Students’ guide to Reading
By Nicole Correia,
Reading is a discreetly central town although it is unfortunately, often over-looked by its popular neighbouring destinations, London and Oxford - both of which are less than a half an hour’s train journey away. Southampton is just under the hour, whilst Northampton and Bristol are about an hour and a half.
These days Reading is often referred to as the ‘IT capital’, and peak-time trains from London are just as full of commuters as those you’d imagine going into London would be. Among a younger generation it may be known as a destination for the summer music festival, and among an older generation, The Forbury Gardens of Reading may spring to mind as they lead you straight to Reading Abbey. Reading is a town that has something for everyone and provides lots of opportunities to learn and develop as individuals in this thriving town.
See theunipod’s student nightlife guide to Reading for details of club nights.
Handmade Burger Co.
The newest restaurant on the Riverside is really popular among students. Vouchercloud always have a deal on for the restaurant and there is no fuss when it comes to splitting a bill - much like Nandos, you pay before you eat, making life simpler as well as the simple fact that there are no service charges. There are vegetarian options, believe it or not, and options for those who have views on free-range and where their meat has come from. Bottomless drinks are standard but there are plenty of milkshakes to choose from too. Unlike what comes to mind when you think of a ‘burger place’, Handmade Burger Company looks modern and fresh inside and there isn’t anything greasy-spoon about it.
Las Iguanas has some tough competition, as along its side of the Riverside there is Giraffe, Wagamammas, Nandos and Pizza Hut. However, Las Iguanas holds its own with 2-4-1 happy hours on a menu of cocktails and is just a little bit different from the others on that strip with its South American décor and music. Popular for celebrating birthdays without breaking the bank and often used as an excuse for a get-together, Las Iguanas is definitely a restaurant you’ll dine at during your time in Reading.
Save this one for when your parents come down. A little more expensive than other restaurants along the riverside, but no more so than a meal at STRADA or YO!SUSHI - both of which you can also find on the Riverside. Jamie Oliver changes up the menu with its seasons, ensuring that the food is the best quality. Polenta chips are a favourite as well as a wide selection of fish/meat specials and pastas. Burgers are served on chopping boards and it’s all very ‘Jamie Oliver’. In the evening the night (and stars if you’re lucky!) surround you as the restaurant is made with glass window-walls, making the large bauble chandelier a lovely feature.
Reading is home to the Madejski stadium and a great opportunity to have a beer, burger and watch live football. Ticket prices vary but for a great atmosphere, with the stadium holding over 24,000, it really is something you must do whilst in Reading. There is also a lecture theatre sharing the name ‘Madejski’ although the atmosphere on a Monday morning is, admittedly, a little different.
The University of Reading is well-known for many of its sports teams but more specifically it’s achievements and dedication to rowing, including medals in the 2012 London Olympics.
They also have a scholarship scheme which helps to support outstanding individuals manage their commitment to the sport and to their academia. Most recently the John Mick scholarship has been awarded to Caragh McMurtry to encourage her potential further to possibly be selected for Rio 2016.
Art and Culture
Named after its structural shape, the Hexagon, is an arts venue that can hold around 1,200 people. Films are previewed; all forms of dance, comedians, soloists and bands also perform here make the Hexagon a great place for an alternative, more ‘cultured’ night-out.
The Reading Museum Town Hall also provides an opportunity for an alternative day-out. Definitely a great stop if you have younger siblings visiting, to spend some good quality time together. It has recently been awarded the Full Accreditation status by the Arts Council England (ACE) for the cultural services provided for Reading’s visitors and habitants.
Occasionally Caversham Court Gardens run cultural events such as Shakespearian performances or outdoor cinema viewings. It’s pretty and events are run throughout the year so it’s great to check back and pencil in a few dates of interest. Or, if not, take a picnic, or go for a nice romantic stroll and grab a coffee and cake in the café.
The Oracle is a pilgrimage destination for shopaholics. With over 90 stores you really are spoilt for choice. On the outskirts of the Oracle, too, the shopping-mania continues, with offerings ranging from department stores like Debenhams to TK Maxx and Primark, and all the high street stores in between: H & M, TOPSHOP, Office, New Look. If you’re feeling peckish there are several food stands in the Oracle; choose from Pretzels, Yog, or the smoothie options to keep your energy up so that you can shop till you drop. If you’re looking to earn a bit of cash to fund your shopping addiction then have a look at http://www.theoracle.com/jobs which is regularly updated with job vacancies. Most shops only take online applications as opposed to CV hand-outs.
