Surviving in a Private House

Third Year Geographer, Jack shares his tips for surviving in a private house! 

First year is complete and now the hard work really begins! For many of you halls will have been the first time you’ve lived anywhere away from home and thanks to Halls Hotline, Campus Security and a general sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ hopefully it was a pretty seamless transition into a more independent lifestyle. Now you’ve moved out of halls, picked your housemates and (hopefully) secured a house for next year – but what’s it going to be like? I’m going to share my do’s and don’ts to help you survive in private housing!

Do’s:

· Introduce yourself to your neighbors: Your neighbors are sort of like ghost housemates – you’ll probably rarely see each other but if, like my house, your walls are about as thick as a sheet of paper, you’ll certainly hear each other. Get in the good books early and say a quick hello.

· Sort out the best energy and Wi-Fi suppliers: Energy and Wi-Fi (unless agreed in your contract) are up to you to sort out. Have a search around for the cheapest and best student deals – my advice: gas is gas and water is water no matter what you pay; the same attitude with Wi-Fi however will leave you red-faced when you’re reduced to watching a pixelated episode of your favourite show…

· Sort a rota for cleaning: Now, nobody is going to enjoy cleaning the toilet and if they do, please send them my way, but it’s a necessary job that needs to be kept on top of. Sort a rota early of who cleans what and when, to avoid needing an industrial biohazard suit around March.

· Sort out standing orders for rent and utilities: Sorting out a standing order means you don’t have to worry about paying every month – it’ll do it automatically – set up an account everyone pays into on a set day. By agreeing a set amount for utilities (include £5-10 on top of expected bills per month to cover incidental expenses, like toilet rolls, washing up liquid and batteries and fluctuation) bills will also be covered.

Don’ts:

· Leave the washing up: The bugbear of all university houses – a sink that looks more like a game of jenga. Washing your plates up as soon as you’re done with them will have a surprising effect on everyone’s mood and save you having to explain how you accidentally broke your housemates grandmas wedding glass because your jenga skills were certainly not ‘on-point’.

· Wake the street up at 4AM: Going out and having fun is part and parcel of university life, but your neighbour’s won’t take too kindly to being woken up by someone dressed in a bee costume at 4AM, trust me…

· Presume your street share your taste in music: There’s nothing nicer than coming home after a long day and kicking back to some of your favourite songs – just remember whilst you and your housemates may have similar tastes, the rest of the street probably won’t so, if you find yourself questioning whether it’s too loud – it probably is!

· Think the TV license people won’t find you: Many have tried, all have failed. If you’re watching live TV, or some iPlayer style streaming services, you’ll need a TV license. It’s the law!

Living in a private house can be even more fun than halls – follow these simple do’s and don’ts and you’ll be well on your way to an epic second/third year!

How to Make Halls Heaven

Second Year French Student, Katherine explains ‘How to Make Halls Heaven’.

If you speak to anyone who has lived in university halls before, they will probably tell you they miss it – I agree. From the first day of moving into halls there really is a sense of community, you all have the same little room, you’re all probably freshers and you’re all ready to make new friends! After freshers’ week is over and you’re suddenly going to bed at a normal time, the reality of living away from home might hit you. Personally, I think remembering a few things can help make it easier:

· Remember to buy enough food, but not too much so that it will go out of date before you manage to eat it, we’ve all been caught out by green bread too many times.

· Try not to let little things bother you such as a flatmate leaving a lot of their kitchen equipment on the side (as long as you have your fair share of space it should be OK, at some point during the year you might need some extra space for a bit too).

· Remember that there’s always the Halls Hotline you can call if people are being noisy and disruptive, but also remember to try not to disturb others when you come home late yourself – which can sometimes be hard to remember when you’re having a good time, but your flatmates will definitely appreciate it!

· If you can, cook more than one portion of a meal at once and then keep the leftovers in the fridge for another day, your future self will thank you!

· It’s nice to keep your door propped open so you can say hi to people as they move around the flat, but if you need your alone time all you have to do is close your door – phew!

