Widening Participation: My Story of Overcoming Disabling Barriers

THIRD YEAR STUDENT, ALEXANDER, SHARES HIS PERSONAL EXPERIENCES ABOUT OVERCOMING DISABLING BARRIERS WHILST AT UNIVERSITY

I have various physical and learning difficulties, and I was very behind at school. It looked like I probably wouldn’t make it to university, however with a lot of hard work, determination and support I’m now in my third year, here at Reading University and getting good grades! Things are still really tough, but nowhere near as tough as they used to be, and I’m noticing a lot of improvements in my work and in my confidence. The uni’s Disability Advisory Service (DAS) and RUSU have been amazing in getting support setup for me and checking how I’m getting on. I also have some really good tutors that are willing to give me the time and the patience I need to be successful in my degree. My course is very focused on studying accessibility and inclusion, therefore people in my department know how to be supportive. The uni is an inclusive place, and our campuses have such a good atmosphere to study and socialise!

My friends and family have been incredible in supporting me through every step of the way and I’ve made some great friends at uni and through other things I’ve attended in the Reading area. So if you’re feeling worried about getting the support you need, or like you’re not getting the right kind of support, don’t be afraid to speak to your department, to the DAS or RUSU. Also speak your friends and family, there is always somebody out there who is willing to help and listen. If you have a deadline looming and are struggling with your health condition or disability, or have any other reason that may cause a delay with getting your work in on time, you can apply for Extenuating Circumstances. With this you may be able to get an extension on your work. I’ve had to do this and it was a difficult process, but it was worth it, because I was able to do a better job on my work with the extra time.

Don’t forget you can also contact Gabs, the Part-time Disabled Students Officer, at RUSU. You can find all the information about accessibility and support you need by clicking here.

Fruit & Veg Thursdays

SECOND YEAR ACCOUNTING & BUSINESS STUDENT, REBECCA, TELLS US MORE ABOUT THE WEEKLY FRUIT & VEG THURSDAYS…

Every Thursday, as the amazing scents of international foods sweep across campus, it is easy to become distracted by the queues of people lining the path from the Palmer building to RUSU and forget to go into 3Sixty for the fruit and vegetable market. Despite the excitement of the new and exciting Co-op, the fruit and veg availability on camps is definitely lacking, making the Thursday market the perfect place to pick up your fresh produce.

The market sells a whole host of different products, from root vegetables, to bunches of salad leaves to exotic fruits. Although some products are definitely cheaper, for example a bag of 4 (good sized) avocados for £1.50, some are undoubtedly more expensive than shopping elsewhere, such as two large bell peppers for £1.50. Therefore, I would 100% recommend looking around and having an idea of how much an item would cost you normally before buying all your groceries here.

Like most places on foodie Thursdays, the market only takes cash. To make the whole experience more enjoyable, you should definitely get cash out in advance (maybe before your morning lecture, or even the day before), as we all know the ATM queues can be an absolute joke!

You can pop by the market between 11-4 every Thursday in RUSU to pick up your five a day, and if you’re stuck for ideas on how to use all your new veg, check out our student recipes on the blog for lots of healthy inspiration.

 

 

Rebecca’s Egg Fried Rice

Rebecca, 2nd year Accounting and Business student

Rebecca shares with us her easy and delicious recipe for veg packed egg fried rice.

This meal became a real staple in diet during my first year at uni. I cooked this about once a fortnight and would eat it three/four days in a row without getting bored.

I absolutely love the philosophy ‘cook once, eat twice’ – by cooking two portions at once, you have an extremely convenient lunch for the following day and it’s often a lot cheaper. This recipe serves two, but you can easily double it and make four meals.

  1. Prep: Thinly slice 5 spring onions, dice 1 bell pepper into small cubes, finely cut one head of broccoli, & chop a handful of spinach into small strips. Cook rice of your choice (pre-packaged also works well).
  2. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a large frying pan/wok. Add the spring onions and pepper, and lightly fry for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli for 1 minute before adding a splash of water (cooking the vegetables in steam rather than more oil is healthier and quicker) and let soften for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the rice, and heat until piping hot.
  4. Add 175g peas & 175g sweetcorn, fry until frozen peas are defrosted.
  5. Whisk 3 eggs (I sometimes add more as I like it super eggy!) & 1 tsp soy sauce. Pushing the rice/veg to one side of the pan, add the egg mixture and stir continuously. After 1 minute, as the egg starts to cook, bring everything together, allowing the egg to coat the rice and veg.
  6. Add the spinach and allow to wilt for a further 2 minutes.
  7. Season with salt, pepper and further soy sauce to taste.

