My experience with the RED Award

Written by student Abi


The RED Award (Reading Experience and Development) is the University’s employability skills certificate and it encourages you to take extracurricular activities outside your degree.

I came across the RED Award during fresher’s week. I received my first email with many opportunities to take part! The RED Award pushed me to use the facilities available to me including development sessions and on-campus jobs on the MyJobsOnline (MJO) and Campus Jobs website. I completed my ‘Training and


Development’ and ‘Core Activity’ through my role as a Student Fundraiser. Initially I was stuck on completing my volunteering hours, but the regular e-mails advertised the Sustainability Services’ Blackout events which I got involved in my first two years. Here, I signed off my Award before second year finished. Now it’s on my degree transcript – evidence of my employability skills alongside my academic grades.

It’s an invaluable experience and I cannot recommend it anymore. From the

introduction to the sign off session where you are taught ways to use the skills you gained in the real world.

You might be thinking:


‘it seems like a lot of work’

Not at all! I completed mine in one year! This can be spread out across a year or over your degree. Also, you may already be doing the activities (part time job? Volunteering?) that you can use to complete your Award.


‘I don’t know what activities to do?’

  • For Training and Development hours, visit the MJO website for sessions on improving your professional skills. Lifetools sessions offer personal development sessions from ‘Getting a Good Night’s Sleep’ to managing stress.
  • For volunteering, look out for campus opportunities on MJO, RUSU events or the RVA website. RVA (Reading Voluntary Action) advertise local volunteering opportunities to assist your local community. Alternatively, have you signed up for Students in Schools? All these opportunities are flexible with your studies.
  • For core activities, you can use the above volunteering tips or any work experience/ paid work.


 ‘I’ll do it next year’

This is one I hear the most. The RED Award is often much easier to do in your first/ second year than it is third. You have a bit more leisure time than in your final year- not to say it isn’t possible to do it then.


If you have already completed your RED Award, you can take the next step with Advanced RED Award. Advanced RED Award allows you to focus on one employability skill, receive 1:1 support and mock interviews from one of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers.


Book your introductory session today!

Good luck!

Tips on Living with Others


Student Rebecca shares her top tips on making the most of living with others


Living in halls/shared accommodation is a fantastic part of the university experience, firstly because as you move in on your first day people in the same situation instantly surround you.


My number 1 tip to a happy flat is to build friendships with your flatmates and people outside of your flat. Not relying on those friendships will be beneficial to both you and your friends. Diversifying your friendship groups will prevent loading too much pressure on your new friendships, especially as you will naturally be spending a lot of time together in the flat.

Secondly – recognise the differences between living with your parents and living with friends. Firstly you are responsible for yourself, and your mum is not there to tidy up after you! So take control of your living space, tidy up after yourself, respect others and think about the impact your actions have on those around you.

One of the most comforting things to do before moving into halls is to get to find your future flatmates on facebook. Getting to know who you will be living with – even if its just their names, will alleviate some of the pressure and awkwardness on the first day. This also helped me mentally prepare for living with other people, and also built the excitement for moving in day.

Finally – bring a doorstop and keep your bedroom door open when you are free and happy to socialise. This will invite people in and will help build friendships during welcome week. But don’t stop at welcome week – continue to keep your door open as the term starts, to maintain those friendships. If there is a flat member who hasn’t spent a lot of time with the rest of the flat – knock on their door and invite them to spend time with you, they may be feeling lonely/home sick, and it will help them feel comfortable in the flat too.

World Mental Health Day

Student Gemma experienced low mood and anxiety in her first year at Reading. On World Mental Health Day, she shares what’s she’s learnt for helping to cope with mental health issues; something so many of us experience.

University can be a daunting place with lots of open mind logo (002).jpegnew experiences as well as social and academic pressures. In my first year I struggled a lot with low mood and anxiety and I wish I had been more open at the time. At the time I was partying and seemingly having a lot of fun as a Fresher, but I knew that I was not putting my mental health first. Here are my 5 top tips for taking care of your mind at university:

  • Talk – Recognising you need help and talking to someone or asking for help can be very daunting, but there is no shame in asking for help. Everyone goes through stages where they are feeling low or stressed but when it is really starting to affect you and that down stage doesn’t seem to disappear, asking for support is probably the best thing you could do. On campus there are support services in Carrington, or you could visit your GP who will be able to advise you. Or speak to a friend; whether they are from home or a new friend from University. We have a new society at the University called Open Mind Reading where students are being open and honest in discussions surrounding mental health and trying to reduce the stigma. They also have advice on where you can go if you are struggling.


