The essential student kit list – Win a £50 Currys voucher

Fancy getting your hands on a £50 Currys voucher to help cover the cost of a new iPad, those headphones or that essential cooking gadget you need before the new uni year kicks off?

Currys are compiling a free student kit guidebook made up of suggestions from across the tech and student blogger community and would like you to recommend your favourite kitchen gadget via their Twitter competition.

To get involved in the competition:

  • Tweet your recommended piece of student kit to @CurrysPCWorld, including the hashtag #currysstudentessentials to confirm your entry.
  • The person with the wittiest or most original answer will win.
  • The competition closes at midnight on 04/09/2015. Currys will announce the winner at midday on 04/09/2015.

Full details can be found on the Currys Tech Talk blog.

The ultimate uni checklist

Checklist

 

So, you’ve just recently found out you are heading off to uni in a few weeks, and now it is time to start getting everything ready to move into your halls or shared student accommodation. Therefore, I’ve come up with a list of everything you will actually need for university that will help you along the way; you can even print it out and tick it off if you like!

The way you need to go about completing this list is to first ask your friends and relatives if they have got anything you can have. This not only saves you a little bit of money to start off with, but also as the famous saying goes ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. Asking can give you plenty of opportunities to grab stuff for free that still has life left in it. This could be anything from an old toaster that your Nan does not need anymore because she has just bought a new one or a frying pan that a friend does not need in their kitchen anymore. After all, the more you save now, the more money you will have to spend in Fresher’s Week.

The next step is to look online and get a vague idea about how much things are going to cost or the other way, is to head to a store with your parents to avoid the delivery costs (unless it’s something big you can’t fit in the car.) The best places to look I’ve found are: Argos, Wilko, The Range and Dunelm. As well as a Tesco Extra, ASDA, Morrisons or even £1 shops. In fact most of my uni equipment was from the £1 shop and some of it lasted me three whole years of my studies!

Furthermore, with the supermarket section of the list it’s best to go with the person who helped you move in to uni that day and go and buy it when you have finished moving everything in. Either that, or pop down to your local shop and get the basics until you can do a group shopping delivery the next day.

So here we have it, the ultimate university checklist:

Kitchen Tech Bedroom Supermarket shop Luxury items (nice to have but you don’t need them) Bathroom Not going to halls?
Cutlery Laptop Duvet & pillows Toothpaste and toothbrush Mini fridge Toothbrush holder Toaster
Plates and bowls Printer (trust me this saves a LOT of money and endless trips to the library!) Mattress protector (although some unis provide these) Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel Speakers Toilet brush Kettle
Mugs and glasses (although plastic ones are best to avoid breakages!) USB sticks or invest in a great piece of software like Dropbox Duvet cover, sheet and pillowcase Washing tablets/gel Fairy lights Towels Microwave
Knives Phone charger A blanket Washing up liquid and sponges Rug Bath mat or non-slip mat if you have a wet room Notice board
Wooden spoons and spatulas   Blu Tac or pins for decorating Bleach Television Bathroom bin (unless a sanitary one is provided) Waste paper basket
A chopping board   Notebook and pens Paracetamol or ibuprofen      
A saucepan and frying pan   Laundry bin Tinned food      
A tupperware lunch box   A dressing gown or onesie (perfect for those late night trips to the supermarket!) Salt, pepper, vinegar, ketchup (condiments of your choice)      
A baking tray   Coat hangers Milk      
A tin and bottle opener   Airer Bread      
Cheese grater   LOTS of change for washing machines Big bag of rice and pasta      
Colander or sieve     Frozen meat and veg      
      Tea, coffee or hot chocolate      
      Loo roll      

These were the items that helped me when heading to university for the first time, I just stocked up the second and third time around. Have I missed anything off? Can you think of anything else students may like to take with them? Comment below and share!

Staying in touch whilst away at university or taking your gap year

gap year

The summer has almost ended and thousands of you are about to embark on the journey to university in September to start a brand new chapter.

But while leaving home can mean that you are leaving behind your family and friends for the first time, it does not mean you can’t keep in touch. Even if you just want to call Dad to ask for that extra bit of cash (because you’ve been relentless with your student loan too quickly) or to let your Mum know when you’re next coming home with a load of dirty washing!

