t end up deep in your overdraft within the first few days of student finance coming in.

Follow these tips and you hopefully won’t end up -£1000 in your overdraft next term like many people I know!

If you do find yourself worried about money and would like some advice, you can always contact the Student Financial Support Team, who will be happy to help you.

Reading Knights Athletics Club Review

Rebecca shares her experience with the Reading Knights Athletics Club…

If even after panic signing up to nearly every society at the sports fair, and attending numerous taster sessions, you didn’t manage to give athletics a go – I hope this review of Reading University Knights Athletics club (RUKA) will provide some insight into the offerings of the society.

Firstly – for new runners, joining an athletics club can be quite intimidating. As someone who recently took up running myself, I found often despite clubs advertising ‘all abilities welcome’ I was the only person at my ability (rather slow!). However, RUKA genuinely does have members of all abilities, and every speed is welcome to join the runs. This is so refreshing and welcoming, and in my personal opinion, one of the best things about the society.

The Society is structured around the four key aspects of a good running programme: strength, endurance, tempo & speed work. A typical week looks like:

Monday am – Circuits with coach

Monday pm – 5k road run

Wednesday afternoon – Half Marathon training: longer run

Friday pm – Track session

The athletics society competes in cross-country races as a part of LUCA (London Universities & Colleges Athletics), as well as BUCS and track events. These races are actually (somewhat surprisingly) great fun. Mostly held in/near London, there is a great vibe brought by the likes of UCL, St Mary’s, Kings & Imperial.

For more info and how to get involved check out the RUKA RUSU page, where you can find the link to the Facebook group: https://www.rusu.co.uk/sports/athleticsruac/.

 

Top tips for acing your group assignment

Do group assignments fill you with dread? Taz has some top tips for making sure you ace the next one!

Does the prospect of a group assignment fill you with dread? At some point during your degree course, it is likely that you will be set a group assignment to complete for one of your modules. And whilst there are many students who enjoy group assignments, there are others who find the prospect of meeting deadlines, transferring their skills, and displaying their potential more difficult when working as part of a group. Nonetheless, there are five steps that you can take to ensure that you do as well as possible in these types of assignments, meanwhile ensuring that it is a stress-free experience.

Step 1: Know your group

More often than not, your lecturers will allow you to choose the students in your group. However, be aware that there will be students who may be unable to find a group, or smaller groups that need putting together. You can often check your group structures by searching under the ‘Groups’ tab within your module on Blackboard.

Step 2: Agree on your communication method

A key starting point for a successful group assignment is regular and effective communication between all group members. Once set the project, it is a good idea to decide how you are going to communicate as a group.

This might include

  • Facebook messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Emails
  • BB group discussion board

Step 3: Planning

To ensure that you meet the assignment deadline and all aspects of the criteria, it is crucial to plan the assignment as a group. Examples of the types of projects you could be set include:

  • Class presentations
  • Prezzi presentations
  • A website
  • Group data analysis
  • A video
  • A poster or leaflet

It is best to create the plan for your assignment in person and somewhere where you can all focus. Across the University, there are numerous study spaces that you can use for the planning. To save time searching for a room, you also book a room to use in advance via the University’s online booking system.

Step 4: Delegating roles and completing the project

When it comes to assigning roles, you may either decide to complete all parts of the assignment as a group, or to delegate a section to each member. This might depend of the skill strengths of each team member, or the requirements of the task. Regardless, you want to ensure that all members of the group have a fair share of the work load. To help with the completion of the project, you can also use the University’s Life Tools Programme which offers a range of workshop sessions including ‘How to prepare for and give successful academic presentations’.

Step 5: Meeting the submission deadline

The typical completion period for a group assignment is a month. This gives you plenty of time to effectively plan, complete and review the assignment as a group. Likewise, it is a good idea to decide during the planning stage which student will submit the project (if required). It is often the case that, if an electronic submission, only one member of the group will need to submit the assignment via Blackboard.