Reading Knights Athletics Club Review

Rebecca shares her experience with the Reading Knights Athletics Club…

If even after panic signing up to nearly every society at the sports fair, and attending numerous taster sessions, you didn’t manage to give athletics a go – I hope this review of Reading University Knights Athletics club (RUKA) will provide some insight into the offerings of the society.

Firstly – for new runners, joining an athletics club can be quite intimidating. As someone who recently took up running myself, I found often despite clubs advertising ‘all abilities welcome’ I was the only person at my ability (rather slow!). However, RUKA genuinely does have members of all abilities, and every speed is welcome to join the runs. This is so refreshing and welcoming, and in my personal opinion, one of the best things about the society.

The Society is structured around the four key aspects of a good running programme: strength, endurance, tempo & speed work. A typical week looks like:

Monday am – Circuits with coach

Monday pm – 5k road run

Wednesday afternoon – Half Marathon training: longer run

Friday pm – Track session

The athletics society competes in cross-country races as a part of LUCA (London Universities & Colleges Athletics), as well as BUCS and track events. These races are actually (somewhat surprisingly) great fun. Mostly held in/near London, there is a great vibe brought by the likes of UCL, St Mary’s, Kings & Imperial.

For more info and how to get involved check out the RUKA RUSU page, where you can find the link to the Facebook group: https://www.rusu.co.uk/sports/athleticsruac/.

 

Top tips for acing your group assignment

Do group assignments fill you with dread? Taz has some top tips for making sure you ace the next one!

Does the prospect of a group assignment fill you with dread? At some point during your degree course, it is likely that you will be set a group assignment to complete for one of your modules. And whilst there are many students who enjoy group assignments, there are others who find the prospect of meeting deadlines, transferring their skills, and displaying their potential more difficult when working as part of a group. Nonetheless, there are five steps that you can take to ensure that you do as well as possible in these types of assignments, meanwhile ensuring that it is a stress-free experience.

Step 1: Know your group

More often than not, your lecturers will allow you to choose the students in your group. However, be aware that there will be students who may be unable to find a group, or smaller groups that need putting together. You can often check your group structures by searching under the ‘Groups’ tab within your module on Blackboard.

Step 2: Agree on your communication method

A key starting point for a successful group assignment is regular and effective communication between all group members. Once set the project, it is a good idea to decide how you are going to communicate as a group.

This might include

  • Facebook messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Emails
  • BB group discussion board

Step 3: Planning

To ensure that you meet the assignment deadline and all aspects of the criteria, it is crucial to plan the assignment as a group. Examples of the types of projects you could be set include:

  • Class presentations
  • Prezzi presentations
  • A website
  • Group data analysis
  • A video
  • A poster or leaflet

It is best to create the plan for your assignment in person and somewhere where you can all focus. Across the University, there are numerous study spaces that you can use for the planning. To save time searching for a room, you also book a room to use in advance via the University’s online booking system.

Step 4: Delegating roles and completing the project

When it comes to assigning roles, you may either decide to complete all parts of the assignment as a group, or to delegate a section to each member. This might depend of the skill strengths of each team member, or the requirements of the task. Regardless, you want to ensure that all members of the group have a fair share of the work load. To help with the completion of the project, you can also use the University’s Life Tools Programme which offers a range of workshop sessions including ‘How to prepare for and give successful academic presentations’.

Step 5: Meeting the submission deadline

The typical completion period for a group assignment is a month. This gives you plenty of time to effectively plan, complete and review the assignment as a group. Likewise, it is a good idea to decide during the planning stage which student will submit the project (if required). It is often the case that, if an electronic submission, only one member of the group will need to submit the assignment via Blackboard.

Alcohol Free Fun

There are times, especially at university, when it can feel tough to get out and socialise with people if you aren’t drinking. For Alcohol Awareness Week 2018, Rebecca has shared some of her favourite alcohol-free ways to have fun and spend quality time with friends.

Headlines this year showed that 1 in 5 university students say they don’t drink alcohol – and as a generation we drink far less than those before us. Drivers of this trend include the increased health awareness of students, wider diversity of faiths and the financial burden of studying. Whether you tried it for Sober October, or are planning on giving your liver and bank account a break in Dry January – here are some ways to spend your time teetotal and not be missing out on all the fun!

Firstly it can be hard to justify spending money when on a tight budget – however by saving money on alcohol/going out, you can spend that same amount of money on teetotal-time instead (and probably get more for your money!). Here are some fun things I do when I’m not drinking and encouraging friends to join me – although it can be difficult to persuade them at first, after they see what a good time you can have without drinking, you’ll be planning a lot more teetotal trips out!