  • Alcohol awareness – Although union every Wednesday and Saturday is a lot of fun, being able to take a step back and realising that alcohol is having a big affect on your mood can be important. Perhaps try and stick to one night out a week or if that’s not possible, just try and slowly reduce the amount you are drinking on each of these nights out. Alcohol is a depressant that affects the body and brain. Having a few drinks can give you a new-found confidence and reduce your anxieties; this is when the ‘feel good factor’ of drinking kicks in. However, as you drink more, more of the brain is affected and instead of pleasure increasing, negative emotions may takeover. Drinking heavily and regularly means you are more likely to develop symptoms of depression due to lowering levels of serotonin.


  • Exercise – being active gives you a sense of achievement but also releases feel good chemicals in your brain, eliminating feelings of low mood, anxiety and stress. Even a short walk or doing 10 minutes of yoga can help. There are lots of sports societies on campus from yogalates to Korfball that can give you the benefits of exercising as well as the benefits of meeting and talking with new people.


  • Food – Students are known for not eating well and having a poor diet. But there is lots of evidence that improving your diet can help to improve your mood, give you energy and help you think more clearly. Eating sugary and snacky food can give you a sharp increase in blood sugar and then a sudden drop which can make you feel tired, irritable and depressed. Slow-release energy foods (pasta, rice, nuts, seeds, outs, wholegrain bread) can help to keep your sugar levels steady. Having a balanced diet and eating regularly throughout the day can be important for your mind. Also, cooking can be quite a therapeutic process and give you a sense of achievement.


  • Go outside – sunlight is a great source of vitamin D which is important as it helps release chemicals like endorphins and serotonin which improve mood. As its coming into winter, SADs (Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects a lot of people as they are not getting enough sunlight, making them feel depressed or down. Make sure you are going outside daily, even if that’s just to go to the shops or have a short walk around the lake.


If you are currently feeling mentally unwell, the University has a counselling service in the Carrington Building which offers one-to-one support. You can also go to your local GP or Shinfield health centre next to the University who offer support via the telephone or internet. Family and friends can also be a great support network. Or the Samaritans are available 24/7 to call for free on 116 123 if you are in need of support quickly.


Want to be the sharpest tool? Try Life Tools!

Student Liam explains why he thinks you should head along to a Life Tools session…


(Please forgive that awful pun.)

Hi guys, Liam here, I just thought I would inform you on a really helpful (and free!) programme known as Life Tools.

But what actually is Life Tools, Liam?
This is a programme that runs during the academic year and features a wide range of lectures to assist you in improving your academic skills, ensuring you are your healthiest self, and preparing you for the working world (also known as ‘The-World-That-Must-Not-Be-Named’).

Some examples of upcoming lectures include the following:

  • Successful Strategies to Manage Academic Pressure
  • Ways to Stop Procrastination and Finish Your Work (Gosh, I might need to attend this one)
  • Mind-body Conditioning: the Benefits of Exercise.

How can this programme benefit you?

The great thing about Life Tools is that the lectures are wonderful and diverse—much like the community at the University of Reading—which ensures that you are bound to find something for you.

For instance, if you are a student with a good work ethic, you may still benefit from a presentation on mindfulness to unwind a bit. Furthermore, it would be understandable if you were feeling a bit nervous about socialising at university. If that is the case, there is a lecture on building your confidence to address that.
These are just a few examples of how Life Tools can develop your know-how in various facets of life. Additionally, this programme has a few added bonuses: you do not have to book in advance to attend these lectures, you can just turn up; and your presence at these lectures counts towards the Red Award!

(A taster of what you could learn from a Life Tools lecture.)

My personal experience with Life Tools:

In 2017, I attended two Life Tools lectures that focused on getting a healthy amount of sleep and strategies to cope with academic pressure. From those lectures I have learnt how to maximise sleep in a tight schedule, and how to place a healthy amount of value on academia itself. These lessons have supported me from 2017 onwards, ensuring I am a cheerier and healthier student.  For further information regarding Life Tools, please click here.

