What I got up to during my Reading Week…

Week 6 is a great opportunity to not only catch up on some work, but also some much-needed rest. Taz shares what she got up to during her week at home…

Ah, Reading Week… a time to forget about my degree, hibernate in bed, and to watch as many series on Netflix as humanly possible…

Whilst I’d love to admit that this is how I spent my Reading Week, I actually got up to a huge amount; most of which I can thank my huge to-do list of uni work for.

My Reading Week was spent at my home in Kent. This meant I had plenty of opportunities to get up to things which I don’t have the luxury of doing at uni. Some of which included having a warm bath, enjoying meals made by my mum, and catching up with family members I haven’t seen in a while. Amongst everything, the week was a time for me to rest, catch up on my studies, and to enjoy some ‘me’ time. And here’s exactly what I did.

Studying

Having taken up three assignment-heavy modules this term, reaching Week 6 meant that I had a large amount of work to get on with (and deadlines fast approaching). Working on my assignments at home meant that I was able to focus all of my energy on ploughing through the work without the distraction of social events and other aspects of my student routine. Unlike most people who prefer a desk or library setting to work at, I opt for my bed where I can spread all of my text books out whilst feeling comfortable at the same time. Even better, working at home gave the added bonuses of having my attention-seeker of a cat to keep me company, and to enjoy as many cups of tea as I wished.

Me Time

At times when I wasn’t completing uni work, I was also able to give myself a chance to relax and do the things that I enjoy. These included several much-needed lie-ins, a couple of runs around the countryside setting of my village, and a visit to the coast to make the most of the slightly warmer weather and a bag of warm chips. Additionally, the week was also an opportunity for me to kick back and enjoy some Netflix. This consisted of the new series ‘Dirty John’ (very gripping!) and The Hobbit which I was watching for the first time.

Family catch-up

Although I’m naturally a family-person, and it is rare for me to go a week without facetiming or texting a member of my family, Reading Week offered the chance to enjoy the face-to-face company of my mum, sister, and step-dad, whilst also catching-up with my auntie and cousin during a day trip to London Zoo. I also managed to fit in visiting my grandparents towards the end of the week. Taking a day or a couple of hours away from uni work throughout the week allowed me to recharge my batteries and think about something completely different for a change.

I’m a big fan of Reading Week and am lucky to have chosen a uni that offers students a chance to visit home, catch-up on work, and enjoy a break. How did you spend yours?

Celebrating Chinese New Year: Stir-fried chicken with celery

What better way to celebrate Chinese New Year than with a home-cooked feast? Elliot shares one of his go-to Chinese-inspired recipes – quick and easy enough to make on a weeknight, and delicious when reheated for a low-effort lunch the next day.

Now that the Chinese New Year (Happy Year of the Pig!) has begun, it’s the perfect time to learn about Chinese cuisine!

Stir-frying is a batch-cooking technique, which involves frying food by constantly stirring, in small quantities of extremely hot oil – traditionally in a wok. The technique began to gain traction in China in the mid-1300s and was popularly practiced by the mid-1600s (also known as the Ming Dynasty). Its appealing balance of protein, vegetables, and very light sauce makes this an easy and complete meal which maintains a reasonable calorie count – students will find it a reliable and forgiving fall-back, as the protein and vegetables combinations can be altered to fit your tastes and nutritional needs.

This recipe is perfect for using up extra celery, and pairs well with sweet sticky spicy tofu –refrigerated leftovers for both will keep very well into the next day. A very hot pan will work well in place of a wok. Bear in mind that olive oil will not work, since its low smoke point will cause it to burn and bitter well before you are done cooking- vegetable oil or any other high smoke-point oil is recommended.

Allergens

Sulphites

Portions

4

Ingredients

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 carrot

1 bunch celery

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp cornstarch

½ tsp Chinese cooking wine (or any white wine)

1 large piece ginger

1 clove garlic

1 shallot (1/2 onion can be substituted)

1/3 cup chicken stock

½ tbsp soy sauce

Kosher salt

Vegetable oil

Prep

  1. Cut chicken breast into small, bite-sized pieces.
  2. Cut ginger into 3 large slices – dice one, and reserve the other two.
  3. Combine chicken pieces with: diced ginger; sugar; salt; cornstarch; wine. Mix well, and leave in a bowl to marinate (minimum 30 minutes)
  4. Cut ends off celery, wash thoroughly, and separate stalks– slice each stalk in half lengthwise, and cut each into 2-3 inch pieces.
  5. Wash and peel carrot – slice half lengthwise, and cut halves into thin (1/2 – 1cm) slices.
  6. Peel and finely dice or crush garlic.
  7. Finely dice shallot.

