Student Support Spotlight: Disability Advisory Service

In this month’s Student Support Spotlight, Assistant Disability Advisor Shaalinie Sivalingham outlines her own role within the Disability Advisory Service and how the team can support students with disabilities during their time at King’s. Shaalinie also fills us in on some of the special events and projects the team has been working on this year, in particular two events which aimed to ease the transition process for new students and help them make the most of their time at KCL.

I am one of three Assistant Disability Advisers (ADA) based in the Disability Advisory Service (DAS).  To find out more about DAS, please do check out our service introduction video on King’s College London YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z_WedxQRwo.

As an ADA,  my priorities as are to be as easily accessible as possible to assist with quick queries such as disability funding and applying for Personal Examination Provisions, to promoting the range of internal support available such as on line resources and group study skills workshops.  In addition, I am here to meet with students who may wish to have a chat about study-related difficulties.  Starting in the New Year, we will be offering drop-in services across the four main campuses to help answer immediate concerns.  These will mainly take place in the library Pod spaces and more information can be found at:

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/campuslife/services/disability/howwecanhelp/appointmentsdropins.aspx

I also work on transition and engagement projects.  During August and September, our service delivered two transition events for incoming disabled students.  The first event took place at the end of August and supported students who had declared a mental health condition or autistic spectrum condition.  Seventeen students came along during the day and took part in taster sessions delivered by King’s Sport, Wellbeing, mentoring services, with around ten experiencing a night in student accommodation and enjoyed an evening social event.   This gave students the opportunity to reflect on living away from home.

DAS healthy snacking

Session on healthy snacking delivered by the Nutrition and Dietetics Society at our transition event

The later transition event invited incoming mobility or sight-impaired students to settle into their halls of residence up to a week ahead of the main enrolment period.  The two day programme included a student ambassador-led alternative campus tour, a library induction from the disability lead, interactive activities introduced by Ben Hunt, President of KCLSU and led by three societies; Dietetics and Nutrition, Magic and Hypnosis and Drama Improvisation!  Representatives from Transport for London Mentoring Service accompanied students to Blackfriars Station and shared the accessible features available and their top tips for navigating around London. The Royal London Society for Blind People gave a talk on using access technology and shared details of their London based social groups.  The option to access early enrolment was offered to both groups.

DAS umbrellas

A wet alternative campus tour led by the Student Ambassadors. We were warmed up by complementary coffee provided by Fleet Street Press!

At King’s we have approximately 2,745 students who identify as having a disability.  Just to clarify, disability for us includes students with long term medical or mental health             conditions and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia.  If you have a diagnosed condition and are experiencing difficulties but have yet to engage with the team, please do contact us to discuss possible support options to help with your engagement with your course.  Similarly, if you are experiencing difficulties with your studies, come and discuss the barriers to your engagement to see if there may be support solutions that will help.  I like to think that we are a friendly team and we offer confidential appointments in person, by telephone and Skype!

If you have questions about anything covered in this blog or you would like to share your experience of accessing support with us, please contact me through phone 020 78488571, email, disability@kcl.ac.uk.   Alternatively, if you happen to be near to the Strand Campus, pop into our office which is located within Student Services, floor minus 1, Macadam Building or come along to a drop in.

Volunteering for Samaritans – Shannon’s Experience

samaritans profile picIn the first of two posts about the invaluable services offered by Samaritans to those both in crisis and in need of a listening ear and emotional support, King’s alumna Shannon Whyborne blogs about her experience of volunteering as a University Outreach Volunteer. In today’s post, Shannon describes what she learned about Samaritans as an organisation and the different ways in which they offer help and support.

During my third and final year at King’s, I took on the role as University Outreach Volunteer with the Central London Samaritans. Already concerned with the importance of mental wellbeing, and having heard the Samaritan name on multiple occasions, I knew the role was something that I would care for, and I wasn’t disappointed- working with Samaritans was a truly amazing experience. 