Living in halls is great fun and there are so many people to meet, as much hot water as you need and it’s blissfully close to your lectures when you have a 9am – overall an amazing experience!

Top Tips on Settling into University

Third Year Theatre Arts Education and Deaf Studies student, Alexander shares his top tips on Settling into University.

Welcome to Reading! Settling into university can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time living and studying away from home. It can take time, but here are some top tips to help you out.

· Make your room look and feel ‘homely’. Put up posters and pictures on your noticeboards, bring your bedding from home. It may sound like a small thing but having things you recognise from home help you to feel more settled and relaxed.

· Go out to social events, even if this seems daunting to you or you are exhausted from travelling and unpacking. You don’t have to go out drinking, there is something for everyone at uni!

· Join a society, club or sport – Reading has many different options, from Arts and Crafts to Qudditich! The best way to meet people who share the same or similar interests to you is to join something to attend on a regular basis. It’s a chance to switch off from study and even try something new.

· Check out where your nearest shops are and how to get to them. Look up the different walking, cycling and bus routes you think you may need to use. When travelling by bus in Reading you need to have the correct change as the drivers on Reading buses can’t give change. You can also use the ‘SimplyUni’ card that you top up online and scan when you board the buses.

· Agree with your new flatmates how you want to organise items such us washing up liquid, cleaning materials etc. It sounds like a small thing, but sometimes people assume an item left on the side is for communal use. Discuss with them to see if people would be happy to buy their own, take it in turns to buy or share the cost between you.

· Register with a GP – even if you’re one of those lucky people who never gets ill, it’s still worth registering!

· Look into extra-curricular things, for example volunteering and the Reading Experience and Development (RED) Award. These can help you gain new skills, meet people and looks great on your CV.

· Explore Reading. It’s always good to break out of the student bubble.

All the best with your course!

There’s always room for a little more drama in your life…

Third Year History and English Literature Student, Ciara tells us “There’s always room for a little more drama in your life…”

Reading University Drama Society (RUDS) is the first society I joined. Being a lover of performing and singing, and a theatre enthusiast in general I was incredibly eager to join and I have never looked back. Whilst it seems like everyone is so much more confident than you are, the important thing to realise is that everyone, and I mean everyone, is just as nervous. One social in and I was chatting to everyone there as if I’d known them for years! This society has something for everyone – it doesn’t matter if you have never acted before, you can join and try out something new – the society prides itself on being fair to its members and ensures that everyone who wants to can be involved with every production!

Every year we put on numerous shows, and you will have the chance to suggest what the society performs – overall we do 6 shows throughout the year, including a Shakespeare, a musical and the charity 24 hour musical. Every production is so much fun and brings the whole society closer together, and as expected, when a group of excitable dramatic students get together it’s never boring, to say the least…

Get involved!

There are so many different ways to get involved with RUDS! I personally have never acted in a play or musical since joining the society, but that is obviously the most popular choice. After joining you will be able to find out about when and where the different auditions will be taking place and how you have to prepare for them! But if you don’t think acting is for you then don’t worry – there are so many more opportunities!

Hair and Make Up 

I have done the hair and makeup for around five different productions, and have loved it so much! It requires little commitment to the show so if you’re a busy person but still want to get involved then this is the perfect role. It’s so much fun, especially when the characters

have interesting or more challenging make up, such as making them look old or ill or even suffering from a vampire bite!

Tech 

If you’re a tech wizard then the society needs you – all the lighting and sound queues mean a lot of work for the tech crew, so there are many ways to get involved with that aspect!

Producing or Directing 

This last year I was able to produce A Midsummer Night’s Dream which was the most exciting and fun experience of university so far! It’s a commitment but you’re able to really integrate into the society and make strong friendships with the cast and crew. I had never produced a play before but I was able to learn so many new skills and it sparked a real love of production for me! You will also have the opportunity to direct shows – for the large autumn, Shakespeare and the musical you can present your idea to the society and everyone will vote for which idea they like the best – giving you the chance to direct a show!

Choreography 

If dancing is your calling then we always need people to come up with routines for our different shows – there is a lot of dancing in this society!!!