Also, I frequent the Life Tools blog from time to time, which is extremely useful for obtaining some brief and valuable tips to aid in your personal development.

I hope this help, guys! Thanks!



What I learnt in Second Year

Just gone into second year? Student Rebecca tells us how she made the most of it!


  • Utilise the Academic Tutor system

As you know from first year your tutor is there for both academic and pastoral support, although when your tutor meetings come around it can be hard to think what to say.  In first year my tutor meetings took the form of a friendly catch up on how the year was progressing, however during second year I learnt to really utilise the relationship built with my tutor. I would email my tutor to arrange meetings when an issue arose, or I needed help in a particular module – this help was absolutely invaluable. The changes to the tutor system this year has seen the introduction of academic tutors and their ability to refer pastoral issues to the student welfare team. Read more here: .

Similar to this, I also learnt the benefit of lecturer’s ‘office hours’, essentially a time to drop in and ask questions on areas you may be unsure on after the lecture. This is particularly useful during exam season, although possibly rather busy with other students doing the same– therefore I would recommend seeking out help during term time when the questions arise.


  • Pull on 1st year knowledge

Often the structure of a course will include introductory modules in first year to then be built on during second year.  Therefore not only is it assumed you have the knowledge of your first year modules but you may also be required to actively use said knowledge. Daunting – as I know I can forget everything I have learnt the second an exam finishes! Thus bringing your books/notes from first year to uni, and reviewing the content before building on it will be hugely beneficial.  During second year revision I actually did practice questions from my first year books, to build myself up and ensure I thoroughly understood the underlying principles.


  • Learn to Prioritise and ‘Balance’

Balance seems to be the buzz-word of our generation – too much of anything can be a bad thing, and we are constantly told you should eat, exercise, work and live in ‘moderation’.  But what does that all mean?

Second year bridges the ‘first year doesn’t count’ / ‘you only need 40% to pass’ attitude of first year, and the stresses of dissertation and final year exams in third year.

Thus now is the time to decide how much time and effort you want to allocate to studying, and socialising. Achieving your desired grade this year will alleviate some of the pressure for your final year, so do your future self a favour and work hard today. There is plenty of support advice available on Essentials:


I hope these tips will provide you with a little help and guidance, good luck in second year!

Coping with homesickness

It’s normal to feel homesick when you start university. Student Lucy tells us how she coped with feelings of homesickness as a new student, and now as a placement student in Italy!


For many students, now and the next few months may be challenging. We’ve just moved away from home and suddenly we have to fend for ourselves. No home comforts, no home cooked meals and no bank of mum and dad to rely on.

When I moved to Reading in first year, the initial few weeks I had an absolute blast. Homesickness? What homesickness? But about a month in it hit me and it hit me hard. The reality that I was at university and away from home flooded through my mind. It was tough and scary, but if you learn how to deal with it, it is easily resolved.

Here are some tips if you are starting to feel homesick:

  1. Keep busy! If you pack your days with plenty of things to do, you won’t be thinking about how you miss home as much. The worst thing to do is to sit at home and feel sorry for yourself! You could take part in a new society, meet up with friends or learn a new hobby.
  2. Talk to you friends. You can almost guarantee that they will be feeling the same too.
  3. Don’t avoid uncomfortable situations. If you feel uncomfortable going to an event to meet new friends, throw yourself in and be brave. These events are important to meet new people and experience university life to the full. You will soon feel more comfortable.
  4. Explore your new home. Instead of thinking back to all the great things at home, start exploring your new city and think instead about the benefits of being there. One of my favourite things to do is to walk around the lake on campus and around the Harris Gardens. Another thing not to be missed is brunch at Cafè Yolk, which is just a short walk from campus.
  5. Make your bedroom more homely. Put up pictures that make you smile. This should be a place that you want to go back to at the end of a busy day. A place for you to relax.
  6. Meet up with your friends back home who are at other universities. This way you’re still exploring university life.
  7. Regularly exercise. Exercise is not only amazing for you physically, but also mentally. Endorphins released when you exercise make you happy. It is amazing for your mental health and will help you to think positively when you are feeling down.
  8. FaceTime! If you still feel really homesick, you can FaceTime or Skype your family back at home. However, I wouldn’t recommend doing this too much in your first few months as you could end up missing them more.