 Samaritans samaritans

I was asked to visit the facility before accepting the role. The place was hidden away in a sort of alcove in the street, and at first I wondered at the reason for this- surely Samaritans would want to be as obvious as possible, so as to remind people of their presence? This was because I, like most people, assumed that Samaritans was a solely telephone-based charity, where people on the edge of committing suicide would phone up to be talked down- worthy work by anyone’s standards. However when I arrived, Mark – the central London Samaritans Outreach manager – showed me around the facilities and I realised that the Samaritans was a lot more diverse than I had first thought.

 First of all, it was diverse in the range of people that contacted them. It wasn’t just the extreme cases but anyone who just needed someone to offload onto (which would be a large part of my role, in encouraging students to get in contact whenever the demands of university were getting them down or stressed). The link to universities was inevitable with the high educational standards imposed on students, in conjunction with the busy university counselling services (where students may find themselves on a waiting list for a while). It was clear that some students would benefit from an additional source of support for something that couldn’t afford to be neglected.

 Secondly, I was surprised to discover that Samaritans was diverse in the way in which it samaritans numberassisted- not only did they provide services over the phone, email or text, but they also encouraged people to drop into the Central London facility for a face-to-face visit (the reason for tucking the building away), which offered the same service, but on an arguably more personal level. Furthermore, the volunteers utilised the same skills with the people that dropped in as they did with those who phoned, so that everyone is provided the same, high quality service- with the added benefit of a cup of tea for those who wanted a face-to-face!

 For those that do opt for visiting the office, they are first welcomed into a spacious waiting room where they are offered a hot beverage and a chance to sit down. As soon as someone from the telephone office is available (i.e. no longer on the phone), the individual seeking help is invited into one of the small one-to-one rooms (of which there are about five). This way, the meeting is completely confidential, and so the visitor is able to share in complete confidence.

 Next to the small meeting rooms is the telephone office, where the volunteers are located behind a glass panel (so that the conversations remain completely confidential) with the staff break out room adjacent. In the break out area, volunteers are able to recompose after calls (or emails and texts) and catch up with their line manager who can talk them through their call. This is especially pertinent where volunteers have just had a particularly stressful call. Samaritans were focused on caring for the emotional needs of their own volunteers as well as those calling. This is something that I found particularly important, as mental wellbeing was relevant to everyone. If the volunteers weren’t looked after then how could they be expected to aide those calling? Therefore it was evident that Samaritans had considered everything: the wellbeing of their volunteers as well as those calling their services.

The quickest way to contact the Samaritans and get a response is by phone on 116 123, this number is FREE to call 24 hours a day. You can also contact them via email, text, the web and by letter. http://www.samaritans.org/  

A Merry Christmas on a Budget

Some words of wisdom from Money Mentor Claire on celebrating the festive season in style without spending a fortune.  Don’t forget too that next week is ‘Claim It! Week‘ raising awareness of student funding and discounts.  Comes in very handy at this time of year!

Halloween is Over, Now we can Talk About Christmas

It is nearly Christmas! Yay – lights, songs, presents! Sadly though, it is also nearly the end of your first term at university, which means your bank account is looking as sparse as the North Pole.

So what can you do to save money in the festive season? No one wants to be a complete miserly Scrooge, but here is my advice on how to have fun and be merry with only one glass of Mulled Wine.

 1. Lightslights

Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street are all next to one another and their close proximity means they compete for who can dangle the brightest lights above our heads. It is a spectacular sight to see, and as the days get shorter, you don’t even have to wait too long in the evening before it is dark enough to enjoy them. Although the expensive shops lining the streets may not be free, the walks though London’s most iconic roads are, so grab a friend and light up their world.

carnaby 2. Shopping Events

We still have one month before we have to buy gifts and wrap them up with bows and ribbons, but if you are as indecisive as I am, then we had better start thinking about what to buy for our loved ones now. Thankfully, we can have some fun while doing it at Carnaby Street and Seven Dials. These are two lesser well known areas near Regent Street and Covent Garden, but they are packed with a huge variety of shops. What’s better, is that they have a Launch Street Party on the 12th and 17th of November respectively, where they will have live music and complimentary food and drink. Loads of shops will be offering discounts for that evening too (and I can almost guarantee there will be a photo booth) so go along to make stressful Christmas shopping more manageable.

https://www.carnaby.co.uk/news-and-events/your-free-carnaby-christmas-shopping-party-ticket/

https://www.sevendials.co.uk/events/seven-dials-christmas-2016/

 3. Skate at Somerset House 

We are King’s students, so going ice skating right next to campus in a stunning venue is asomerset house must. Plus, we can get student discount so the tickets are only £8.50 (although this is only valid at certain times – see the website link below for details).

