Sexual Health Advice in Reading

FRENCH STUDIES STUDENT, KATHERINE, TELLS US WHERE TO SEEK SEXUAL HEALTH ADVICE IN THE LOCAL AREA…

Being at university and living away from home may mean you want to (or need to) visit a sexual health clinic – and why not! In Reading there are loads of easy, free and confidential ways to get advice, help and treatment if it’s ever needed on a huge range of things. It’s better to be safe than sorry and I speak from personal experience saying the below organisations are completely non-judgemental and offer great advice if nothing else.

For all types of sexual health

The Florey Sexual Health and Contraceptive Services is a department of the Royal Berkshire Hospital and is based in a building opposite the main hospital, on Craven Road. They offer a huge amount of services such as all types of contraception, the morning after pill (which can actually be taken up to five days after), sexual assault support, specialist LGBT services, HIV clinic and STD screening and treatment advice. This is all totally free and confidential, and you don’t need to be registered with a GP in Reading to be able to use the service. It’s a sit and wait system, where you fill in a form stating the reason for your visit (you can use a fake name, though if you return, remember that your previous records will be kept under that name!), and then wait about an hour and you will be seen. A bonus is that contraception such as condoms or the pill will be given to you right then and there! They’re open 7am-7pm every weekday and some Saturday mornings, check out their website for more info: http://www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk/florey-sexualhealth.htm

Regular STD testing

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but regular STD testing can be quite important, as untreated sexually transmitted diseases can cause your body a lot of damage. Luckily, Berkshire and RUSU have lots of different options of how you can get tested if you don’t have time or don’t want to visit the local sexual health clinic in person. All you need to do is provide a sample of urine, though females have the option to take their own vaginal swab, which gives more accurate results.

Online

You can order a free chlamydia test online at www.dontpassiton.co.uk which includes a postage paid return envelope that you just put your test in and post back in any normal post box – the one in RUSU works! All the instructions are online and come on paper with your test. The package you receive will be totally inconspicuous and the test is so easy to do; then you get your results discreetly sent to you about 7 working days later.

In RUSU

RUSU have teamed up with The Florey to offer ‘Testing Tuesdays’ inside the union, on each first Tuesday of the month. The next one coming is on the 6th March from 4-6pm and the friendly team will be stationed in the corridor outside Café Mondial in RUSU.

My volunteering experience as a STaR Mentor

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES STUDENT, CHUI-YAN CHEUNG, TELLS US MORE ABOUT BEING A STaR MENTOR…

I have been a STaR Mentor at the University of Reading, which is a voluntary role that involves mentoring up to 12 new first year students. In this role, I was there to help my mentees during their first term at university. I found it to be very rewarding because I could make them feel at ease and enjoyed being able to support them. It is a great position to be in as you can make a positive impact to another person’s life.

The main responsibilities of a STaR Mentor is to provide insightful information and advice to these students. Your mentees will likely go through similar situations that you’ve been through in your first year, so it’s nice to be able to inform them on various things that you wanted to know back then. There are different levels of engagement from mentees as some require more or less help than others. But you can help them with lots of different things, from making friends to finding the best places for nights out. It really depends on their needs and what they want from the mentorship.

STaR Mentors are there to share and relate to their mentees, and help them settle in to university life. We also signpost them to available services at the University if they need further help that’s outside our expertise. The main goal is to ensure mentees have the smoothest possible transition into university by being a point of contact to answer questions on things they are unsure about or should know about before and after starting university during their first term that might be useful. Your knowledge and experience as a student plays an important role to guiding new students, so they can make the most of their time at university.

In this volunteer role, you are committed to at least an hour every week to your mentees for the whole of Autumn Term. This can be through emails or other methods of contact such as in person, whatever works best for the needs of your mentees. You are also required to meet them in person at first to introduce yourself and just engage with them to answer any queries or concerns and inform them of things to get involved with at the start of the year. It’s a worthwhile volunteering opportunity that lets you make a difference to your fellow students. You can find out more here.

