Don’t Worry…Be Happy!

Third Year History and English Literature Student, Ciara shares her experiences of the University’s Counselling Service. 

Coming to university is a scary thing – we have all felt it that day when you get dropped off at your halls and have to unpack your things and meet the people you’ll be living with for the next year. I came to Reading absolutely terrified – I felt like everybody else knew exactly what they were doing but honestly they were just as clueless as I was! I hadn’t even cooked anything before university – the fanciest I had ever ventured in the kitchen was making a pot noodle and serving it in a bowl and thinking I was a domestic goddess. I met people at uni who had never washed their own clothes, most had never done a food shop – everybody is on the same page.

But there are SO many people on campus to help you in every way, and that’s what I have used throughout my time at Reading. The people in the Carrington building and elsewhere on campus will help you for a million different reasons. If you sign up for weekly alerts from My Jobs Online you will get notifications about job opportunities and for events and workshops that are held by Counselling and other services. The Careers team provide workshops on topics like improving your CV and how to start a LinkedIn profile, and are based on the first floor of the Carrington Building. RUSU also run housing events if you don’t know who you’re living with next year– you can join the Find A Housemate Group on Facebook to meet others or pick up a leaflet in the RUSU building!

For the more stressful worries and concerns, the counselling service are truly incredible. Having used the service myself and having friends who have used it too for various reasons, I have seen how helpful it can be to voice worries and concerns to a counsellor to get it all off your chest. I went into Carrington in my first year as I was stressed about moving from halls to a student house and various other worries about university, and I didn’t know how to start thinking about moving out of halls when I had only just settled into them! They helped me so much and made me realise the ways I could stop myself from stressing and worrying – and just asking for help is a big step. Asking for help is scary, as once you come to university you may think that you should know all of these things and that people will judge you for not knowing how to wash your clothes or how to manage your money (I even knew a girl who didn’t know how to cook pasta!) and this includes the bigger obstacles that people face at university, but that isn’t the case! Having spent a lot of time with the counselling service I can reassure you that it is a judgement free zone, and that they have seen every problem a student can possibly face and therefore won’t be surprised if you come to them for help.

Don’t be nervous to voice your worries – everybody has them! In fact I’d be shocked if you weren’t nervous at all! Make sure you ask for help, whether that’s from your friends, your STaR mentor or from the counselling service – they will always have a solution and will go above and beyond to help you as the welfare of the students is the main priority for the university.

What I learnt in my first year…

Welcome Week is over and if you’re a new student, you’re about to really get started with your first year at Reading! Rebecca, second year in Accounting and Finance shares her knowledge…

 

My experiences over the past year can be categorised into ‘Academics’ – things I’ve learnt about being a student, and ‘Life’ – things I’ve learnt about living away from home and being a so-called adult.

Academics

  • An AQA syllabus and hundreds of past papers may have been the bane of your school life, but to a university student the certainty and structure of a syllabus is a fond, fond memory. It may feel like you’re never really sure what is actually going to be in your exam, or what kind of detail you need to revise. The good news is that tutorials/seminars/workshops are the uni equivalent of exam style question practice and technique lessons. Make the most of these (i.e. turn up & listen) and don’t underestimate their importance.
  • Despite the well known fact that lecture attendance is not compulsory-don’t be the loud obnoxious guy that talks through everything. If you’re going to go you may as well pay attention, or at least don’t distract others, or there is little point in your attendance.
  • Lastly: module weighting (a.k.a credits) vary from module to module, unlike school where all subjects are equally important, some modules require more time and effort than others. Remember this when you proportion your time and work load. As one heavily weighted module can have a large impact on your overall grade.

Life

Moving away from home and living with 7 strangers, I also learnt a fair few things outside of the lecture theatres this year.

  • Life is expensive: food, trains, even study. Some things are definitely worth it (Netflix subscription anyone?), yet some things will always be painful – surprisingly, and disappointingly: the price of cheese! I would definitely recommend student websites such as ‘Save the Student’ for finding bargains or learning about budgeting. And if you do have the time – University student jobs are often better paid than jobs in town and the hours are usually more flexible and better fitted to a student’s busy timetable. You can find out more on the University’s Careers website.
  • One massive lesson that I learnt – Home is clean. You don’t have to conform to the stereotype of messy, unclean students – hovering (2 minutes), and washing up (5 minutes) aren’t really as much effort as they originally seem.
  • Finally, a tough lesson – I actually quite like my family, after living with them for 18 years I thought I couldn’t wait to leave, but it turns out, I actually grew to miss them. Inviting them up to Reading was a nice way to spend my first weekend as a fresher, not only could they see where I was living, but it also allowed me to explore the campus and town finding somewhere to take them (the Harris Garden was a success).

