As uni starts once more and we welcome a new year group of fresher’s into our merry bunch of students, I have to admit that I do envy you First Years a little bit! Not only do you have all the excitement of moving in and meeting a whole load of wonderful people but you also have the added bonus (for most of you) of exploring a brand new town and making it your own. So I thought I would give you a little bit of a starting point about where you could look for the hidden gems of Reading that may not be immediately obvious to the untrained eye. Let’s start with the obvious – the centre of the town itself. This is made up of two main parts; The Oracle shopping centre and the Riverside. For all you shopaholics out there, this shopping centre will be like a dream. It houses over 80 stylish stores including favourites such as Topshop and Topman, Hollister, Oasis, Crew and Mango. On top of that we have not one but two department stores with many different concessions hidden within their hallowed halls. A shopper’s paradise!
The more adventurous may want to visit The Hexagon Theatre or The Global café
Then when you get peckish from all that exhausting exercise, lugging round your bulging bags, all you need to do is step right outside for a bite to eat or a drink in one of the many restaurants that are housed on either side of the river. Even the fussiest of eaters will be able to find something they love because of the huge range of cultures that are represented – from Yo Sushi to Bella Italia to Café Rouge to Las Iguanas you should be able to find something!
The social life in Reading is pretty amazing – with all these restaurants, a few excellent clubs (that do great student discounts on specific nights) and countless bars and pubs, there is never a shortage of places to hold social gatherings or to go on those hot dates. Plus, for the bit more adventurous among you who want to try something completely new, there are a range of cultural venues such as The Hexagon theatre and The Global café which are slightly more alternative. So, you will have to make time in amongst all that studying you are being forced to do.
Harris Gardens: Three acres of beauty if you manage to locate it
If you are needing a little bit of time out from the stresses of essay writing, or if you just want some peace and quiet, away from the boozy student culture, there a number of calm spots in amongst this busy town that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. One of my favourites is the Harris Gardens, tucked away in the corner of the Whiteknights Campus itself. I am going to give you no hints about its exact position, I’ll leave that to you and your excellent explorations. But believe me, it’s worth looking for and is three acres of beauty if you manage to locate it. A little easier to find are the Forbury Gardens, right in the centre of town and these are an excellent place for just chilling with a coffee and people watching. Right next to the Forbury Gardens, are the ruins of the abbey which will intrigue the history lovers among you. It was built in 1121 by Henry I and in its day was quite prestigious with the weddings of John of Gaunt and Edward IV taking place within its confines. During the 18th century, it housed the Abbey School for girls, which is where Jane Austen reportedly attended for a few years. On top of this there are a number of museums, three of which are situated on the two university campuses. So if you want to improve your mind, a bit more than simply through your studying, Reading definitely gives you the opportunity to do this.
As you can see there are so many things to get up to while you are in Reading, I don’t see how you are going to get any studying done at all to be honest, with so much to occupy your time. So while you are settling in, don’t forget to check out the town as well. It won’t let you down!