Friday, 26 August 2011

Hello from our VP Democracy & Campaigns - Ben Haines

Alright pals,

Hope everyone is hunky dory and having all sorts of tomfoolery and fun on their summer break! This is my first attempt at a blog post and unfortunately for anyone reading it I have a habit of writing a lot like the way in which I talk - which most of the time involves a mixture of eloquent speech and fractured abuse of the English language.

Firstly all you lovely A'level lot who have got into UoR…

*just going to take a brief pause here to say usually I ain't got an awful lot of time for abbreviations and synonyms they make things ever so confusing but in this case I reckon it’ll save a bit of time (UoR meaning University of Reading)*

… like I was saying all you A'level bunch who got into UoR congratulations! This University is not only world-renowned, forward-thinking, home to some of the best academics in the world, easy on the eyes and steeped in history but also a really friendly and fun place to be. Apologies for the slightly cheesy digression but anyway I shall look forward to meeting lots of you soon!

The rest of you good looking Reading bunch who are coming back to Reading in a few weeks time after the summer break, get yourselves all rested up and that ready for Freshers' Fortnight followed by many late nights working hard perhaps indulging in an occasional trip down to the Students' Union on a Wednesday or Saturday evening!

What I've been up to so far

Just thought I’d get you up to speed on what I’ve been doing with my time since having been made Vice President of this swanky student union. After having been wooed like a wide eyed child with the idea of having my own office with a white board, I’ve managed to get settled down and have been spending a lot of time scratching my head and working out the best way for students to give their officer team (myself, Steph, Alex, Jack and Karl) feedback. We’ve come up with something called ‘Student Officer Scrutiny’ which we hope will be a little event for any student to come and find out what their team has been doing to represent and support them! Think of it as like a spiced up version of Mastermind, but with you lot asking the questions instead of a silver fox like John Humphreys.

Secondly, I’ve had myself a little look at my manifesto that I got elected on. The first thing I'll be tackling is a big old vote on whether Reading University Students' Union wants to remain affiliated with the National Union of Students. Right, I realise all these long words and the idea of voting looks all confusing and is enough to make you all awash and agog due to information overload…HOWEVER…in theory this is all very simple. You the students will have a straight forward yes or no choice. The National Union of Students brings a lot of Students' Unions around the country together, they provide training, resources and really good deals for us students…but…we do have to pay to be affiliated to them. What you lot have to decide is whether you believe the money which we pay is worth the benefits we get back. Don’t be fooled by my long winded explanation kids this is genuinely exciting stuff you’ll be hearing lots more about this soon.

Get in contact!

Very aware I’ve been yammering on for quite a concerted period of time now, and am probably at risk of boring people which would just be a bloomin' disaster so I shall leave you to carry on just living out your lives.

See you all soon! Oh yeah give me a little follow on Twitter @RUSU_VPDC or find me on Facebook or alternatively send me a little email or summat. Will be more than happy to answer any questions!

Much Love

*informal handshake combined with reassuring smile*


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Five ways to save and make money in your first year of uni

International Money Pile in Cash and CoinsImage by via FlickrOne of the biggest fears students tend to have when leaving for university, is how they'll cope with money. For many, it's the first time they've had full financial independence. It doesn't need to be scary though. A little forward thinking can help you avoid dipping into your overdraft, while enjoying a social life and varied diet!

Here are five ways to save money and make money while at university.

NUS Extra card
The NUS Extra card is packed full of deals for you to save money in all areas of life. It costs just £11, and the average student saves £500 with theirs. For example, you can:
  • Save 10% off toiletries at Superdrug
  • Save 10% on your sports gear at JJB sports
  • Get 40% off a haircut at Nicky Clarke 
  • Get half price driving lessons with the AA
  • 11% off a 16-25 Railcard. Talking of which...

16-25 Railcard
If you're going to travel anywhere this year, whether it's a trip home or a day trip to London, a 16-25 railcard will save you a lot of money. You'll usually save around a third on your ticket, unless you go at peak time. Book ahead on sites like TheTrainLine, and you'll save even more with their early booking rates! You'll usually make your money back on the railcard purchase within just a couple of journeys.

Get together!
The best way to save money is a bit of teamwork. It's far cheaper to cook a meal between five people, than to cook for just one. You'll save money on food, electricity and washing up, plus enjoy a nice meal together with your housemates.