Volunteering As A Course Rep

FRENCH STUDENT, KATHERINE, GIVES US AN INSIGHT INTO WHAT IT’S LIKE TO VOLUNTEER AS A COURSE REP…

As this week is Student Volunteering Week let me tell you about how I volunteer as a Course Rep here at uni. You’ve probably heard tons from your lecturers about running to be a Course Rep, as did I, which led me to become the Part 2 Course Rep for Italian Studies. This means I represent all the second-year students who study Italian and their views at meetings with School Reps and lecturers in an effort to improve the course where needed.

There are Course Reps for every year of study so all students can get involved if they want. All you need to do is nominate yourself on the RUSU website, write a short manifesto and let your course mates know you’re running so that they can vote for you online!

I chose to run to become a Course Rep as it’s a fantastic thought to think your opinions and thoughts as students are being heard and considered by your own department, but also it’s a great thing to add to my CV. Here are some examples of what I can now add to my CV in terms of skills too:

  • Working using my own initiative and creating ways to get representative feedback from students
  • Processing information into a useful format
  • Being able to effectively present information
  • Having experience in participating in formal meetings

It’s actually a really satisfying role and I really enjoy finding out what students have to say about their lectures whether it’s good or bad, and then helping the lecturers decide how they can solve any problems. Course Reps attend one meeting a term, so there isn’t a huge time commitment either, meaning fortunately it’s quite easy to balance alongside other commitments.

A massive benefit of being a Course Rep is that I am able to help make effective changes to my course that will hopefully improve the course for myself, my course mates and others who come to study at Reading in the future! Also, it can be quite social when I’m finding feedback, and I get to know my course mates better which is always a plus!

The uni has so many opportunities to volunteer which you can check out here online at home, there’s something to suit everyone! Being a course rep, just like loads of other volunteering roles, often doesn’t even feel like volunteering or work, just something satisfying to be part of that can make a positive difference to yourself and others whilst you have fun!

How to Enhance Your CV in 3 Simple Steps: RED Award

ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND APPLIED LINGUISTICS STUDENT, RIKKI, TELLS US MORE ABOUT THE RED AWARD AND HOW IT CAN BENEFIT YOU…

Joining the RED Award during my first academic year at university was honestly one of the best decisions I have ever made.

 

I would highly recommend it to all students, particularly first and second years. It’s a great way to boost your CV and it really enhances your University transcript. From personal experience, it’s clear that having good grades or a degree is not enough when applying for a job and now employers look for more extra-curricular activities and work experience to supplement your studies. This is exactly what the RED Award can offer you, ensuring that you stand out from others entering the same competitive fields as you.

 

The RED award is essentially an employability skills certificate where you participate in 50 hours of extra-curricular activities outside of your academic studies. 35 hours of this is a ‘core activity’ which includes paid work, 10 hours is ‘volunteering’ and 5 hours is ‘training and development’, which is where you attend some small seminar-style classes that are held by the University and you learn about careers and placements etc. For the core activity, I worked for a direct marketing agency, for the volunteering I was a STaR mentor, and for the development I went to sessions about internships, thrive mentoring and training on how to become a mentor.

 

This really put me outside my comfort zone, making me become more confident and independent. It also enabled me to network and meet new people, from other students, to careers advisers and mentors. Prior to completing the RED award, my CV was quite basic, but this forced me to get the work experience that I needed. This was an extremely motivating experience which gave me insight on how to enhance my CV whilst encouraging me to go further and join the Advanced RED Award and Professional Track.

 

Although this does require some dedication, it’s so flexible and is designed to fit around your studies. There is no rush to complete it, although it’s best to do so within one academic year.

 

Completing this award couldn’t be easier. You simply log in to RISIS, go onto ACTIONS, and then sign up for the RED Award. You complete all  your activities in your own time, get them signed off your checklist and then book a completion session. You will get regular emails that will help you find volunteering opportunities etc., and the people who organise the Award are very helpful and quickly answer any questions you may have.

 

I feel really passionately about making the most out of your university life and ensuring you leave with the best CV possible. It’s the small things, like this Award, that will truly make you stand out from your competitors when entering the world of work.

Securing a Graduate Career: Work Hard, But Don’t Panic!

POLITICS STUDENT, FIONA, TELLS US MORE ABOUT GAINING WORK EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR CV…

It’s National Student Employment Week! But that doesn’t mean that you have to lock yourself down to a niche career as soon as possible. There’s a lot of pressure on young people to make big decisions about their future from as young as 14 with GCSE selection.
I’ve felt the pressure for years but finding new experiences and getting involved has kept me on track, even when I’ve changed my career aspirations. The simple fact of the matter is all of your experience counts, even if it just helps you rule out something you don’t enjoy.