No doubt, it is all a part of the university experience to learn about living away from home and the quirks of being a student, and you will over the next year do so yourself. Hopefully having shared my experiences with you, you will feel a little more prepared and knowing of what to expect.

Master’s Without Tears

Masters Student, Blessing shares her advice on completing a Masters without tears.

Are you panicking and wondering what this year will be like? Remember that the decision to start on a Master’s programme is a brave and courageous one. This sometimes causes pressure on the student with the view to “make it the best!” There’s a tendency to fight to win, but it isn’t a battle after all, it is just another degree that will soon be completed.

Do other people feel the same as me?

This maybe your first time far from home, instead of being scared, choose to view it from an adventure perspective. Do you sometimes wonder why everyone else is cheerful and beaming with excitement while you feel overwhelmed? People handle issues in different ways, and it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed. But there are ways to handle it. Below are some points I’ve learnt from my own experience:

Be kind to yourself

Maybe you are an ‘A’ student and want to keep it up or you want to prove your intelligence this time. These are good ambitions but they should not lead you into a fearful lifestyle. There is a saying that 85% of what people worry about never happens (Don Joseph Goeway).

Join societies/ clubs

This was a helpful tool for me. The Students Union (RUSU) has a variety of societies with extracurricular activities where one can join to socialise, network, and even make some good friends.

Plan

Make a list of what you have to do. Estimate how long each task will take and apportion some time to it, be realistic! Also include moments of relaxation; a good sleep should not be overlooked. Set monthly targets, having a daily and/or weekly to-do list is necessary.

Seek Support

Why stand alone when there’s help around? A good support network can be helpful when the going gets tough. The University has a wide range of student support services.

Diet

Eat well! Busy schedules can cause you to make do with the easiest option of snacking. Constant grabbing of crisps and cups of coffee in order to keep alert will not nourish the body. A nutritious diet improves your mood and helps you function well. Instead of a bag of crisp, grab an apple or banana to keep the energy going.

Exercise

The combination of a nutritious diet and exercise keeps the body in a good condition for productivity. While going to the gym is helpful, running round the block or at the park with friends is also a good form of exercise without cost!

Lastly, picture the bright end! Therefore, whatever effort you have to put in will eventually be worth it!

Helpful and Homely – The little Extras to Pack…if you have the space!

Third Year Psychology Student, Kate shares her views on the little extras to pack, if you have the space!

After two years of student living, I’ve had 1000’s of conversations about what people wish they had brought to University to make their room homely. I can assure you bringing them will make University life a whole lot easier and make you feel at Home.

So here are my Top 5:

1. Bed Sheets + Spares

Now remembering one set is obvious, but not many remember two unless you’re extremely organized or like décor.

Practically speaking, you do have to wash your sheets and so when they’re not dry you’ll wish you had a spare. Also they make your room your own, and you can have fun with different patterns and colour schemes.

When you get back from a long day you’ll be grateful for an inviting bed.

2. Fluffy Blanket and Cushions

Both Helpful and Homely: Helpful- Warmth, quite simply you will get cold at some point especially on winter nights revising. Cushions also make a great addition when multiple people are hanging out in your room and need somewhere to sit.

Homely- Again, making your bedroom your own is vital to make yourself feel comfortable but to also stick your personality on a place. Experiment with new ideas, it’s a great time to try new ideas on a blank slate.

F.Y.I-Blankets are great to cuddle up with when feeling a bit home sick.

3. Photos

Essential to make the room yours, because it is for the next year. You can easily print them on Paper, in boots or even get cute polaroid’s made (Click here for an example!) Whatever works for you. Lots of people pin them up, use white-tac or attach them to strings. Most Rooms will have pin boards- so don’t forget pins!

Photos are also helpful when you’re lacking motivation and need some inspiration, but also if you’re feeling homesick and need a smile during a tough day. Most importantly they can be a great conversation starter with new flat mates.