There are so many different ways to get involved in RUDS – it is such a welcoming society, and because of how busy and sometimes stressful being in a play can be, our welfare officers are dedicated to making sure you will fit in and are coping well within the society and within general university life. I have had the best two years in RUDS and made friends for life! It’s a society where I can have fun with other drama lovers and enjoy contributing to each new play. Make sure to head to the societies fair in Welcome Week and pick up a RUDS leaflet and talk to the committee about the society!

 

Video Killed the Radio Star?

Third Year Geography Student, Jack tells us more about Junction11 Radio…

Always the first to grab the AUX lead on a road trip? Friends fed up of hearing you bang on about new music and upcoming artists? Fancy yourself as the next Nick Grimshaw or Annie Mac? Whether you want to present a show on air or simply help behind the scenes with production, marketing, social media and more Junction11 Radio is for you!

Junction11 is the University of Reading’s student radio station, broadcasting across campus in University outlets and to the world on www.junction11radio.co.uk. The station boasts a fully functional radio studio based in the Stephen Lawrence media centre in the heart of campus, good links with local and national radio stations and is a member of the Student Radio Association.

Run by students for students all members of the committee are studying at the University of Reading and have been involved with the society – no scary executive or board of directors to pitch to, just a friendly community of likeminded, music loving individuals!

Music

Far from simply playing the charts on a loop of unparrelled despair Junction11 promotes the play of all genres of music, so, if like me, you have an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of ‘Cheese Hits’ from across the decades (seriously, it’s worrying at times) then you can play them to your hearts content on one of Junction11’s ‘speciality’ shows. The station splits the day into distinct categories, each with their own style ranging from breakfast shows to the brand new Junction11 ‘After Dark’, no matter what you want to play on air, there will be a slot for you!

Events

Junction11 hosts a number of events throughout the year, these have included:

· Live Lounges – just like Radio1, Junction11 invites local bands to showcase their material

· Union Takeovers – presenters on Junction11 often get the chance to DJ at the Students Union on a Wednesday/Saturday night on union takeover nights

· Battle of the Bands – local bands compete to be awarded the ‘best band’ trophy

· Summer ball – presenters on Junction11 have the opportunity to DJ the annual summer ball to a crowd of over 4,000 students

Events are a great way to showcase the talent on campus and often attract a large volume of students and the general public.

Awards

The annual Society and Media Awards are a chance to celebrate the amazing work that has come from the University’s societies and media streams in the past year. From ‘Best Radio Show’ to ‘Best Media Newcomer’ there are a vast array of awards celebrating hard work, dedication and talent.

(Zack and I picking up the award for Best Radio Show)

Get involved!

If broadcasting to the world in a fully kitted out radio studio for only £10 a term or helping out with production and marketing behind the scenes of some of the biggest shows on campus sounds your thing (and let’s face you’d have started watching fail videos or something by now if it wasn’t…) then get down to Fresher’s Fayre during welcome week and make a beeline for the Junction11 stall (you’ll hear us before you see us!).

If you have any personal questions prior to Fresher’s Fayre then you can contact Junction11’s Studio Manager (which happens to be yours truly…) on studiomanager@junction11radio.co.uk or for anything about J11 and Freshers Fayre it’s getinvolved@junction11radio.co.uk

Yogalates Society

Third Year Geographer, Holly blogs about the Yogalates Society.

The Yogalates Society is currently the largest society on campus with over 500 Facebook group members. I have been a member of the Yogalates Society since it started in 2015. It is on once a week on Tuesday evenings in Wessex Hall on Campus. Yogalates is run by a fun and friendly committee of students, for students of all abilities. It is an exciting mix of yoga and pilates. Membership only costs £10 for the whole year and all you need is a yoga mat or towel and a bottle of water! The sessions are very relaxed so you can take them as slowly or intensely as you want. I find it an easy way to stay fit around lectures and assignments as well as a fun social society with regular socials to Q club and the Student Union. The sessions are usually to music and sometimes include paired exercises and competitions. The yogalates society won the most improved RUSUS sports club in 2016. If you are looking for a fun and affordable fitness society where you get to meet new people, then Yogalates is the place for you!