The internet offers plenty of ways in which you can contact others for free, meaning the tightest of student budgets will go a lot further and you aren’t racking up those mobile phone bills with long calls, because for many, university could mean trekking to a new country! And, if you are heading off for a gap year, there’s nothing better than letting everyone know over social networks how hot and warm it is where you are, when everyone else is stuck in cold and rainy Britain.

Jon Blumberg from Sky Broadband commented on students specifically stating that: “Planet Earth may seem like a huge place but over the last 100 years the world has got smaller, no thanks to the major changes in both transport and communication […] now you can speak to someone on the other side of the world for free, using your broadband connection and it’s as if you’re in the room with you.”

So don’t worry students, you don’t need to feel home sick when away at university or your gap year ever again.
He then makes a further comment: “For students heading to university in particular, the internet not only provides them with the means to complete their course, it also ensures that they can stay in touch with their family. Once they have finally got up, that is!”

You can now make telephone calls over Skype, connect to ‘The Cloud’ WiFi zone in various social places in cities that connect to free internet or even upload a blog every day about your adventures so everyone can have a read of what you have been up to. Most services are free and easy to use and provide people with step by step information on how to use these particular services. I found this a great little side hobby when I was at university and have now even turned to Vlogging and documenting parts of my life, new chapters and memories which means I am sharing with friends all the time. It is great for friends back home to see what you are up to without feeling like you are too far away. Not only that, but social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow users to upload photos so others can see what they are up to with their new found friends or travels across the globe. On Facebook there is even the option to voice or video call someone now, so if Skype is being a bit flaky (which I often found with the sometimes dodgy university connection) you can use that as only a smaller connection is needed.

If you find yourself beginning to get a bit lonely, there are plenty of free music sites online that can give you a bit of background noise when you can’t get hold of anybody at home. Not only does this pass the time, but it also helps you to study if you’re at uni (or so I found during my time at university) and can change your mood from homesickness to happy in a second. There are some fantastic specific playlists on Spotify that you can pick from to suit your mood and tone and you don’t have to pay for the premium service to enjoy it!

One last tip would be to make sure that wherever you surf the web to keep in contact with others, make sure that you know the connection is secure before sharing personal information online. Make sure that when entering bank details you are in a private location and theycannot be shared with others, especially if you are on a budget or need the money for travel expenses. You don’t want anybody hacking into your account and taking what is rightfully yours!

However you decide to keep in touch with loved ones when you embark on your next adventure, keep safe and happy and don’t let homesickness rule over you!

Do you have any other methods of keeping in touch when you move out of home for the first time? Share below as I’m sure other students would love to gain tips to combat those ‘first flying the nest nerves’!

How to make your accommodation feel more like home

HomeMoving to a new place can be daunting for anybody, whether you are going to university and moving out for the first time, or if you’re moving from halls into a shared house, it’s always going to be strange at the beginning. I think as soon as people move out of their first home, they realise all the luxuries they had but never really thought about, sometimes student accommodation isn’t the best and you’ll suddenly miss things like fresh bedding, homemade meals, a hot bubble bath etc.

With the summer sales on at the moment I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips on finding deals on homeware bits and pieces to put around your room, to make it feel a bit more cosy.

Everyone knows how good Primark is, you can get your full wardrobe from there for a decent price, but a lot of people forget the shop does homeware too! This is quite a recent thing but they seem to be adding more and more as the months go on as it’s so popular. There is nothing better than fresh sheets and bedding and Primark is the place to go for these things. I recently got a double duvet cover, a sheet and two pillowcases for under £15! This is great for students on a budget. They do loads of single and double bedding sets and there is something in every style so you will definitely find one that you love. Before you put it on your bed, give it a wash so it’s all nice and warm when you put it on, it feels amazing after a long day. Primark also do a range of blankets, throws and cushions.

As well as things like this, Primark also sells things like fairy lights, I saw some for £6 recently and they would look really nice around a mirror in your bedroom or around your TV and desk. Just another way of making your room feel like your little sanctuary and a place you can go to relax. I can’t count the amount of candles they sell too, tealights, big jars, little jars, anything you could want in a candle they have it, and in so many different scents. My personal favourite is the pineapple and ginger scent! All so cheap too, for a big pack of tealight candles it is only £1.50 and small jars are around 80p.