 

Options to add protein:

  1. Chop a chicken breast into small chunks, and fry with spring onions and pepper in step 1.
  2. Add 100g minced pork/turkey, and fry with spring onions and pepper in step 1.
  3. Cook a handful of raw prawns and fry with peas and sweetcorn in step 4.

 

 

 

Lucy’s Salted caramel brownies

LUCY,  2nd YEAR ITALIAN STUDIES STUDENT, TELLS US ABOUT HER FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE RECIPE FOR SALTED CARAMEL BROWNIES…

Everyone loves a chocolate brownie, so why not impress your friends that little bit more by adding in some salted caramel? These brownies are delicious yet easy to make and are guaranteed to give you a fantastic chocolate fix – something well deserved after a tough week of lectures!

 

Ingredients

200g of unsalted butter

100g of dark chocolate

100g of milk chocolate

Carnation caramel

Sea salt or normal salt

200g golden caster sugar

4 medium eggs

130g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

Baking tray lined with greaseproof paper

 

Step one: Preheat your oven to 160 degrees or gas mark 4.

Step two: Melt the chocolate with the butter. You can do this in the microwave but it works better if you boil some water in a pan and then put a heatproof bowl over the top with the chocolate in, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Just remember to keep stirring it.

Step three: Mix half of the caramel with a spoon of salt. Then mix the remainder of the caramel with the eggs and sugar.

Step four: Mix in the melted chocolate to the eggs and caster sugar. Sift the flour and cocoa on top and mix well.

Step five: Pour half of the chocolate mixture into the tin, then pour half of the caramel mixture on top.

Step six: Pour the remainder of the chocolate on top and finally pour the last of the caramel over it.

Step seven: Bake for 25-30 minutes.

 

Bon appetit!

Making your money last

Third year student Kate shares her tips on making money go that little bit further!

So, as students we are always complaining about how little money we have even when the student loan has just come in. Making our student loans last the year and still being able to enjoy university is important, we don’t want to end up in those dreaded overdrafts! Here are some of my top tips to help you along your way with how to save money and not lose out.

  1. Budget: This seems obvious but work out how much student loan or income you get for a term, and divide this by the number of weeks (11) and you will get a rough division. From this you have to then work out how you spend your money i.e if you go out every week to Saturday Union, and whether you buy food every 2 weeks needs to be taken into consideration. Once you started doing this for a few weeks you will work out what you do and don’t spend money on.
  2. Cook Smart: This includes buying smart. Try to plan your meals, this will not only help you be healthy but save you a lot of money in the long run if your bulk buying food, cooking meals on mass and then freezing them.
  3. Travel: If you’re going home via public transport try and book far enough in advance as you will get better deals.
    – Additionally, try to travel off peak and avoid Friday and Sunday Evenings. Also, I think the best thing in existence is 16-25 rail card. It gets you 1/3 off and is great for getting home or even day trips to local areas and London.
    – Lastly if you use the Local Bus System a lot, invest in a yearly pass. If you use it less regularly, its always great to get the app to pay!
    Make sure you get the Boost Pass as you are a student!
  4. Discounts: I’d suggest signing up for UNIDAYS which can be accessed as an App on your phone which gives you deals on all the essentials you’d need.
    An NUS card does the same, but costs £12. This also give you great discounts, including 10% discount at COOP which will be great to use at the new one on campus and a cheaper entry to UNION. If in doubt about if somewhere does discount, just ask, there is not harm in asking if it means you save money.
  5. Don’t buy all the text books on Day 1: Quite simply, you won’t read half of them and if you do you’ll read them once and then they will just stare at you for the rest of the year making you feel bad about the amount of money you spend. Go through your reading list for the modules and work out text books you need on multiple occasions. Try buying them second hand from Amazon as well or even sharing them with friends.