 

From science A-Levels and looking at careers as a medic, sports scientist and stunt double (?!) I’d grown up and moved on over 6 years, finally settling on a degree in politics and international relations. But, having changed my mind about a career so many times, I was back to square one on my future after university. In fact, for the first year and a half of uni, I barely thought about graduate careers at all; I just got involved with events and societies that I found fun and interesting. For me this was student radio and my course society as well as a part-time job as a bartender; this brought opportunities in local radio and networking, and by the time second year ended I’d worked my way into committee positions for student radio and the politics society, which look great on a CV and demonstrated loads of useful skills. From here, I started to lean towards a career in media and journalism.

 

But, in the summer of my second year I was left without the hallowed internship I’d been told I needed if I wanted a good graduate career. It was at this point I remembered that while internships and related work experience are highly valuable, there are many skills from other work that transfer and apply to all sorts of careers. I applied mid-summer to a brand ambassador job with Virgin Media for some work experience and a flexible summer income as I could work from home; this gave me sales, customer service and social media experience. In a last-ditch attempt for some journalism experience at the end of the summer, I was lucky enough to secure a place on the Reading Festival press team with the University and try some music reporting, photography and a little bit of social media marketing. This was amazing but it did show me that journalism isn’t for me, even though I love to write. This brought me where I am today: finally, at the beginning of my third year, I decided that I wanted to work in PR and communications.

 

Most graduate schemes open roughly a year in advance of your future start date, so there’s still time to find related experience while you’re applying for these. It’s a good idea to know what you want to do at this point; graduate applications are intense and take a decent amount of time so only apply to ones you actually want. To help with my applications and show a desire for the field, I approached the University Press Office and started a one-day a week placement to learn about communications and started writing travel articles for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a brand ambassador.

 

So, I started with different types of work experience: retail, hospitality, branding, sales, media and journalism. I ruled out what I didn’t like and I remembered what I loved, to find a career that matched, then moved on to finding relevant experience and streamlined my job hunt. CV building never ends, but it gets much easier once you know what you like. All experience is good experience and never turn down a good opportunity: seize them.

Zumba Class at SportsPark

MSc MANAGEMENT STUDENT, HOLLY, SHARES HER EXPERIENCE OF ZUMBA AT THE UNIVERSITY SPORTSPARK…

January is known as the time when everyone attempts to be a little healthier, and I attempted this last week when I tried my very first Zumba class at the University SportsPark. Zumba has rapidly grown in popularity as a fun and innovative way to exercise. It is a Latin inspired dance fitness class that I have always thought about trying as I am interested in both dance and music, but never got around to it. So last week I made it happen. I am already a member at the SportsPark so I just needed to book myself in on their app and turn up.

The class was held at the SportsPark in the dance and yoga studio which is the studio nearest to the front desk at 1pm on Monday. There were roughly 15-20 people there of varying ages and fitness abilities. Some people in the class, like me, had never been to a Zumba class before, which was reassuring for me. The instructor was energetic and bubbly and once she started the music she took us through a short warm-up routine. After the warm up we had a quick water break then moved on to a dance that focused on working our core to the beat of the music. Then we did an arm routine and leg routine with a water break in the middle. I particularly liked the way the class was split into sections that focused on different parts of the body. After legs we did a quick whole-body routine before stretching and cooling down.

The class was 45 minutes long, but it felt a lot shorter as the time went so quickly because it was so fun! I’m going to return to this class next week for round two.  If you like music and dancing and are looking to add some exercise into your week that isn’t a tedious run on the treadmill, then maybe I’ll see you there!

 

How Much Do You Know About Campus Jobs?

FRENCH STUDENT, KATHERINE, TELLS US MORE ABOUT CAMPUS JOBS…

So, we’ve all seen the posters and adverts for Campus Jobs around uni, but what actually is it? Here’s the good news, it’s something super useful and easy to use if you’re looking for some part time work while you’re studying.