4. Lighting

Good Lighting always helps make your room feel more cozy and great when you don’t want to switch the main light on. Depending on what you want the lighting for determines the type: a Desk lamp for those 3am essays, Floor Lamp for late night gatherings or fairy lights for aesthetic chic*. Again, experiment with different styles and themes as there are so many types of lighting out there.

*check the university requirements here but battery operated fairy lights should be fine.

5. Full Length Mirror

This one is more helpful than homely. We’ve all put on an outfit, think we look great but don’t realise it doesn’t match. Well, I have but if you haven’t, I am saving you some embarrassment. They are also a great main feature in your room and can be decorated with pretty fairy lights and Photos.

Kates Helpful Warning for Room Decor:

Be careful what you use on the walls and furnishing.

Check your accommodations rules otherwise you may be charged for damage. For those living in halls this is the Halls Handbook!

My Recommendation is use white-tac if allowed, as it leaves less of a stain or use Command Hooks as they are easily removable but it is recommended to use the pin board provided.

£ Kates Top Recommended Shops for Cheap Homeware £

– Primark

– Wilko

– Argos

– Ikea

– Amazon

Tips for First Year

Second Year Business Management Student, Jemma shares her Tips for First Year.

Congratulations and welcome to adulthood. It’s time to escape the parents, fly the nest and enter the weird and wonderful world that is university. But it isn’t as simple as that: pots and pans need to be bought, and cooking skills have to be touched up on (ie how inventive you can be with pasta). I can probably imagine your Nan keeps saying how proud she is and, although that does become tedious, she’s right. There is a lot to deal with, so give yourself a break. You are allowed to be excited and apprehensive about what is to come. It is scary to leave a familiar environment for something completely new. Some people don’t have a problem with this change; others are more nervous. I was one of the nervous ones; therefore here are some tips that I would recommend about the first couple of weeks of your university adventure whether you can’t wait to leave or you’re absolutely bricking it.

1) Making Friends – It can be difficult to make conversation with people you have never met before but (cliché as it sounds) everyone is in the same boat. People aren’t as scary as they seem, I promise. It can be hard to think of topics for conversation but just keep it simple. Things about where you are from and what course you’re studying are good ‘go to’s’ as you could probably talk for hours about these and the other person can easily relate.

2) Planning – If you’re anything like me, you forget everything, especially without your mum to remind you. Therefore the best advice I could give to you is to get a diary. One which shows a whole week is very useful as you can see everything visually. This helps you prepare for deadlines and you can see how much time you have to fit other things in such as nights out and clubs. After getting into the habit of keeping a diary, it will come so much easier, so it will be like second nature. You can still have a good time and get good grades: it’s just about good planning.

3) Clubs – University is full of different societies so there will be something for you. You’ll probably never get an opportunity like this again so I would make the most of it. Not forgetting, it will be really fun and a great way to make friends.

4) Cooking – Accept you aren’t the next Gordon Ramsey and make the best of it! When I first started university, I could just about boil an egg (and even that was a struggle!). The thing that helped me the most was a student cookbook which had really easy recipes in and I eventually got to more complicated things (like poaching an egg). Another good tip is to cook with your flatmates as it’s cheaper and the washing up is halved!

So there are my pearls of wisdom! I hope they helped and if you’re ever in doubt, just remember that university is for enjoyment (and yes, studying) and don’t forget that. Enjoy.

How to get essentials now you’re in Reading

Second Year French Student, Katherine explains how to get essentials now you’re in Reading.

Packing for university is always difficult and no matter how hard we try we are very likely to have forgotten something that we’re going to need. Fortunately, Reading has loads of places you can get these things, all reachable on public transport or on foot!

· Firstly, if you want to go to Reading town centre to go to shops such as Wilko’s, Poundland and Boots for extra stationary and household supplies it couldn’t be easier. Walking to town from the Park Group area on campus should only take about half an hour, but when it’s raining, you don’t have spare time or you’re going to be buying heavy stuff the Claret 21 bus runs from just outside the Chancellors building right into the town centre. A day rider ticket costs £2.50 for students, which you can buy on their mobile app now.

· Sometimes it’s not just little things that we forget to bring, and a trip to IKEA may be the solution. The number 15 bus runs from Reading Town Centre to IKEA for when you need an extra bit or furniture or you just have a craving for meatballs.

