CONNECTED speaks to current students at Reading whose financial struggles were eased by the generosity of University donors, and discovers what inspired these donors to support our students.
Some students at Reading are only able to take up their place on their course – or complete their studies – due to generous donors. Our community supports our students who are facing financial struggles – whether they come from low-income backgrounds, or whether they are facing unexpected financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.
CONNECTED speaks to some of the students who have benefitted from the generosity of donors, to find out what this support means to them; and discover what inspired our supporters to donate to help Reading’s students.
The struggle for work
Many students rely on paid work to make ends meet. But for so many of our community, employment opportunities disappeared overnight because of the pandemic.
First-year undergraduate Ecology and Wildlife Conservation student, Sophie, and first-year undergraduate History student, Archie, were both worried about the need to find part-time jobs to fund their time at university.
Sophie said: “I have Auditory Processing Disorder, which means that I learn at a different pace to most people. I basically have to put in double the effort to get facts to stick and take everything in.
“I was worried about how I would fund my studies as my learning disability makes it hard for me to manage a part-time job, because of the extra time I need for my study. This money will allow me the freedom to focus on my studies and to try and do as well as I can at university. Thank you.”
Archie said: “I made a last-minute decision to come to university this year. I was worried about my finances as I was furloughed from my part-time retail job as a result of the pandemic, and my younger sister and I only have my mum’s income to support the family.
“When I found out I would be receiving financial aid from University donors I really didn’t know what to say. The money will make a big difference, enabling me to concentrate on my studies. My course has a long reading list, so this money will definitely help with buying the essential books.
“I’d like to say a genuine thank you to the people who have made this possible. I don’t know how to react to being given money to be honest. This sort of thing has never happened to me before.”
Donor support has eased both Sophie and Archie’s worries, filling the financial gap caused by the disappearance of part-time work, and enabling them to focus on their studies.
A donor who prefers to remain anonymous, tells CONNECTED what motivated their donation: “My generation of students didn’t have to pay tuition fees for an excellent education, and our accommodation costs were covered by grants based on parental income.
“I had a wonderful four years as a student at Reading and I am happy to be able to send a small donation to help current students.”
No safety net
For some students, the challenges of 2020 have been exacerbated by changing family circumstances as a result of the pandemic. Where parental income has been impacted, there is no longer a family safety net to fall back on.
First-year undergraduate Environmental Science student, Emily, explains her situation.
She said: “During lockdown, my dad – a builder – was thankfully able to keep working, but my mum – who is a nanny – was not able to work in other people’s homes.
“Money was tight and this gift I’ve received will definitely make a difference. I’m planning to save the money so I can use it to fund one of the field trips on my course when travel is permitted again, or for the deposit on my house next year. Thank you.”
A gift of any size can ease a student’s financial difficulties and make all the difference to their university journey.
Roger Brown explains what inspired his donation:
“I was happy to donate. Thinking back to my carefree and liberating experience at Reading, I feel sorry for students now as they adjust to university life with so many restrictions on them. Hopefully, things will improve soon.”
The digital demand
As the pandemic caused universities to transition to more digitally-focused learning environments, some students found they didn’t have the technology to participate fully in their studies.
PGCE Secondary Education (Design & Technology) student, Vikki, told CONNECTED: “I’d always had a desire to teach at the back of my mind, but during my undergraduate degree in the 1990s, I was diagnosed with ME [Myalgic Encephalomyelitis] which causes chronic tiredness. I then took time out to learn how to manage my condition, and then to raise my daughter. This year the timing finally seemed right.
“But as soon as I started my school placement, I realised that my old laptop wasn’t able to run the software I needed. This funding will help me to upgrade to a laptop that will enable me to do all the necessary lesson prep at home, and access the University’s Library remotely.
“This support is amazing and it’s given me a confidence boost. It’s really motivating to know that I’m being supported in what I’m doing.”
A new laptop has made all the difference to Vikki, enabling her to fully engage with her studies and get the most out of her time at university. For some students, this is only possible due to donor support.
Hannah Smith shares how she hopes her donation will help today’s students: “I hope my donation might help a student at the University of Reading who is experiencing financial difficulties during these increasingly strange, challenging and worrying times.
“This year has proven more challenging for all of us, and I believe the only way to get through it is by helping one another where we can.”
Opening up opportunities
None of this financial support provided to students would have been possible without the generosity of our community.
Holly Tarbet tells CONNECTED why she chose to donate to the Student Hardship Appeal: “I really enjoyed my time at Reading and I am grateful for the financial support I received whist studying, as it opened opportunities for me to excel and immerse myself in university life.
“I was really keen to donate to the Student Hardship Appeal as COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on everyone, and students with the passion to learn should be enabled to reach their potential whilst at university, no matter what.”
From the students at the University of Reading, and from the University itself – thank you to every single person who has supported our students. Whether you provided funding to students from low-income backgrounds, to students lacking the resources for online learning, or to students struggling as a result of COVID-19, you have made a huge difference to students facing desperate financial situations.