I could go on about the amount of things you can get from Primark for ages but there are so many other places too. When you’re doing your food shop, it is a good idea to look in the homeware section, these sections almost always have a sale on and they usually have a reduced section too. Asda is a great one for this. If you don’t have one nearby you can also look online as any sales will be on there too.

Fresh flowers always look nice but they don’t last very long and it can be quite costly to replenish each week. However, all is not lost! Asda sells this White Jug with Artifical Flowers, which is a perfect alternative. This would look nice on your window sill and it will last you as long as you want it! It is £12 but in the long run it will save you money and it normally isn’t too long before things go down to half price so keep checking and in a few weeks this could only be £6. Asda also has a great range of photo frames, again could be put on your windowsill, on your desk, in the living room etc. This Glass Mirror Photo Frame is £3.50 and would look nice with a family photo in to remind you of home, or maybe one of you and your friends. Little things like this just make your place feel more like home and are all little reminders. They also have a big variety of wall photo frames so if you have a lot of photos you want to store, you could get a big one to go on your wall for less than a tenner.

As university can be quite stressful and sometimes you might want to give up, a nice idea would be to put some inspirational quotes up around your home. These can go in frames like I’ve just mentioned or could stand alone next to your bed on a bedside table or on your desk, easy to see when you’re doing work then! Paperchase do postcards for 60p and these are all a perfect size to go in a frame, they have ones with quotes like ‘smile’ and ‘creativity never goes out of style’. They are all just a little bit different and add a bit of a quirky edge to your room!

The last thing you could do to remind yourself of home is create a recipe book with all homemade meals that your family used to make for you or taught you how to make. There is nothing better than being at home, having somebody else cooking for you and having a delicious meal but at university it can be hard. Having a book with all simple recipes you love, might make you feel a bit happier after a hard day, and it’s a simple reminder of your family. You can write recipes down in just a normal notebook or you can get ones from places like Paperchase, Waterstones, Amazon, that have specific sections for ingredients and a space for you to write down the method! Don’t forget to upload them all to Studentrecipes.com too!

The rising cost of being a student

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It wasn’t too long ago that the news was awash with reports of the student protests, and the government’s plans to raise the cap on university fees to £9,000 a year. At the time, I was still in school and resigned to the fact that, upon reaching higher education, I would have to pay significantly more than my predecessors and more than the politicians who were allowing this to happen.

And now there are yet more changes being made to student loans and grants– but without nearly as much fanfare. With all of this seemingly happening ‘under the radar’, what will the new Tory budget mean for the average student?

Well, Osborne is replacing student grants with student loans, which can only mean more debt for the average student. In his bid to ensure the British economy’s future through further austerity measures, Osborne is reneging on promises made by the coalition government in 2010 and getting rid of the means-tested maintenance grants previously offered to Britain’s poorest students. However, he has attempted to balance this measure by increasing the maximum maintenance loan to £8,200.

While all of this may not seem like such a drastic measure in comparison to the initial raise in tuition fees to £9,000, these changes are going to have a lasting influence on students leaving college or sixth form, and their decision whether or not to even go to university. Chairman of the Sutton Trust, Sir Peter Lampl, said, “Shifting grants to loans may move them off the balance sheet, but it could also put off many low- and middle-income students and tip the balance against their going to university […] Since grants were reintroduced, there have been significant improvements in participation from full-time less advantaged students, and this will be put at risk by today’s budget plans.” What many forget is that the cost of university is more than just their tuition fees, it is the expense of living, socialising and generally partaking in the typical student lifestyle. And the poorest students at university may not be able to afford this much longer.

Many students from lower-income families are looking at this change as an increase of debt and are scared to take it on. Either they no longer see university as a viable option, or are looking solely to universities that will offer bursaries or monetary incentives to attend. This is not surprising when, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the poorest students will soon be leaving university with up to £53,000 worth of debt. Megan Dunn, the president of the National Union of Students, said, “Students living on beans and sketches about student poverty have become a punchline. But this isn’t a joke, it’s a national crisis.”

Not only are the poorest students going to be affected, but the IFS also indicates that the hardest hit will, in fact, be students from middle-income families, with graduates paying back an extra £6,000. It seems that these new government measures are heralding the return of elitism within higher education. So, student of today, while these may seem like small steps backwards, you can look forward to reduced social diversity amongst your peers, and get ready for even more debt to your name.