  1. A nice meal out: Reading is full of great, affordable options if you’re looking to eat out. Bakery House offer a delicious and budget-friendly taste of Lebanese cuisine, and if Italian food is more your thing, give Buon Appetito a try for their awesome pizza and atmosphere. The best part of a nice meal out, sans the alcohol? The vastly decreased bill at the end!
  2. A trip to the cinema: As activities go, the cinema isn’t known for being the cheapest of options – but your handy student card will get you a discount at Vue, and it’s always worth keeping your eyes open for their special offers on tickets.
  3. A movie night in with all the snacks: Like being at the cinema, but with more sofas and blankets, and the ability to have a pizza delivered without getting kicked out. What’s not to love?
  4. Trampolining: Definitely an activity to be attempted sober! RedKangaroo Reading even have a Total Wipeout style course if you’re feeling ambitious.
  5. Crazy Golf: This will involve a bit of travel, so is a great option if one of your friends has a car, or you’re willing to travel the half-hour or so into London to check out some of the awesome themed courses on offer across the city.
  6. Bowling: Again, you may have to travel further afield for this one – why not spend some of the money you save on drinks and travel into nearby London to check out one of their unique bowling alleys?
  7. Quiz & Karaoke at Mojo’s: Test your general knowledge skills and sing the night away every Thursday with RUSU! The quiz kicks off at 8pm, but get there early to secure a table – it costs just £5 per team to join.
  8. RUSU Comedy Central: If you’re not a quiz fan and the idea of singing in a public space fills you with dread, perhaps a comedy night would be a better fit for you. Comedy Central Live takes place on Tuesdays in 3Sixty. Book tickets and check out other weekly RUSU events
  9. Join the society ‘R U Not Drinking Much’: This society was established to give students the opportunity to have fun and socialise without alcohol. You can get involved in movie nights, board game nights and off-campus trips – and membership is free!

Let us know in the comments below if you make one of these alcohol free swaps from your usual drinking activities! If you would like to know more about drug and alcohol advice provided at the University, click here.

Year Abroad: My First Impressions

Lucy shares the excitement and challenges that come with living and studying abroad…

Without a doubt, preparing to go on my year abroad was one of the most stressful periods of my life. I think this is mainly due to fear of the unknown, because you really don’t know what to expect before going. Nonetheless, I was incredibly excited to start my new adventure.

Preparing to head off

In the week before I went, I barely slept, I was coping fine in the day and was excited to move to Italy, but when I got into bed, my mind suddenly decided it would be a great time to think about all of the logistics.

I had shipped over my bags to Italy using Uni Baggage. With Uni Baggage you can get your bags picked up from your house and delivered to pretty much any location in the world (an amazing company, I would recommend using it to any student). I was worried however that my bags would get lost on the way, but luckily all three of my bags did arrive in Italy safely!

 

When I arrived

I didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived in Italy, but I was very happy from the moment I arrived at my apartment that I had booked through Erasmusu (another great site I would recommend looking at if you’re going on a year abroad). My bedroom was clean and modern and after a quick trip to IKEA and Tiger it was very homely.

Over the next week there were lots of things that I needed to sort out. If you are going to live in Italy you must get a codice fiscale, which serves as a type of identification. We also had to sign up at the university, collect our Erasmus cards etc etc. What I have learned is that in Italy it can be quite hard to get stuff done. Their opening hours seem to be more like a guidance rather than definitive.

The moral of the story is, if you go on a year abroad to Italy, don’t expect to get settled straight away because the culture is a bit more relaxed than it is in England. For the most part this is a positive – take into account the long, sociable lunches that Italians love to have, they really are amazing. However it is frustrating when you actually need to get something done!

 

Settling in

I have started to make a small group of friends, but these are mainly other Erasmus students. In my experience, it has been difficult to make friends with Italian students because they already formed friendship groups with each other.

Another challenge has been living with people from other cultures. I live with a Spanish girl and an Argentinian girl. Both have never lived with other students before. I am a very clean person, but we all have different expectations of house cleanliness, which can make it difficult!

After being here for a month I am only just starting to become homesick. I really love it here and I am incredibly happy, but I am starting to miss a few home comforts, namely PG Tips, Dairy Milk and a Chinese takeaway! To try and battle this I am putting into practice the advice I wrote about in my blog post about homesickness.

Reading University Music Society Review – Why You Should Come Along Too

Emily gives us some insight into the Reading University Music Society.