· Co-ops are around every corner in Reading but when you want a bit more selection it’s nice to go to a supermarket. Personally, I think the easiest is Sainsbury’s on Friar Street in town, though if you’re closer to Earley you could walk to ASDA if you’re feeling energetic.

· It can be easy to forget all the shops on campus sometimes, but they often have everything you need so you don’t even have to make a special journey to get something. Between Campus central and Blackwell’s you will be covered for stationary, birthdays and University of Reading merchandise, of course. Also, if you’re looking for oriental food, Seoul Plaza in RUSU has a huge array!

Don’t panic if you do forget anything, you’ll likely be able to borrow from a flatmate and going shopping is a good way to get to know the local area!

A balancing act? How to juggle everything at University and own it!

Third Year Geographer, Jack shares his advice on how to ‘Juggle Everything at University and Own it!’

So, you’ve done it! After countless hours sat staring at textbooks and past papers, your eyes held open only by the buckets of coffee you’ve been plying yourself with and a new (or for those of you who, like me, find ourselves ‘allergic’ to the bleep test, squash and that new fangled ‘futsal’, an increased) hatred for the sports hall; you’re in – one of the biggest doors in life has officially opened up.

But now what? You’ve probably read article upon article about Fresher’s and heard some pretty tall tales from those mystical beings called university students, who, only a few weeks ago likely seemed about as alien to you as, well, aliens. So what’s the point of this I hear you ask? Well, I’m not writing about Fresher’s; you don’t need me to tell you it’s going to be amazing, but what I will say is Reading caters for all, so whether you’re into clubbing, quizzes, karaoke, Quidditch (yes, really), Fresher’s will have something for you – this article however is going to give you an insight into the more practical side of university: How to balance Study, Part-time work, Volunteering and maintaining a social life.

Study

The reason you’re really here? Joking aside, there’s so much on offer at university that it can be a bit overwhelming and it’s very easy to get into the ‘first year doesn’t count’ mentality, which, although true, is a dangerous train of thought. First year is where you develop yourself as a student, find your strengths and weaknesses and ultimately is a barometer for how well you’re transitioning into the different assessment styles to that in school.

GO. TO. LECTURES: University is hugely different from school in the sense that you’re almost wholly independent; no one is going to phone you up or pester you to do the work, if you don’t do something it’s down to you. One of the best ways to nail the studying aspect of uni life is to simply attend all your scheduled lectures, seminars and practical’s – it seems blindingly obvious but simply going along to everything on your timetable will save you hours when it comes to revision and coursework (trust me…). As well as making assessments easier, one of the best places to meet likeminded people other than societies is in your lectures; you’re all here to study the same thing after all!

Do the further reading: (Or at least some of it). Each lecturer will set some form of further reading for you to do. If you do it when it’s set you’ll save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress – and remember you’re not going to be asked what the seventh word on the thirty second page is, so sometimes skimming the paper to get an overview of the overarching themes and ideas can be enough – use your judgement.

Don’t leave it till the night before: As tempting as it can be, leaving work untill the night before never, ever, goes well. Whether it’s simply not getting it done in time or falling asleep dribbling on the desk in front of that person you’ve had your eye on in tomorrow’s lecture…

Part-time work and Volunteering

Supplement your loan: Part time work is a great way to gain experience to boost your CV as well as supplementing your income – as a rule it doesn’t exceed 20 hours a week (including weekends). There’s a wide array of jobs on campus and in the local area including the oracle so be sure to check MyJobsOnline and the new Campus Jobs website as well as handing in your CV.

Volunteer: Volunteering is an amazing way of meeting new people, gaining experience and having fun – all for a worthwhile cause! Check out Reading Rag (Raise and Give) to get involved in fundraising opportunities from running events to Jailbreak: seeing how far away you can get from the University without spending any money in a given time limit (The record is Dubai, yes, really!).

Social

Be honest, how many of you skipped to this section first?

Find your crowd: Flat-mates into drum and bass? Couldn’t think of anything worse? Don’t worry if you don’t meet the right crowd instantly! Make sure you join a society/sports club you’re interested in or try something completely new – trust me; you’ll gravitate to the right crowd for you.

Say no if you need to: All your flat-mates off out but got a deadline in the morning? It’s perfectly OK to say no – that goes for drinking too – top tip within a top tip: do uni on YOUR terms, no-one else’s.