Method

  1. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil on high until just smoking. Add first ginger slice, and 1 large pinch of salt.
  2. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  3. Add celery and carrots and cook, stirring constantly until tender (about 5 minutes). Discard ginger, and remove vegetables to a separate plate.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil until just smoking. Add second ginger slice, shallots, and garlic. Stir for less than 1 minute (until garlic is fragrant), and immediately add chicken.
  5. Stir chicken and aromatics until evenly coated in oil, and chicken has all changed color (about 6-8 minutes).
  6. Add soy sauce, and mix evenly into chicken and vegetables. Reduce heat to medium high.
  7. Add stock, mix thoroughly, and allow to reduce by half, forming a clear sauce.
  8. Add cooked carrot and celery mixture, discarding any accumulated juices (adding this will make the dish overly salty). Toss to coat all vegetables and chicken in sauce. Discard ginger.
  9. Serve over rice or noodles.

Make your degree worth the money

University can provide us with the training, knowledge and experiences we need to achieve our career goals. Elliot shares his ideas on making the most out of your time at university so you can hit the ground running after graduation.

According to this, 37% percent of graduates regret university – and 49% feel a degree was unnecessary for their career.

Given the time and money we’re putting into studies – not ideal. So in today’s article, I want to outline tactics to avoid university regret.

But first…

Why do people regret university?

Biggest quoted reason? Money.

 

  • Related note – most 25-33 year olds have a quarter life crisis, during which career goals tend to change. Meaning that by your 30’s, there’s a pretty high chance your work won’t be related to your degree.

See the solution yet?

We need to find a way to make your undergraduate degree worth the money.

And luckily, the above points give us some clues about how:

  1. Relative to costs – it seems a Bachelor’s on its own isn’t typically enough to earn back significantly. Meaning: you need to use university to gain career skills outside your degree in the shortest possible time; and to give yourself a sharp edge for competitive job markets.
  2. People find serious career goals only after a certain amount of experience (which, on average – apparently happens AFTER university). Meaning; we need to use university to maximise our life/work experiences in a way that helps us form realistic ideas of what we want to (and can) do.

So – without further ado:

How to make an undergraduate degree worth the money

Based on the above (and personal experience), this is a potential 5-step strategy to set you up with a massive edge in post-study life, that will stave off the circumstances for university regret.

  1. Collect experience

The underlying question when we go to university – how do you want to make your money?

The problem? As freshers, most of us don’t have great ideas on what we enjoy, what we’re really good at (or want to be good at) – and how that really translates into career.

That’s pretty normal. But waiting until after uni to figure it out risks the above-mentioned sense that we’ve wasted 3 years and nearly £30,000 – and also puts us years behind those who’ve already started working.

So – you need to compress that post-uni ‘figuring out stage’ into your time here, at university. Which is simpler than it sounds – you just need to get enough experience to start developing grounded ideas of what you want to do.

This process will help with that:

  1. Find a part-time job (start with Campus Jobs– which focuses on roles that fit around study). At this stage, just pick something you like the look of. If you’re indecisive, just pick randomly (speak to the careers team for free help with applications).

 

  1. Outside work, keep trying new things. Outside your comfort zone, you’ll get a better sense of your capabilities and interests. I don’t naturally gravitate to new experiences – so for a while, I took on a ‘yes-man’ policy; whenever I had activity opportunities (be it travel, social, societies, hobbies – there’s a lot of these going at university) – if it’s not going to cause harm, say ‘yes’ and give it a try.

 

  1. After a month or so, start picturing yourself doing this job for the rest of your life. Sound good? If not– why? What exactly turns you off a life-time of that job? Write down that answer, and what you’d prefer instead (even as simple as ‘not restocking all day’). Now, go out and find a new job that fulfills this new goal.

 

  1. Repeat the process as many times as you need to – until you start coming up with something that excites you, for a specific reason. Write down this ‘something’ and the ‘reason’.

 

Congratulations – you now have a career direction!

 

  1. Research roles

Now you’ve a direction – you need a specific role to plan for. The goal is to get a feel for what’s out there, and find something that positively answers the following:

  1. Is this role interesting to me?
  2. Do I want to be good at this?
  3. Do I like the earning potential?
  4. For those successful in this field– do I like the lifestyle?
  5. Are there opportunities for this where I’m located? If not – where are they?
  6. How competitive are these kinds of roles/what’s the demand like?

This is where university resources can start coming into play:

  • The ‘What careers can you have?’ section of your degree introduction page is a possible starting point, often with suggested fields and companies (g.)
  • Make your interest known – speak to tutors, student support centres, and the careers team. Say you’re after career development, but having trouble finding specific roles you’re interested in – if nothing else, they can point you to job databases, and to contacts with relevant experience.
  • (A note on student support centres– this is valuable spot to find resources inside your own department. For example; did you know Literature and Language has a career preparation scheme, with introductory courses to the publishing industry, digital marketing, translation, and even British Sign Language?)
  • Outside class– ask around. Talk to friends and acquaintances about what they do, and browse the occasional career website. The National Careers Service website have job descriptions, salary info, necessary skills, and typical pathways to (and from) these roles (payscale.com is great too – but US-based).