I joined RUMS back in October 2017, deciding that even though I wasn’t a fresher, I certainly shouldn’t miss out on the activities on offer that I’d been missing out on in my first year. I’d been a bit bowled over by the societies on offer and ended up not joining as many as I thought I would. By second year I decided to be gutsy and join the student led music society. I must confess that I didn’t even know where the London Road campus was until a committee member walked me there and I met everyone, who all seemed at first to be excitedly brandishing instruments. You see, I wanted to try something new and joining a choir seemed like good fun. I hadn’t sung properly in a group since the days of the dreaded primary school plays and thankfully the choir at RUMS is far more in tune than a bunch of 11-year olds.

After the first session I was most certainly hooked and have since performed in 3 of the termly concerts that RUMS holds and have started playing percussion in Concert Band too. It’s made me a far more confident person, knowing I could learn a new skill and I find that singing for an hour once a week is a great relief from the stresses of deadlines and is often a great laugh in rehearsals too. Within a year of joining the society I got the courage to stand for the committee and can now proudly say I am the publicist for RUMS, getting to create artwork for the posters and encouraging new members to all of our ensembles.

I may have elaborated on why I joined RUMS, but here’s some pointers as to why you should give it a go too:

  • Music is a great relief for stress and improves mental alertness (which we all need when you’ve got two lectures back to back on a Tuesday).
  • It’s only £10.50 for the whole year so it won’t break the bank.
  • We’re going to a West End show in 2019.

Lots of concerts to take part in, which is a great way to make your parents proud and say you’re spending your student loan well and not on VKs at Union!

 

(Our summer concert: credit to RUMS)

We’d love to see some new members to our society, so if you play an instrument or would like to sing in our choir, visit our website here. We have lots of ensembles available which practice weekly and none of these are auditioned, with monthly socials too. Come along, get involved and see what RUMS is all about.

Feminism for All!

Liam gives us an introduction to the University’s Feminist Society.

Hey guys, I hope you are all well! Today I wanted to tell you about the University’s Feminist Society, the ways in which the Society has made me a better person, and why you should join!

So what actually is the University’s Feminist Society?

FemSoc was re-established in 2018 after being inactive for two years, and their welcomed return marks the centenary of women gaining the right to vote in the United Kingdom.

They host a wide array of events—which includes lectures, debates, socials, etc.—that aim to create a safe, inclusive, and informative space for supporters of feminism.

My personal experience with FemSoc

On October the 18th I attended the Society’s first event of the year, entitled ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’, which celebrated women of colour across the globe. The event’s proceeds were generously donated to a breast cancer awareness charity called CoppaFeel!

The FemSoc committee members thanking everyone for the great turnout.

There were three guest speakers in attendance: Selina Patankar-Owens, Head of Student Wellbeing Services; Marissa Joseph, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Henley Business School; and Teni Onabanjo, University of Oxford Graduate and Barrister. In their respective talks they spoke about the challenges they faced as ethnic minority women and how they overcame said challenges. As a direct result of this event, I have gained a new self-awareness of my own privileges in society as a white, straight male; I have also better developed my ability to listen and learn from everyone’s individual experiences.

Why should you join?
  1. A better campus life: I firmly believe FemSoc’s values—which include pro-active feminism, intersectionality, and inclusivity—are fundamental to making campus life safer and more enjoyable for all staff and students.
  2. Original perspectives: University is all about learning new perspectives to enrich your understanding of the world around you, so why not come to a feminist debate and listen to some challenging ideas? (Plus, free snacks and drinks are such blessings.)
  3. Community: One of the biggest benefits of joining FemSoc is that you meet students who all believe in one essential ideology: the support for women’s rights. Who in the world doesn’t want friends that are feminists?

If you would like further information regarding the Reading University FemSoc, please click here for a link to their Facebook page.

Thanks guys, have a lovely day!

Organising rented accommodation for second year

If you’re looking at accommodation for the next academic year right now, student Taz has some advice to consider!

Having only just settled into your first-year student accommodation, the thought of organising a house for second year might seem a little strange. However, when it comes to finding student housing beyond first year, there are many housing preferences shared by students that make the task a competitive one. For example, houses with the following qualities are often most popular and taken off the market the quickest:

  • Multiple bedrooms (5+ tenant houses)
  • Large bedrooms (especially rooms with double bed )
  • Convenient location (Houses based in ‘student areas’ or close to shops/uni)
  • Large communal rooms
  • Clean!

 

Know where to look

The most important thing to know when organising your rented accommodation is who you can go to for advice at University. The University’s Essentials webpages offer a large scope of advice on all things about university life, including accommodation. Here you’ll find tips on things including estate agents, to bills and council tax.