I have just moved to Italy for my year abroad, so I am practising all of the above techniques. In the past two weeks I have been out and about exploring my new home, I have made my bedroom somewhere I want to return to and I have met up with a friend from university who is in another city in Italy. I have been busy every day since I got here and have got plans almost every weekend until I come back for Christmas!

Whilst feeling homesick can feel really rubbish, it shouldn’t be something that inhibits you from living your life and it won’t last forever. Soon enough Reading or wherever you may be will become home.

How to manage a Student Loan in the first term

Tips from 4th year, Kate!


kr-moneyThis is an exciting time, you suddenly have access to a large amount of money. Yipeee! However, this has got to last you term 1 and probably the holidays.  You may choose to put this towards your rent or use it to live. Regardless managing your money is crucial.



This seems obvious but divide your first loan amount by the number of weeks in first term (11) and you will get a weekly amount.  From this you have to then work out how you spend your money. Once you start doing this for a few weeks you will work out what you do and don’t spend money on, so you can plan for the future.


Make your money go further

Discounts and offers are your best friend.

Invest in a 16-25 rail card if you travel often by train.

Buy a NUS card you get tonnes of offers and cheaper tickets at union.

UNIDAYS also an essential app with lots of discounts.

Buy groceries in cheaper supermarkets. It all tastes the same!


The Dreaded Overdraft

So it’s not always dreaded, it can save you if you get into a sticky rent situation or need to treat yourself to a train fair home. But… I would highly recommend not going into your overdraft if you can help it. You will feel like you are in a constant battle with the minus sign climbing back up to £0. This is stressful and not something you should have to worry about so avoid the draft!


Spread the costs

What I mean by this is don’t be the person who continuously buys the rounds of drinks, pays an extra £10 for a supermarket shop or buys all the communal items for the flat/house. Go ahead and pay for them if you know that people will by you your next drink or pay you back. It’s lovely to be friendly and help out others occasionally but make sure it doesn’t become a habit and impact your loan.


Don’t buy all your text books straight away

Buying textbooks straight away could be a very expensive mistake. You can find many online or access them at the Library. Some you will need to buy if the library only has 1. Be clever, is there one book that is used across a number of modules? Yes? Worth it! You’ll find lots of students selling used text books at a cheaper rate so check this out before spending a fortune on amazon!



Apps that do it for you! They breakdown the costs so you can see where your spending the most money and help you keep a track of your spending!

Money Box and Pennies are highly recommended.


Just because you have the money it doesn’t mean you have to spend it.

Remember it is a loan you will one day have to pay back!

For further advice, check out the links:

-Reading Student Advice

-Money Saving Expert
-NUS Money Saving Expert

Keeping safe at university

Student Taz shares her tips on keeping safe whilst at university…


During your first few weeks as a fresher, exploring the town and campus, making new friends, and getting to grips with your new home will be at the top of your to-do-list. But it’s also important to know what steps you can take to ensure that you and your friends are safe, so that you can enjoy your university experience as much as possible.

Nights out

A scenario when you might not feel as safe as hoped, is during a night out: it’s dark, you’re in a new place and there may be alcohol involved. However, there are several steps you can take to ensure that worries about safety aren’t at the forefront of your mind the entire evening. Here’s a handy list of things you can do in advance to ensure that you stay safe:


Staying in groups

The easiest way to stay safe on a night out is to stay in or near to a group of friends. Staying in a group will make you less vulnerable to anyone dangerous whilst also ensuring that there are more hands, brains and phones if you do find yourself in danger.

Alternatively, there may be other times when you might have to walk alone in the dark, for example on the way home from work or a late society event. In this case, try getting either a reliable taxi home, ringing the university security line and asking them to monitor you on campus with the 24-hour campus CCTV and chaperone service, or phoning someone and talking to them during your walk home. It’s also important to stay alert at all times. If possible, walk in well lit, busy areas and try not to listen to music via earphones as this may make you less alert of any potential danger.


Know your numbers

It’s a good idea to ensure that your phone is fully charged before a night out. You’ll also want to have essential numbers like your flat mates’, accommodation warden’s and the University’s security in your phone (0118 378 7799, or 0118 378 6300 in emergencies).