If you’ve been at Reading for a few years you may remember the old system of student employment which included lengthy paper timesheets, early pay deadlines and a generally slow system. Fortunately, there’s been a make-over of the whole set-up and now Campus Jobs exists meaning finding work on campus is really quite simple.

If you’re looking for a job it’s normal to have a look online and probably find dozens of part-time, evening and weekend positions down at the Oracle and in town, but as a student being committed to working every weekend, even through holidays, is a real downer. Campus Jobs only advertises roles on campus (hence the name) and as the uni is the employer, they know you’re a student and your studies come first. They also know you have other time commitments and the jobs on there often have hours to suit most people whilst all being in a convenient location – campus. The timesheets you have to fill in with what shifts you’ve worked are now online – phew! It’s so simple to do on the computer and doesn’t feel like a whole other piece of work to be doing just to get paid.

All sorts of jobs are advertised on there and the website’s updated frequently so it’s always worth checking back if you didn’t find anything that interested you that day. Different types of jobs that might be on there are things like bar staff, catering staff, open day ambassadors and many other things that could give you really useful work experience to add to your CV too, whilst being paid! Some of these jobs operate on a zero-hour basis so you’re never roped in to doing shifts if you’re too busy or have too much work, which is pretty ideal. Also, any extra pounds always help towards a good night at Union!

Visit the Campus Jobs website here https://campusjobs.reading.ac.uk/home.html

What are a few of the Chinese New Year traditions?

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES STUDENT, CHUI-YAN CHEUNG, SHARES SOME EXPERIENCES OF CHINESE NEW YEAR…

It’s the time of year where those of us with Chinese heritage or cultural upbringing begin to prepare for the Spring Festival aka Chinese New Year. This is a traditional Chinese celebration that welcomes the start of a new lunar year. It begins on the 16th February for 2018 and lasts 15 days. It is the year of the dog. My family has always celebrated Chinese New Year, so we follow some of the traditions.

The thing I look forward to most is receiving my lucky money. This is typically put in a red envelope and may be referred as “red packets”. My parents give these to me and my siblings at the start of Chinese New Year after saying the New Year’s greeting “kung hei fat choy”, which is the Cantonese version of wishing prosperity. My grandparents and aunts/uncles will also give these to the children of the family as it is meant for good luck. Traditionally, those that are married will give these red packets to their unmarried family members.

Another tradition that many Chinese folk, including my mum, do is clean their home before the start of the New Year. This is due to the superstition that you would be sweeping away your good luck you just received during this time, if you do it after the celebrations. My family also decorates our doors with couplets written on red paper, which are sentences that express good wishes. We place a fu character written on red paper (meaning good fortune) upside down on our doors as well as it represents good fortune pouring out onto the people that walk through the door.

In our family, we usually buy a Tray of Togetherness, which has several compartments filled with symbolic sweets such as dried candied fruits and vegetables and nuts/seeds. For example, peanuts has symbolisms for good health, longevity etc. We also have a big meal together with associated lucky foods like dumplings and fish. I sometimes wear a traditional silk dress called qipao with my family. But it’s only a tradition to wear new clothes for Chinese New Year. So, we tend to opt into just wearing new modern clothes instead, especially in red colours because of its lucky connotations.

5 Ways Anyone Can Celebrate Valentine’s Day

FRENCH STUDENT, KATHERINE, SHARES SOME IDEAS ON HOW TO SPEND VALENTINE’S DAY THIS YEAR…

On the 14th of February every year, your relationship status is questioned, and you’re often asked what you’ll be up to that evening… does it matter? Everyone can enjoy their day regardless of whether they’re in a relationship or not! So, I present to you five ways to enjoy the 14th of February, no matter who you’re with:

Party! – Valentines this year falls on a Wednesday, a perfect night to visit Q Club or Matchbox in town.

Get dinner with friends – Zizzi’s has a three-course Valentines menu for £19.95, and they offer vegan and gluten free options. If you want something more casual hit up Mcdonald’s and show them your student card when you buy a meal and you’ll get a free Mcflurry or Hamburger.

Stay in and get a takeaway – Or take the opportunity to try a new recipe and cook yourself dinner. Pair it with a nice movie and have a chilled night to yourself.

Hang out at the URS building – the 14th of February is just another day after all… another day the URS building is open 24 hours… another day to get some work done for uni!