[Photo credit: Got Credit]

Creative Ideas to Personalise Your Java

personalise-your-java

Do you find yourself hopeless in lecture halls without a cup of coffee inside you? Can you not kick-start your morning without a caffeine fix? If you’re the type of student who needs to fine-tune their focus and elongate their attention span with the help of a cup of steaming coffee, you probably spend your fair share on takeaway lattes and cappuccinos.

However, you don’t need to siphon all of your student loan into the pockets of your local barista to drink a gourmet cup of coffee. Indeed, you can even personalise your own home brew to achieve the flavour you want and the style you crave, without denting the weekly budget. Here are a handful of great economical and creative tips to help you jive up your Java, which demonstrate there are plenty of ways to brighten up your morning brew.

Percolate to perfection

Make sure your student digs are equipped with the right sort of machine to whip up a stimulating batch of coffee every morning (or perhaps afternoon, evening and night-time, in some cases). Old school chrome percolators can add a touch of class to any kitchen, while espresso machines offer easy options for those low on energy or time, but still produce fantastic coffee.

Get the blend right

The key ingredient in any coffee are the nuts and bolts which go into it, which not only involves the beans themselves but also creamers, sweeteners and flavourings. Fortunately, you don’t have to venture outdoors to recreate your favourite blend, but simply home brew via the extensive array of niche bevvies you can now purchase. Perhaps you want a chai latte with lemongrass undertones and a subtle hint of mint?

Customised caffeination

You can even make your blend further personalised by choosing a completely unique concoction of flavours. For a little more moolah, custom roasters such as Custom Coffees will tailor-make a blend of up to three different strains of coffee from around the world to achieve a truly personal caffeinated experience. You can even design the label on the container!

Choose your receptacle wisely

There’s little point in having a unique blend of your own making if you aren’t showing it off in a customised receptacle in your lecture, is there? Of course, taste is paramount but image is a consideration, too. Make your coffee cup stand out from the crowd by custom-designing it yourself using the simple templates from Personalisation Mall, which allow you to plaster your mug all over your mug… if you understand the expression.

Sharpen up with a Sharpie

Of course, you might want to reel in the spending and hold back on the customised cuppage – no problem! You can create your own design without having to fork out for postage and packing, simply with the help of a plain white receptacle and a selection of Sharpies. For best results, use an oil-based pen and seal the design using an adhesive spray – other great inspirational ideas for such artsy projects can be found at Lifehacker.

If you’re going to stumble through the world attached to a coffee drip, you might as well make it fun, right?

Seven quick and easy breakfasts to have before 9am lectures

Breakfast

It can be really tough to get out of bed earlier to find those five extra minutes to make sure you eat breakfast in the morning, but trust me it’s worth it. It is actually a lot worse for you (especially students on the go all the time) to skip breakfast. The reason being is because your body needs the energy in the mornings to be productive and feel more awake throughout the day.

Therefore I have come up with seven quick and easy breakfast ideas that you can make so you don’t end up going to a lecture with a soggy and cold piece of toast in your hand, or even worse…a sugary drink!

#1 Oatmeal

Oatmeal is definitely a breakfast classic and you can eat it in so many ways. Cold or hot, with various fruits, or even a sprinkle of cinnamon to give it that extra flavour. Another super quick and easy way to prepare oatmeal in the morning is to make overnight oats. They are full of flavour and can be made extra snazzy in a mason jar so you can eat them on the go and pop the jar back into your bag with lid after you’ve finished avoiding mess, easy!

#2 Pancake apple rings

Trust me on this, once you have eaten pancake apple rings, they will become your main ‘go-to’ breakfast and they are so easy to make. All you need to do is cut an apple into normal apple rings and then dip them in pancake batter (you can look up a simple pancake recipe on Studentrecipes.com if you are unsure what ingredients to use). Once you’ve done that, you simply pop them into a pan and hey presto! You have a delicious and quick breakfast ready to leave your uni flat with.

#3 Breakfast ice-lolly

This is perfect for anybody who prefers a colder breakfast. All you need is an ice-lolly mould, add into it some yoghurt and fruits of your choice and pop it into the freezer. Another way of forming an ice-lolly is to use an old yoghurt container with an ice-lolly stick in the bottom. Ice-lolly moulds usually come with four separate moulds so you have pre-made breakfasts for almost a week!