Don’t forget your folks: They’ve supported you through thick and thin, from driving you across the width and breadth of the country looking at universities to making sure you had enough kitchen equipment (if, like my mum, your folks like to know you’re fully prepared you’ll have enough utensils to sink a small ship) – trust me, whoever your folks are, they’ll appreciate a quick call every now and then!

So, there you have it – my list of top tips on how to completely own your time at university – whatever course you’re doing, whatever you’re interested in, whoever you are, welcome to The University of Reading!

5 Tips for your first term at University, to help ease those nerves!

Third Year History Student, Grace shares her 5 Tips for First Term.

Bring Sharing Supplies

On the first day that you arrive at Uni it can be scary and hard to start conversations with the new students in your accommodation. A great and easy way to start conversations is by bringing something that you can offer to others such as flapjacks, biscuits or even beer! It doesn’t matter if they don’t accept the offer, it gives you a conversation starter.

Buy a doorstop!

Another tip for your first day is to keep your door open. When others arrive, it makes it much easier for both them, and you to introduce yourselves.

Fantastic friends?

The very first people you meet in your accommodation or during freshers can be great. However, there are over 14,000 students at the University of Reading! Never assume you are done getting to know new people. There’s plenty of great people to meet, so even if you don’t make your best friends when you first move in, don’t lose heart.

No Pressure.

You shouldn’t feel the need to impress everyone to make friends. If you’re not into drinking games and clubbing, just because everyone around you is doing it, does not mean you need too. If you’re not used to drinking a lot, then take it easy. If you feel pressured by someone to do something you are uncomfortable with, then they probably won’t make a good friend!

There is more than one type of club at Uni…

Go to the society fayre and sports society fayre, pick three that sound fun, and go to some taster days! Societies are one of the best ways to meet new people and make great friends. Though avoid trying out too many at once, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself!

You’ve spent £9000 for a reason!

University should be a wonderful time, and not only because you get to meet new people and try out different things, but also because you get to learn from professors who are the best in the subject area you love! Get into a good routine and go to lectures. Hangovers are not a good excuse. You are here for a very short three years, so, make the most of everything university has to offer!

7 reason why you should join your academic society

Third year Politics Student Fiona gives you 7 reasons why you should join your academic society…

From someone who joined in second year and wished they’d joined earlier (but it’s never too late – I was still elected for a committee position!)

1. They are cheap (and good value) Most academic societies charge around £5 for a year’s membership. Depending on the events planned some are more expensive, and some are even free, but you’re almost guaranteed to get what you pay for

2. They are a great way to meet people on your course

It’s more difficult to meet people in lectures, so joining your academic society helps you break the ice and meet like-minded people in a relaxed social setting. Don’t underestimate how valuable it is to have good friends on your course when it comes to making study groups and getting help with your assignments; I found second year much easier than first year once I had a group of coursemates to support me.

3. They offer a range of events and activities (alcoholic and alcohol-free!) Academic societies are guaranteed to offer something for everyone from team events, field trips, nights out and guest speakers; you’ll never experience the same thing twice throughout the year.

4. Guest lectures or debates are great for providing wider context to your studies Societies and departments are usually good at attracting high-profile and interesting guest speakers to discuss current issues; attending these events are not just good for information and socialising but also help with understanding what you learn in lectures in a wider context. Who knows? Ideas from these might help provide a very relevant example that gives your essay that final boost.

5. They tend to be less regular and less time-consuming than other societies With no 7am practices, regular training or routine commitments, academic societies are great for fitting around your studies or part-time jobs. Most societies run socials or events a couple of times a month so participation is (mostly) guilt-free when you’ve got other things going on week on week.

6. The formals, balls or end of term parties are not to be missed Who doesn’t love to get dressed up and head to a new venue for nice wine and good food? When most of these are scheduled after exams or deadlines, they are the perfect way to treat yourself and celebrate with the people who made it through with you, whilst also being easy on your wallet.

7. They can increase your employability and look good on a CV Let’s not pretend that coming to university doesn’t at least have SOMETHING to do with getting a good job at the end of it all. Academic societies are a fun and rewarding way of boosting your appeal to employers, even just as a participant, but particularly if you run for a committee position.

Visit www.rusu.co.uk/activities to find out more about your academic society and explore some of the others on offer too!

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!