Protect your funds

One of the biggest new responsibilities of being a student is the independence of managing your own spending and ensuring that bills, such as accommodation costs, are paid for on time. To help you with this, it’s a great idea to set up internet banking to regularly monitor your funds. Similarly, sketching out a weekly budget for yourself by taking your student loan and any additional earnings into account will help to avoid any financial shocks. Additionally, the University’s Student Financial Support team are available to contact at or +44 (0) 118 378 5555 to give you financial advice whenever you need it.


First year stories

Third year student Emily shares her experiences of first year…


Let’s face it, first year is a real learning curve as you settle in: busy befriending your flatmates and trying to stay awake during those 9am lectures. Making some mistakes in your first year is probably inevitable but from someone whose first year is done and dusted, here’s some advice and tips from what I learnt.

Your flatmates will likely leave the kitchen a bit messier than you’d expect, but don’t let your dirty plates pile up in the sink for too long. If you’re in Halls, the cleaners won’t do your washing up for you and can refuse to clean the surfaces if they think it’s too messy. You also don’t want to end up with Fresher’s Flu Mark 2, courtesy of your dirty cutlery.

Start your assignments as soon as possible. by doing so you can get general feedback from your lecturer if you have any questions along the way. From personal experience, leaving essays and coursework until the day before submission and having to pull an all-nighter fuelled by caffeine is incredibly stressful and not recommended!

Union is great fun and while going out on a Wednesday is a laugh, you’ll notice that third years have learnt the hard way and try not to do it every single Saturday and Wednesday. Especially when you have a morning seminar or lecture on Thursday, it’s best not to annoy your tutor when you’re struggling to concentrate hours later after one too many snakebites.

Make use of the support services on campus, most of these are based within the Carrington building with help such as counselling on offer, but you also have your Academic Tutor on hand to chat to if you’re stressed out about your studies. There’s also lots of free mindfulness talks and events happening throughout the year. Not only do they count towards the RED award, but they give advice from sleeping better to how to prevent procrastination, both of which I found really useful. Don’t suffer in silence, others will be feeling the same way too.

Try to make the most of the 9 grand you’re paying this year, join some societies and consider getting part-time work with CampusJobs. If you feel as though you’re struggling to settle in or a little bit homesick like we all get at times, this is a great way to make new friends and get you out of your room on quieter days. There’s also the beautiful Whiteknights lake on main campus to explore alone or with your friends when you need a breather or two (with cute ducklings in the spring). Taking these opportunities will also be great for your mental health and help to increase your productivity.

First year is going to be a whirlwind, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did and avoid the mistakes my friends and I made as freshers.

Whiteknights by Emily Shewell

Whiteknights Lake, captured by Emily

Top 10 things to do in your first five weeks

Student Hannah shares her thoughts on how to make the most of your first 5 weeks…

  1. Go to the library…    

I figured I should begin with something academic as you have chosen to come to University! No, but seriously, even if you just walk into the library and have a wander, it’s good to just get your bearings

  1. Join a society/Go to a taster session…

A great way to make friends and do something you love to go alongside your studies!

  1. Cook a proper meal (with your flatmates?)…

Trust me, I know its tempting yo just eat Pot Noodles and pizza, we’ve all been there (especially me), but there’s nothing better than a proper home-cooked meal, especially if you’ve had help from your flatmates.

  1. Go into town… 

Self-explanatory really, Reading is your home for the next 3 / 4 years – go and explore! On the 2nd October, The Oracle holds ‘Student Sessions’, where retailers give students exclusive discounts – definitely worth checking out!

  1. Register with a doctor

Seems like a pain, but fresher’s flu is real and so is illness, better to know there’s always somewhere you can go!

  1. Get a TOTUM card

The new NUS card, its gets you discounts at loads of retailers and cheaper entry into Union – what more could you want!?

  1. Explore our campus(‘s)…  

I mean, it’s literally award-winning… The Harris Garden is one of it’s best kept, not so secret, secrets! Oh and we have amazing bars on all of our campus’ if you fancy a tipple…

  1. Go to Café Yolk

Are you a breakfast/brunch/lunch kind of person? Love good food or a good Instagram? Look no further than Cafe Yolk!