#4 Smoothie

Smoothies are great for breakfast, especially if you aren’t a ‘big eater’ in the mornings. In this case, an alternative is to simply drink your breakfast. If you prefer your smoothies even colder, you could prep them by cutting up and freezing your fruit. That way, in the morning it will save a lot of time and you can simply pop them straight into the blender. Don’t forget to take that ultimate Instagram smoothie photo once it’s done!

#5 Honey banana

This is simply delicious! All you need to do is cut your banana into slices, drizzle them in honey, sprinkle with cinnamon and heat up in a pan. Not only do the bananas give you that early morning energy, but the honey will cure those late morning sugar cravings too.

#6 Egged muffins

This is another great breakfast. Crack some eggs into a bowl, maybe one or two depending on how hungry you are. Then you need to add other ingredients you like into your egg mixture, maybe a bit of pepper to season or some vegetables. Scramble this altogether in a bowl, however, instead of pouring the mixture into a pan, pour into a muffin tin and bake or microwave until your muffin has your desired texture. Afterwards you will be left with a gorgeous egg muffin that you can eat on the go!

#7 The classics

Peanut butter toast, Nutella or Cheerios. I know these aren’t the healthiest breakfast options but allow yourself to cheat once in a while. I find choosing to eat this on a Friday can be rewarding for getting through all those 9ams! It rewards you for a successful week and as it’s the weekend, you can dance those extra calories off at that party you’re heading to that night.

Do you have any other healthy and energetic breakfasts you would like to share with other students? Comment below! Happy breakfasting!

Work experience for students

CV

Three months off is a long time – a very very long time! Plenty of time to see friends, family, have a good catch up and even earn some money. However, it is also plenty of time to gain some valuable work experience in an industry your degree potentially leads to or perhaps one that interests you.

You don’t need to commit yourself 24/7 to your placement, as they will offer various lengths of placements ranging from as little as a few days to full time (4-5 days a week) for a couple of weeks. So don’t worry, it won’t take over your summer completely!

Work experience is especially important for graduates seeking employment. The job market nowadays is becoming more competitive by the day, with more and more students graduating with degrees and more applicants per job. Employees now aren’t only just looking for that 1st/2nd class degree in a potential candidate, but also work experience in industry. Both are just as valuable as each other – yet both will teach you different sets of skills, therefore a combination of the two is the best chance you can give yourself in the job market…

So – why are these placements so valuable to students?

  • They will add that extra string to your bow (or CV) and increase your employability.
  • Placements are a great way of sampling various careers and industries, which can help you to determine the right career path for you!
  • They show off your passion and interest in an industry, both of which are favourable traits in an employee. You are also giving up your own time for the placement, an environment in which you have never experienced before, with no financial incentive at the end of the day it shows dedication and willingness to learn.
  • Introduces you to a working environment, which you can apply to multiple careers.
  • You will be able to identify your strengths and skills in the workplace, not to mention your weaknesses – you might have graduated with a first class degree, but you don’t know all the tricks of the trade!
  • Some placements (usually only if they are successful!) could even lead to job offers to full time work, paid work experience or graduate schemes, further placements or links to other opportunities. That is providing you make a good impression within the business you are working in and stay out of trouble!

Where can I find a work experience placement?

  • Sometimes it’s a case of who you know – so ask around friends, family, friends of friends and family friends for an in to a business. It’s worth a shot!
  • Go into businesses and try to talk to management (or whoever is in charge) face to face, equipped with your CV and a big smile, and offer up yourself for some voluntary work!
  • Your university may have a department that helps students seek suitable work placements, so look into what they can do for you.
  • There are various websites including ac.uk and Targetjobs.co.uk that will help university students seek placements/internships in their chosen industry in locations all over the UK.

I am lucky enough to have a mandatory work placement built into the 3rd year of my degree, and as I’ve started to look around for various opportunities, I’ve realised how important and useful it’s going to be when I graduate next year. So if work experience isn’t a part of your degree, perhaps it’s time to get searching for a placement and get the ball rolling!

Good luck! If you’ve got any great websites for work experience placements or tips for starting on your placement, share with fellow students in the comments section below!