Work for the union
If you're looking to earn while you learn, the union has a number of roles available. You could help behind the bar, work in the catering department, drive the safety bus or help out at the Freshers' Fayre among other roles. Shifts are flexible, so you can fit it around your studies. Have a look at our student job vacancies to see what we're currently looking for.

Quidco - Cashback
Quidco is a great service that lets you earn a small amount of cashback every time you buy something from one of their participating stores. You can use your NUS card alongside the Quidco cashback scheme when you buy in store. So, in theory, you can could buy a laptop in Comet, where you'll get 5% off, and then an additional 2.5% cashback. It might not sound like a lot, but it'll stack up throughout the year.

How do you save and make money at university?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

What's the most important thing to do during Freshers' week?

If you're starting with us in October, Freshers' week can seem like an incredibly busy and overwhelming time. We asked our current students, who have all been through it before, what they'd suggest you do during Freshers' Week.

If you're not sure what's going on, how you should prepare or where to go for advice, check out our Freshers' website, packed full of information and help.

What would you suggest a Fresher should do during their first week?

Monday, 22 August 2011

What are the best quick, cheap and nutritional meals to cook as a student?

Our students are a clever bunch. We recently asked them on our Facebook page what they'd recommend to Freshers for quick, cheap and nutritional meals. Here are a few of our favourite suggestions:

Proof indeed that not all students live on baked beans and toast. We particularly love the suggestions of sharing the cooking, and the vegetable pie in 15 minutes.

What food or recipes would you suggest for Freshers? Let us know in the comments section below!

    Monday, 8 August 2011

    Five alternative ways to revise

    Books Books
    It’s revision time, which means procrastination levels are high. Frankly, the urge to clean the bathroom is probably a little stronger right now, rather than sitting down with a pile of textbooks.

    But there are some ways to make revision more interesting.

    (Sadly, none of them involve watching re-runs of Friends, so it’s probably best you turn the TV off now…)
    • Flash cards: An oldie but a goodie. Write down a question on a piece of card, and the answer on the other side. Repeat with all the other questions you’re studying. Then test yourself.
    • If you’re lucky enough to have an iPad, the Evernote Peek app turns your content into a ‘notebook’ where you can reveal the answer using the Smart Cover.
    • Group revision: If you know others on the course struggling, get together and test each other.
    • Podcasts: There are plenty of podcasts covering a multitude of topics on iTunes - and most are free. Great if you prefer to learn while you’re cooking dinner, walking to uni or at the gym. If you can’t find a suitable topic, record the content yourself!
    • Mind maps: All that stuff currently buzzing around in your head? Pop it down in a spider diagram, or a mind map. It’ll make it clearer, and you’re more likely to remember things if you write them down.

    What methods do you use for revising?

    20 student basic supermarket purchases

    The first time you’ll do a student food shop can be overwhelming and exciting. It’s all too tempting to throw everything in your trolley, especially if you’ve just had your student loan through.

    If you’re wondering what basics to buy, here are a few ideas:
    • Milk. For tea, cereal and the odd hot chocolate treat
    • Margarine. Or butter if you’re not too worried about calories.
    • Bread. Just don’t live on it.
    • Fruit juice: The easiest way to get one of your 5-a-day.
    • Eggs: Cheap, filling and versatile.
    • Cheese: Again, cheap and versatile.
    • Pasta: An absolute student essential. Quick and easy to cook, and brilliant for lining the stomach.
    • Rice: Great for curries, paellas, chinese dishes and stir frys.
    • Herbs and spices: Most food can be livened up with some herbs and spices. And most of the supermarkets do sets of basic herbs and spices.
    • Salt and Pepper: Essential parts of most savoury recipes.
    • Meat. Certain cuts of meats and poultry are cheaper than others. Chicken thighs, braising steak and pork belly are all cheaper options - and often more tender. It’s worth popping to the frozen aisle to see if they’ve got any packs of frozen chicken breasts/steaks/chops as they’re cheaper. Also, check out the discounted section for any last-minute bargains.
    • Beans and pulses. Great for throwing into a stew (and it’s worth investing in a slow cooker for simple and easy meals).
    • Vegetables. I know, but you’ll thank us for nagging you about this. Again, hit up the frozen aisle for big bags of frozen vegetables, or those handy sachets of microwave vegetables (and sometimes rice)
    • Pizza Bases: A cheap way to make a quick dinner. Just chuck your ingredients on and pop it in the oven.
    • Sugar: For your tea, cakes and cereal.
    • Olive Oil: A basic for cooking. You can also get Olive Oil is spray form.
    • Flour: For sauces, cakes and
    • Tomato Sauce: Great with pasta, or as a base to pizza.
    • Soy sauce: A great way to liven up meat and fish.
    • Tuna: What house is complete without several cans of tuna?