Be patient, and keep researching – don’t stop at something you’re lukewarm about.

Once something really catches your eye though, you’re ready for the next phase.

 

  1. Master the skills

So, you’ve got a career direction, and an attractive role to aim at. Great start – but the next step is what will pay really big dividends.

Find at least three, current job applications for your chosen role on a job application website – and copy-paste the job description/requirements section into a Document.

This is now the list of skills you need to be good at in order to get the job.

It takes work – but getting good at a skill isn’t complicated:

  1. Practice – lots. Understand that you’ll suck at first– there’s no way around this – this is how you start. If you can get paid, start there – paychecks are great motivators. If you feel embarrassed, or discouraged – channel it into the next part…
  2. Analyse mistakes –quick and easy way to do this? Ask, ‘what are the people – who are doing better than me – doing differently?’ Figure out exactly what that difference is; write it down; and copy them.
  3. Keep practicing –seems obvious. But it’s the step many (including myself) fail at, after getting discouraged by a lack of results. Push past this. Just chip away, replacing each mistake with good habits – and eventually, you WILL get the results. Anytime I’ve dramatically improved at anything has been preceded by a period where I felt like I’d plateaued. But this only happens when you’re persistent, practicing consistently and often.
  4. Optional – teach. It’s an extra step –but really checks gaps in your knowledge. Verbally explaining a concept REALLY tests your understanding. You don’t need to teach formally, either– offer to explain the concept to friends, who think the skill sounds interesting. Or if you’re web-savvy – make a beginner’s wiki, and get some friends to review it.

 

  1. Get a mentor

At this point – you’re miles ahead of the typical graduate. You have a direction; translated this into a job role; and you’re well on the way to becoming the ideal candidate by mastering the skills.

However, there are more issues and requirements along the way – all of which are different for every career, role, company, and location.

A mentor is someone who’s been down the same road you’re on, and helps guide your progress – finding one willing to guide you will help avoid the hidden pitfalls, and you’ll progress FAR faster for it.

Finding mentors can be difficult. Thankfully, the THRIVE Mentoring Scheme matches Reading students to working professionals, and includes training sessions on how to most effectively use the mentor-mentee relationship. Plus, it’s a free service requiring minimal time – I fully recommend it.

Eligible students must be in their penultimate year of study – if you’re not eligible, you’ll just have to do some legwork on your own. Speak to your department head, Student Support Centre, and personal tutor – ask if they know of anyone who could advise you on the role you’re trying to get to. Look through university staff lists, and use society connections too – and remember that mentors are generally most drawn to capable, independent individuals who will implement their advice seriously.

 

  1. Market yourself

Even as the perfect candidate for the job (which you’re well on your way to becoming) – you won’t get it if you’re not an attractive employment option on paper, and in interviews.

This could be an entire article itself – but overarchingly, your CV and cover letter should work together to create an interesting narrative (typically illustrating a promising self-starter), rather than just listing skills.

I’d recommend asking your mentor for feedback on this– both in terms of CV and cover letter writing. If you’ve never written either–start here.

 

Conclusion

University can be powerful– where else is there such a high concentration of mentoring, advice and free programs, all geared to helping you achieve whatever you want?

But university only offers the opportunities – nothing more. Taking actual advantage of them – that’s all you.

Don’t – and you might leave university, wondering with everyone else why you accumulated 30k debt (plus interest), over 3 years.

Do it right – and you’ll leave with a head-start in the first steps to becoming whoever you want –professionally, and personally.

I’d say that’s worth the work.

The ultimate comfort food: Cacio e Pepe

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

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

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

Allergens

Milk, gluten

Portions

2

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp freshly ground, coarse black pepper

Kosher salt

225g spaghetti

2 tbsp (15g) unsalted butter

55g Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

 

Prep

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

Method

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

Halfway there! Tips to get through Dry January

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

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

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

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

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

Acing Your New Year’s Resolutions

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

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

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

Resolutions such as these might be a good starting point:

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

The next stage once you have your Resolution…

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

How will you maintain the resolution throughout the whole year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to look for help

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

Motivational message for first term essay deadlines

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

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

 

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

 

 

How to solve issues with your landlord

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

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

Why does this happen?

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

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

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

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

Be a good tenant

Because it’s literally in your contract.

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

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

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

1.     Contact them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.     Make an appointment with a Housing Advisor

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

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

The goal is to understand:

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

3.     Escalate

This part’s simple.

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

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

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

4.     Keep records – and expect contact from management

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Relax When You’re Stressed

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays and Happier Studying!

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

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

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

  1. Balance

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

  1. Planning ahead

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

  1. Schedules

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

  1. Study Space

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

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

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