 

Look around

Whilst it may feel like you’re in competition with other large groups of students when looking for 5+ bedroom houses, you need to ensure that you look at a couple of houses before making your decision. There’s a range of houses on the market, all with different positive and negative aspects to them. It’s also advised to consider the most important accommodation features for all tenants before opting to go with a house. Do you want to be near to campus? Town? The Gym? How many of you will bring cars?

 

Check the contract

The contract is often considered the scariest part of the accommodation process. Yes, it’s a pretty long document that you’ll want to sign and get off your chest as quick as possible, but it’s something that you need to go through with a highlighter or notepad to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything that needs attention or may cost you money. It’s also good idea to ask a couple of parents to read through the contract, before you sign it, to check for anything unusual. Equally, always be sure to keep a copy of these documents in the possession of your lead tenant.

 

Be prepared for charges

Typically, landlords and estate agents will ask for a payment to secure the house as soon as you’ve made your decision. You’ll usually be asked for a charge of around £100 pp. to take the house off of the market, and then given a period of up to a month before you will need to pay a deposit for the house which is often the first month’s rent.

These are some of the key things to know when searching and securing your student house, nonetheless not the only things. Other aspects such as utility bills, deposit fees and furniture are things that can be looked at nearer the time. You can find advice for all these things on the University’s webpages.  

Happy house hunting!

Eating Well on a Student Budget

Student writer Elliot shares advice on eating well and spending less…

I had a housemate who cooked once, found it bothersome, then got pizza five days a week for almost two terms. He was surprised when he started developing health issues. Still don’t know how he was affording it.

Not everyone goes this far (with unfortunate exceptions), but it’s practically a cliché that students eat poorly, and studies bear this out.

 

I want to talk about why and (more importantly) how, you might want to address this.

 Is this a big deal?

Fair question.

Changing diet is no small task, so – what are the benefits of a healthy one, right now, at uni?

  1. More energy and better health. Your food affects everything from appearance and mood, to mental energy[i]. Give your body good fuel, and you’ll push harder, and find strength when needed. Don’t, and you’ll be sluggish, or too mentally tired to cope. Moreover – poor diet is a leading factor to lethal conditions as you age[ii]. Dealing with this now reduces future time and money spent on ill-health (the last things you need at university).
  2. You develop self – discipline. The daily habits you get at uni will last decades, if not a lifetime[iii]. Nailing good diet now rather than later is simpler[iv]. And more generally, if you can pull it off, you’ll be learning how to develop useful habits – a critical skill in many other parts of your life.
  3. It saves money. Counterintuitive? Well, good, regular meals will leave you full, saving you money on overpriced snacks. Meaning that overall, you’ll be spending less often.

To recap – the benefits of a better diet are: improved day-to-day function, protection against ill-health, mastering a huge piece of self-discipline, and more money to spend elsewhere. All big things.

So: if you’re self-improvement focused (and if you’re reading this blog, I assume you are) – the answer is yes. This is a big deal, and something you want handled.

Why is it so hard?

If so many students WANT to eat healthy, why are so few succeeding?

There are two big answers:

  1. Time and money. Our full-time job is to master a chosen discipline for 3-4 years. It’s considered such an endeavor that we’re given the money in advance to do it, leaving us with limited extra time and money to buy, and cook 3 meals a day, 7 days a week – particularly when balancing hobbies and a social life. But, these DO have workarounds (more on that in a minute) – the bigger issue, I think, is…
  2. Emotional/psychological barriers. Not as in bulimia or anorexia – those are well beyond the scope of this article and require specialised support. ‘Getting healthy’ is misunderstood as an extreme act – working out twice a day, or fad diets involving nothing but herbal tea for a month. We all know people who try to ‘get healthy’ like this, get discouraged, then return to old habits in less than a week.

‘Getting healthy’ happens when you create small lifestyle improvements, keep them, and keep building on them. In other words – to get healthy, eating well just has to become how you eat most of the time.

THAT must be your goal, if you want lasting change.

How to develop (and keep) a healthy diet

Without further ado, here are some realistic steps you can take to develop healthy and affordable eating as a university student:

  1. Understand what it means to eat healthy. Eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean only eating veg or never eating a donut again. That would be ridiculous. I recommend reading this beginner’s guide to exercise and eating healthy as a primer (focusing on the mindset and diet sections). It approaches common misconceptions, gives a list of healthy food staples, and addresses fruits, veg, water, and vegetarian/vegan diets.
  2. Cut fast foods and soda. If absolutely nothing else, this is THE step to improving health[v]. Occasional fast foods and desserts are fine IF you’re on top of your diet the rest of your time. If these are your staples though, you’ll need to replace them.
  3. Learn to cook. Not easy – but simple. Focus on learning to follow individual recipes – I recommend a beginner’s goal of mastering 7 different recipes, using healthy staples. Youtube cooking shows like Bon Appetit, and Binging with Babish have established formats and good recipes. You might also want to check out Allrecipes, or even RUSU’s very own Diversity Digest for tried and tested student recipes.
  4. Meal prep. AKA shop and cook in bulk. Never buy or cook for one –instead, do large quantities of food, and portion out. Buying in bulk is cheaper, and you’ll save time – cooking for 6, then portioning out means that you have 6 meals ready then and there. Boom. No need to cook 3 times a day if you can just cook 3 times a week. For guides on meal-prepping, including recipes, start here.
  5. Eat regular meals, avoid snacks. This will stop you from getting too hungry and from over-indulging in fast food and sugary snacks – meal prepping is your friend. If you know you won’t have time to go home to cook, pack a container of pasta or a sandwich the night beforehand.

Conclusion

A healthy diet is about replacing your STAPLES with healthier foods, so that you can be stronger (physically and mentally), control money, save time, and practice self-discipline in a visceral way (it also doesn’t completely exclude donuts and kebabs). People might approach changing it the wrong way, then get discouraged – but in reality, it just requires some intelligent thought, patience, and willingness to push past mistakes.

And when you break the process down, the time investment and effort is pretty modest for something that will alter your day-to-day experiences, your future health, and last you a lifetime.

I’d say that’s worth picking up.

 

[i] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/food-for-thought-mental-health-nutrition-briefing-march-2017.pdf [Last accessed 16/10/18]

[ii] Jina Tanton, Lorna J. Dodd, Lorayne Woodfield, and Mzwandile Mabhala, “Eating Behaviours of British University Students: A Cluster Analysis on a Neglected Issue,” Advances in Preventive Medicine, vol. 2015, Article ID 639239, 8 pages, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/639239.

[iii] Ibid

[iv] https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/college-life-vs-work-life/ [Last accessed 16/10/18]

[v]Monteiro, C. (2009). Nutrition and health. The issue is not food, nor nutrients, so much as processing. Public Health Nutrition, 12(5), 729-731. doi:10.1017/S1368980009005291

Finding a work-play balance at uni

Our student writer Taz shares her own advice for keeping that all important work-life balance…

 

Easing into your studies

Now that the excitement of Freshers’ Week is over, and the reality of having to attend lectures has hit, it is possible that you may be starting to feel slightly overwhelmed by the change in routine. However, whilst this is typical for first year students, there are many steps you can take to ensure that you stay on top of your studies and make the most of your degree.

  1. Attend all of your lessons (lectures and seminars). Reading the lecture slides may be practical, but only 50% of the information you need to gain a sufficient understanding of the topic will be on the slides. You need the lecturers’ input too!
  2. Keep an organised log of your work. Maintaining a consistent note-taking routine will prepare you for your Part 1 exams and provide you with valuable material which will help you throughout your degree.
  3. Don’t leave assignments until the last minute. Getting into a habit of completing assignments well in advance will serve you well for Parts 2 and 3. Starting the project in plenty of time will allow you to plan and gather the right sources to produce a high quality final product.

The Essentials pages have more advice on studying. 

 

Engage in extra-curricular activities

Taking up a new hobby, sport or becoming a member of a university scheme is highly recommended during your first year to not only keep you engaged in university life, but to avoid experiencing any feelings of boredom or homesickness. There are hundreds of societies, sport and non-sport related, at Reading: many of which are still welcoming new members. Details of these can be found on the RUSU website. Equally, if you’d like to get involved in something more course or career related you can also join schemes such as Students in Schools and The RED Award; both of which are huge assets to your CV. Likewise, for those of you interested in media, marketing or journalism, the university’s media streams, The Spark Newspaper and Junction 11 Radio, are ideal student-led societies to get involved in.

You can find out more about University opportunities and schemes here.

 

Know your limits

Whilst students like to think that they’ll stick to the organised routine they begin in their first term, habits such as cramming revision notes the couple of nights before an exam or pulling an all-nighter to finish an assignment may also arise. And although these habits are often unavoidable when it comes to attending Wednesday Union, or binge-watching a favourite Netflix series with flat mates, it’s a good thing to remember that making some sacrifices earlier on in the term could help to avoid these last-minute panics.

It’s a good idea to keep a calendar or diary where you can to jot down assignment deadline and exam dates. This will help with planning your studies to ensure that you don’t overload yourself with work.

 

Following these tips will help you to establish a balanced routine as well as helping you to set yourself a strong path for the rest of your university experience. Best of luck!

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

red

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!