For up-to-date information or to get in contact with the committee, join their Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/948592071865436/ 

How to make the most of your Welcome Week

Third Year Biological Sciences Student, Chui-Yan shares her Top Tips on how to make the most of Welcome Week.

Find your way around

Firstly, I would recommend learning how to get to your lecture rooms, so you don’t get lost when they begin the following week. There are campus tours held during Welcome Week that will show you around the university. It can also be useful to learn where your local supermarkets are for groceries.

Meet other students

Take advantage of the many taster sessions by societies and sports. It gives you the chance to try out something new or find those with the same interests as you. They are a great start to build lasting memories and friends. You can also get to know people through night socials included in the Fresher’s wristband when you buy it but there are other socials available for students.

Check out the university

You should take a look inside the RUSU building as it provides many useful services and facilities such as the bookstore, Blackwell, where you can typically get new or second hand books that are used on your course. There’s also the Bagel man AKA Cerealworks, which is best known for its delicious bagels. And if you plan to use the university library, they usually have sessions that you can book around to learn how to use and borrow books from the library.

Be proactive

There will be many great opportunities during Welcome Week to prepare for the term ahead. So, be sure you attend the Academic Success Fair for information on academic support, course queries and module advice. Don’t miss out on the Fresher’s fayres too, where you can find out more about volunteering, societies & media and sports.

Look after yourself

Get the flu vaccination in advance to avoid the dreaded Freshers’ flu but do still take care of your health. This means staying hydrated, eating healthily and getting enough sleep. Also remember to wear warm clothes for the season or else you’ll become ill. It is recommended that you register at a local GP and ensure you have had the Meningitis AWCY vaccine as well.

Get help early

There will be many Freshers’ Angels and other student ambassadors around campus to help you. They are mainly only there during Welcome Week, so ask your questions now rather than later. You will have a STaR Mentor available throughout autumn term if you still need help or guidance though. There are also support centres now for assistance in academic and non-academic issues.

Preparing for your first or second year

Student Princeton is just going into his second year, and has some great tips on getting prepared for your year ahead – just before the Autumn term starts!

Preparing for your first or second year will give you an important advantage to ensure that the rest of your following academic year runs smoothly.  This short blog will cover some of the essential things you could be doing to have a smooth and efficient start to your year.

Write a C.V

Not only are C.Vs used for jobs, you may also need to provide a C.V for work experience or voluntary work. It is compulsory that you have a well-presented C.V which highlights your accomplishments and unique set of skills to allow you to stand out to your future employers.

Work experience

Taking part in work experience or voluntary work allows you to gain more knowledge and improve your skills which lets you build a stronger C.V. For example, I study a degree in biology so I decided to shadow doctors and work in labs.

University routine

Making a plan or routine for your week can be very important as it will help you save time in the long run and keep you organized.  Similarly, you should look at recommended reading lists for your modules to get ahead of your course. This will give you time to prepare and to ask questions about topics you are confused about.

Note taking and essay writing

If you are beginning first year looking at note taking methods such as the Cornell method will help you keep your notes more organized. The Cornell method is a technique many students find very useful. You can find tutorials on how to use the Cornell method on YouTube. Many modules also have coursework that is graded by essays, so refining your essay writing will help you get better grades. You can find many guides and tutorials for essay writing on the University of Reading library. The library provides many tutorial videos covering a range of topics which I’ve used during my first year.

Enjoy and Relax!

Lastly it is important that you relax and enjoy the last of the summer before the start of your academic year. Spending time with friends, trying out new hobbies and exploring new places will help take off any stress before the start of your year at university. My hobbies include photography and music. I recently started teaching myself the guitar at university and I will continue learning it during summer. I’m also going to be travelling to Italy this summer with my friends to spend time with them and to relax.

Mindful about money

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

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

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

Student Bank Account

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

16-25 Railcard

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

NUS Extra Card

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

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

Student Discount Websites

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

Trials and Freebies

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

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

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

From Your University

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

 

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

See the Money Matters pages on Essentials for more information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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