Lastly you can also get great money advice from a range of websites and services:

Rebecca’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

For our last chocolate recipe of the week, second year Business and Accounting student Rebecca shares her ultimate chocolate chip recipe…

Everyone loves a squidgy chocolate chip cookie, and these are the absolute best I have ever had. The recipe uses 200g of milk and 200g of white chocolate, but you can alter the ratios/types as you wish, I’d love to try them with m&m’s or salted caramel chocolate.

Method:

  1. Cream together 200g softened butter and 300g caster sugar.
  2. Crack the egg into the mixture and combine
  3. Sieve 325g self raising flour, and gradually combine the mixture together
  4. At this point you are aiming for a classic cookie dough consistency, if the mixture is too dry, add a dash of milk
  5. Chop 200g white and 200g milk chocolate (or use buttons!) and stir in.
  6. Shape the cookies, into a palm size ball, ensuring all cookies have a piece (or five!) of chocolate. I like to mould the cookies to have all chocolate encased in dough so nothing sticks out and burns.
  7. Place the cookies far apart on a lined baking tray, and bake in a preheated oven at 200 Celsius for exactly 12 minutes. The edges should be golden brown, and the middle appeared not to be cooked.
  8. Important: leave to cool completely, this usually takes up to an hour (warning: this time will pass very slowly!). This is the key to achieving extremely squidgy cookies, making sure they do not appear fully cooked when taken out of oven, and allowing them to cool and solidify completely to create the perfect gooey chocolate chip cookie.

Nia’s Oreo Cupcakes

We’re nearly approaching the end of National Chocolate Week, but we’ve still got two recipes to share from students – why not have a go at making some yourselves! Today we’ve got third year English Literature student Nia

In light of the wonderful event that is Chocolate Week, I give you the Oreo! One of the nation’s favourites, I just couldn’t resist bringing you this circular delight in cupcake form! These cookie creations are a triple threat, consisting of Oreo cake, icing and topping – perfect for an after dinner treat or a weekend celebration.

Ingredients:

  • 280g Caster Sugar
  • 80g Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • 240g Plain Flour
  • ½ tsp Baking Powder
  • 6 Crushed Oreo Biscuits
  • 150ml Milk

Buttercream Icing:

  • 500g Icing Sugar
  • 160g Unsalted Butter
  • 100ml Milk
  • 8 Crushed Oreo Biscuits
  • Extra Oreos for decorating

Makes 20.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/Gas Mark 3 and line two muffin trays with cases.
  2. Using an electric whisk, cream the caster sugar and butter together until fully combined.
  3. Add in the beaten eggs and continue to mix until it reaches a smooth consistency.
  4. Next, sift in the plain flour and baking powder and continue whisking the ingredients.
  5. Add the crushed Oreos and stir until they are thoroughly distributed throughout the mixture.
  6. Gradually pour in the milk whilst continuing to stir the mixture.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling each case 3/4 full (to leave room for the cakes to rise).
  8. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown on top, then allow to cool before icing.

Buttercream Icing:

  1. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and whisk together with the butter, slowly adding the milk until it reaches a smooth consistency.
  2. Add in the crushed Oreos and mix until fully combined.
  3. Top the cupcakes with the buttercream icing, using either a spoon or a piping bag (moving in a circular motion).
  4. For extra tastiness, sprinkle the cupcakes with leftover crushed Oreo pieces!

Holly’s Chocolate Waffles

Third year Geography student Holly shares her Chocolate Waffle rcipe for National Chocolate Week

 

The University of Reading has a strong relationship with chocolate as it is home to the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre. This provides cocoa producing countries with varieties of cocoa that are free from pests and diseases. This helps fight supply issues in the cocoa industry and ensures that it can flourish.

To celebrate national chocolate week (yes, that’s right, a whole week to celebrate chocolate!) I thought I would share my recipe for chocolate waffles. I have used a waffle iron to make these but you can make them in a sandwich toaster or in a grill pan. There aren’t too many ingredients for this recipe and it is super easy to make! This recipe should serve about 6-8 and only takes 15 minutes.