Visit family – Fortunately the 14th is during Week 6 this year, which for you might mean the perfect opportunity to visit your family and friends (and the pets) at home for a few days when you don’t have any lectures!

Remember to have a brilliant day whatever you’re doing! No matter what your relationship status is!

How to Live Peacefully in a House with Friends

ITALIAN STUDIES STUDENT, LUCY, SHARES AN INSIGHT INTO MAKING THE MOST OF LIVING WITH HOUSEMATES AT UNIVERSITY…

Living in a house with friends in second and third year is without doubt a lot of fun.

I have found it to be much more sociable than living in halls. This is because in halls our social area would have been the kitchen whereas in a house you have a living room too. My housemates and I often sit together, watch tv, chat together, binge watch a series or watch films and I think this is something you do not get when living in halls. In addition to this, when you sign a contract to live in a house it is (hopefully) with people that you like and get along with, whereas in first year you can sometimes get lumbered with people who you might not always see eye to eye with. Despite this, I do know a few people who are not happy with who they decided to live with in second year.

 

Finding a house and choosing who to live with

I was surprised in first year that people were looking as early as October to find a house for the next year and personally after a month of being at university, I had not quite decided nor did I know which people would become my true friends, as you don’t really know someone and their traits after a month. It is certainly true that the estate agents put a lot of pressure on you to find a house early by heavily emphasising that you won’t get a nice one if you look too late. This is partly true; a lot of the houses which are conveniently close to campus will get taken early, but this should not mean you rush into a decision too quickly because there will always be a house to move into. Perhaps the house may not be as close to campus or may not be as nice, but who you live with at university really makes or breaks your experience. I know that I would much rather be in a house of people who I like than a really nice house with people I felt detached from, because it would become a very lonely experience.

 

Disputes

Whoever you live with, there will always be disputes whether these are large or small. When talking to most people you discover that perhaps the biggest cause of these disputes is the tidiness and cleanliness of the communal spaces. Sadly, the cleaners you have in halls do not come round to houses, so you have to do it yourself! By living in a house you begin to understand that everyone is different, some people (like me!) are clean freaks who wash up straight away, some people will wash up their dishes but leave other bits and pieces around the house and some will leave their dirty dishes on the table for a considerable amount of time! It is not surprising that the clashes in each type of behaviour can cause issues. Different people will deal with this in different ways. Personally, I have learnt to partially ignore any mess and look above it, and I think it is important to be accepting of other people’s habits because sometimes it’s just not worth the drama to kick off about it! However, I know of some student houses who have “kitchen rules” or a rota as to who should take out the bins on which day. From experience this never really works because the rules often get ignored after a week or so, but if everyone is willing to endorse in it then it can potentially work. In our house the only rule is if you do not fancy washing up at the time, leave it by the sink – not on the hob or on the sides. Sometimes there will be someone who will leave anonymous post it notes around the house asking people to wash up or to clean after they’ve spilt something. I really do not feel like this is a good way to behave when living with others as it creates unnecessary tension and could be perceived as passive aggressive by your fellow housemates.

 

Landlords

Another issue that many students experience is difficult landlords. My housemates and I are very lucky in that our landlord will sort out a problem for us almost immediately, but I have discovered this is rare. Sometimes it can be a pain to get hold of your landlord to sort out any issues. They should reply eventually but if a landlord continues to be difficult, there are a lot of articles online which advise you on such matters. The only issue we have found with our landlord is that he speaks down to us because we are students and I have doubts that he would speak to an adult in the same way. If this is the case do not be afraid to stand your ground and make them aware that just because you are a student, it does not mean they can be especially difficult with you.

 

Noisy Housemates

My last piece of advice is about when your housemates come back from a night out and wake you up. If you are a light sleeper like me (I even get woken up by next door coming back!) it can be infuriating when you get woken up in the middle of the night. If this is the case invest in some earplugs so you can sleep soundly! It is also important to note that drunk people generally do not mean to wake you up when they come back and do not really think about their actions, so do not hold a grudge!

 

Ultimately communication and tolerance are key to living peacefully in a house with your friends. Speaking about any issues you have is much better than bottling it up inside you or writing a passive aggressive note! Despite the difficulties, there are certainly more advantages to living in a house than disadvantages and just remember that it is all valuable life experience!