The Oracle also has a Vue cinema which is popular, of course, on a Wednesday as the students take advantage of Orange Wednesday’s 2-4-1 cinema tickets.
Things to do for free
If you enjoy live music and want to see some fantastic unsigned acts before they are discovered, visit the Oakford Social Club each Wednesday, which can be found near the station, on Blagrave Street. Entry is free and music runs from 8pm-1am.
If you’re feeling a little nostalgic and want to have a laugh, and take a few silly snaps with friends why not head to Beale Park, which is a wildlife park appropriate for all ages.
Volunteering - that’s free! Plus it looks good on your CV. Although that is a line you’ll hear a lot, about seemingly everything, it really is a great opportunity. From planting trees, to stewarding at events to running the Reading Marathon, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Visit Reading Abbey which was one of the wealthiest abbeys in medieval England, created by King Henry I. In order to reach the ruins of the abbey you’ll go through Forbury Gardens which are wonderful and grand, especially nice on a spring day when the flowers are just beginning to bloom.
Get out of the city
London would be the most obvious option if you wanted to get away for the weekend. It’s just under 30 minutes on the train before you’ve reached Paddington and on your way to a theatre show or some sight-seeing. However, the opposite direction on the train will take you to Oxford, for a lovely day out. Or, if you’re planning a weekend away, want to leave your assignments back in accommodation, and travel bit further away than Oxford, you could always head towards the Cotswolds - just as Cameron Diaz’ does in The Holiday.
Health and fitness
At the Shinfield Road entrance, the University of Reading have their very own gym, called ‘Sports park. The gym has lots of high standard equipment and helpful trainers who are often assisting or advising avid gym-goers. There are lots of different classes provided as well at Sports Park: yoga, thai chi, step, belly dancing, boxing and even a pole-dance work out. It seems that there’s something for everyone! Sports Park is used by students and the public alike with a variety of different memberships. Their website http://www.sport.reading.ac.uk/ is a good place to start for doing a little research into pricings and what you’d use most to work out which membership is best for you. If you’re keen on pumping iron or getting your running shoes on it is worth getting a longer membership despite not being around as much over the holidays - make it worth your while during term time!
Buses are frequent, around every 7 minutes - even if you’re a Londoner or from a big city, you’ll agree that Reading doesn’t do too badly with their transport! Buses are cleaner and warmer than those in London and a little cheaper too. If you’re under 19 you get discounted fares if you ask for a return or single ‘SOLO’. No ID is required either. Reading Buses also offer a card, similar to an Oyster Card, that is prepaid with a number of journeys on it and it saves you a little money. For further information on Reading Buses see their website: http://www.reading-buses.co.uk/
A standard cab from the University into the town is £6. You can save a little money if you are travelling in a large group and get a larger cab and split it between you. Often this is a good idea if a team of you want to nip to ASDA and don’t want to haul lots of bags nor wait for the bus. Yellow Cabs are a popular choice and quite often you’ll see cab companies nipping about in the car parks on campus.
There is a range of options when it comes to student accommodation in Reading. Generally first years live in halls, but there are areas where second or third years have also decided to return to hall-life. There is also a range of options financially and also the option of catered or non-catered. Options can be found here: http://www.reading.ac.uk/life/accommodation/AccListofHalls.aspx
After experiencing living in Halls of Residence in your first year you may want to group together with a few others and go house hunting for a place to rent. Often this option is cheaper than halls but it can be a learning curve; dealing with estate agents, landlords and bills. It is really important not to rush into getting a house. Be sure you get on well with the people in your group and that you’re all clear what you want from a house and also financial budgets. A good idea for advice and guidance from agents with your best interests at heart would be to see the agency on campus, rather than those in the town. This makes problem-solving easier as the University estate agents will liaise on your behalf with landlords, and being on campus it is easy to nip in and ask a few questions if necessary. RUSU Lettings agency can be found and contacted also through their website: http://www.rusulettings.com/(S(f23z0hftpp1402rvnpqmg55d))/DocumentView.aspx?Doc=home
Alternatively you could do you own independent research and house-hunting on www.studentholmes.co.uk and contact the individual estate agents that provide the house that is of interest to you.