 

Firstly, the ingredients you will need are:      

  • 310g of plain flour
  • 170g caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 120ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of melted butter
  • Non stick cooking oil spray
  • Icing sugar (optional)
  • Raspberries (optional)
  • Syrup (optional)

The utensils you will need are:

  • Waffle iron/ sandwich toaster/ grill pan
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon

Method:

  1. To start, preheat your waffle iron/ sandwich toaster/ grill pan.
  2. In the mixing bowl stir together to flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder
  3. Then add the milk eggs and butter to the mixing bowl and mix until smooth
  4. Spray waffle iron/sandwich toaster/grill pan with non-stick cooking spray
  5. Pour a small amount of mixture into your waffle iron/sandwich toaster/grill pan
  6. Cook until golden. If using grill pan you will need to flip them to cook both sides
  7. Serve with your choice of toppings, I have chosen raspberries, icing sugar and syrup
  8. Enjoy!

Gemma’s Double Chocolate Loaf Cake

Psychology student Gemma shares our second recipe for National Chocolate Week…

It’s chocolate week! What better way to kick things off than by making a deliciously indulgent double chocolate cake. This cake will satisfy your chocolate cravings and is a nice & easy recipe to follow!

Ingredients:

  • 145g self-raising flour
  • 180g softened butter (plus extra for greasing)
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 100ml milk
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 60g dark chocolate (preferably Bourneville)
  • Extra white & dark chocolate for decorating

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160/140C fan/gas & grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric whisk (or a good old fashioned wooden spoon if you don’t have an electric whisk to hand) until batter is light and fluffy.
  3. Mix in the eggs, flour, ground almonds, milk, baking powder and cocoa powder into the mixture until smooth.
  4. Chop the dark chocolate into small chunks and add them to the mixture.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes in the oven (checking after 40 minutes) until the top of the cake looks firm. Insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and see if it comes out clean- if not cover the cake with foil and put in the oven for a further 15 minutes until the skewer comes out clean.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin, then lift out onto a wire rack (with kitchen roll underneath) ready for decorating.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave and drizzle over the cake. Repeat with the dark chocolate and for a nice feathered effect, drag a skewer or knife up and down the cake.

It’s National Chocolate Week!

This week is National Chocolate Week, so we’re going to be sharing some of the recipes you love to make with this ever popular confectionery! 

First up is 3rd year MSci Psychology student Kate with her ‘dreamy chocolate mousse’…

Who really needs an excuse to have chocolate, but with this mousse no excuse is necessary. This mousse makes the world go around for my friends and family and always goes within 5 seconds flat of being on the table.

It is quick and easy. You can make it in 5 minutes and then leave it in the fridge while you go finish your work, knowing you have a beautiful treat when you’ve finished.

I apologise in advance about the washing up!

Ingredients:

  • 300 g good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) , broken into small pieces. Use Milk if you don’t like Dark Chocolate.
  • Sea salt
  • 8 large free-range eggs
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
  • Amaretto

Serves 10. Half ingredients for smaller portions.

Method

  1. – Put all the chocolate and a pinch of salt in a heatproof bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water. Leave to melt and stir from time to time.
    – Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.
  2. -While the chocolate is melting away, separate the eggs. Whites in one bowl and yolks in another. Add the sugar to the bowl of yolks. Beat until the sugar has dissolved and is silky smooth.
    -Whisk the egg whites separately with a pinch of salt until they are soft peaks. You Should be able to hold the bowl upside down above your head.
    -In another bowl beat the cream until it is slightly thick and just whipped.
    (Told you there would be lots of washing up)
  3. When the chocolate has melted, take the bowl of the pan.
    – Add cocoa powder to the bowl of yolks and mix. Also, add the Amaretto now if you want (3 shots, Max)
    -Tip the cream in and mix again. Then fold in the dreamy melted chocolate until all combined.
    -Finish by tipping the egg whites in, folding from the outside in a figure of 8! Your looking for an even colour and a smooth consistency.
  4. Believe me, it may look a bit dodgy and rustic now but just you wait! Put it into one big bowl or separate it into little glasses.
  5. Place the Mousse in the fridge for 1-2 Hours
  6. Take out, add a dusting of more cocoa powder as you can never have too much chocolate and enjoy!