    All of this will be available from Campus Central. Keep an eye out for upcoming deals!

    What essentials would you add to the list?

    How Twitter can land you a job

    Free twitter badgeImage via Wikipedia

    Chances are, you’re on Facebook. You might have a Linked In profile too. And there’s a possibility you’ve indulged in a bit of tweeting from time to time. At the moment, you’re probably using your social media accounts to organise your social life, keep up a running commentary of Britain’s Got Talent, or keep connected with your nearest and dearest.

    But did you know your Twitter account could land you a job?

    Here are ten tips for Twitter success in the job market.

    1) Desperate to work for a certain company? Follow them on Twitter. More and more companies use Twitter as a first port of call to advertise their vacancies.

    2) Use that Twitter bio to pimp yourself out. That little space should be your sales pitch, and it’s often the deciding factor for whether people will follow you or not. Give them a reason to follow you. Describing your favourite sandwich filling or revealing the name of your cat is not what employers are looking for (unless the employer is Marmite. Or the RSPCA.)

    3) Consider posting a TwitCV. Squeeze your experience, ambitions and skills into a tweet (leaving room so others can retweet you) and you might just catch the eye of that perfect employer.

    4) Use the link in your profile for your online portfolio. There are a few free options about, like, and you could always link to your LinkedIn page or blog if you prefer.

    5) Communicate! Chat to other people, use it as a networking tool and share other people’s content. You never know what opportunities you could pick up from these new contacts. A friendly, informative tweeter is always more likely to get a follow.

    6) Check your spelling and grammar. Install a dictionary to your browser and make sure you use it! Consider installing After The Deadline too for a final check. Twitter is full of journalists, PRs and bloggers, and they can spot bad grammar a mile off.

    7) Got a blog or website? Tweet your latest posts (2-3 times a day to catch different time zones). Your followers can then easily access your ‘About Me’ and ‘Hire Me’ pages.

    8) Search for hashtags and keywords relevant to your chosen career area, read up and share as much content as you can. Basically, if you want a career in a certain field, you’ll need to prove that you know your stuff and that you’re constantly learning. Consider signing up to an edition of, which gives you a daily roundup of content related to your Twitter account or keyword.

    9) Don’t overshare. Twitter is social, but a potential employer can see what you’re saying, and many employers now do a social media search before inviting candidates to interview. Try to keep your hangover/relationship/bored statuses to Facebook when possible.

    10) Try a Twitter job search engine, like, which can help you find the latest jobs that agencies and employers have tweeted about.

    Don't forget, you can follow RUSU on Twitter too!

    How LinkedIn can land you a job

    SAN ANSELMO, CA - JANUARY 27:  In this photo i...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
    Earlier this month, we shared with you our top tips for getting a job, graduate or other, using Twitter.

    But LinkedIn can be handy too!

    More and more employers are now using LinkedIn to source candidates. Therefore, it’s important that you keep your profile up to date at all times.
    • Use the recommendations section. Asking previous employers for a recommendation on LinkedIn can be a bit embarrassing, but a stream of testimonials on your LinkedIn page look impressive and show that you’re proactive.
    • Fill the ‘specialities’ area with keywords relating to the area you hope to work in. If someone is searching for a marketing assistant, and you’ve got ‘marketing’ in your specialities, you’re more likely to end up in their search results.
    • Get involved in the groups. There’s a group for anything (and if there isn’t, create one!), and you can use it to discuss topics, share your own links and potentially spot job opportunities.
    • If you’ve got a blog, link it up to your page so visitors can see your content. BlogLink, an internal LinkedIn gadget, will stream your posts for easy access.
    • Link to your Twitter page – but don’t publish your tweets to your profile. Your LinkedIn statues should generally be professional.
    • Use your LinkedIn status to advertise yourself. Tell people you’re looking for a particular role, or share your latest achievements.
    • Make contacts! Send a contact request to all your email contacts.  If you’ve got a business card or email signature, add your LinkedIn URL to it.
    • Many businesses now have a company page, where they add their latest vacancies, and detail who has left the company and who has joined. Handy for spotting a potential opportunity.
    • There’s also a section on the right that says ‘Jobs You May Be Interested In’ that does exactly what it says on the tin. Plenty of companies advertise their vacancies on the LinkedIn job board.
    What tips would you give to job hunters on LinkedIn?