There are also special events like Club Nights and the Pop-Up Fortnum & Mason shop next to the rink will make an avid coffee drinker like myself, turn to tea for the evening.

https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/skate-somerset-house

Birthday Hacks: Happy birthday KCL Money Mentors!

It’s KCL Student Money Mentors’ first birthday!  For a year now, this dedicated group of financially savvy students has been on hand to help support the KCL student community, giving guidance on making their money go that bit further at uni. 

Following her top tips for freshers and to celebrate their one year anniversary, Money Mentor Claire is back with her take on a how to indulge yourself on your birthday without breaking the bank! The Money Mentors will also be about on all campuses next week for the annual Claim It campaign.

Thanks KCL Student Money Mentors and KCL Money Advice for all your hard work!

And if it’s your birthday today… have a good one!

Birthday Hacks

Happy Birthday! You are another year older, but despite all that wisdom which comes with your many years, you are still getting a grey hair or two when you think about your finances. Listen up, here are three gifts you can give yourself which will make your birthday even more special.

1. Krispy Kreme

I have started with the one you probably already know about, and if you don’t, have your eyes been glazed over for the past decade? (okay, bad pun)donut

Krispy Kreme will give you a free glazed doughnut on your birthday, and also for three friends/ family members when you add their birthdays to your profile (it is supposed to be your treat from you, to them, but I promise I won’t tell anyone if you accidentally eat it on the way home) Not only this, but when you sign up to the newsletter, you get another complimentary glazed doughnut – we are nearly at half a dozen now, and haven’t spent a penny!

2. Ed’s Easy Diner

American Fast Food Chains seem to be sneaking up everywhere, and getting more and more popular. You can’t say no to a thick, creamy, traditional American milkshake, even in the middle of winter, so I recommend you down to Ed’s diner. When you sign up their newsletter, you will receive a free burger (with purchase of a drink) for registering, and then a free milkshake of your choice on your birthday.

 bday cake3Konditor & Cook

I have saved my favourite one for last. I came across this by chance when I was walking through Borough Market, marvelling at the delicious food I would never be able to afford, when a spectacular cake caught my eye. As much as a showstopper as Tom’s cake in Botanical Week on the Great British Bake Off, I was drawn towards the window of Konditor & Cook, and it was there that I saw the card asking for my email address, persuading me to part with my personal information so I could get a free slice of cake on my birthday.

Now, if you have been lucky enough to try a cake from this sensational shop then you will understand that any other Mini Chocolate Brownie Bites are no comparison. It is certainly the sweetest loyalty scheme I have ever found.

(FYI – the nearest store to Guy’s Campus is at Borough Market, and the nearest one to Waterloo/Strand is just behind Waterloo train station. If anyone decides to go, let me know, and I will give you my card to stamp – if you buy 6 slices of cake your 7th is free. ;) These people really ought to give me commission….)

And so I wish you many happy returns of the day. :D

Close this blog, turn off the computer and go and celebrate your birthday in style. You never know, maybe someone slipped a £20 note into the envelope with the birthday card…

Fight The Fads – Embrace Frozen and Tinned Fruit and Veg

Healthy eating on a student budget isn’t always easy.  Fortunately, student dietitians Elisabeth, Caroline and Harriet aka Fight The Fads have first hand experience of finding ways to eat well without spending a fortune.  This month, they’re extolling the virtues of frozen and tinned fruit and veg!

Embrace Frozen and Tinned Fruit and Vegetables!

 Fruits and Vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals and all-important fibre to keep your gut healthy!

However as students on a bfrozen fruitudget, we all know fresh food is often the most expensive, and it can be tempting to cut back on these items to save money.

Although eating fresh, local produce soon after harvesting is ideal, research has found that there aren’t substantial differences in the nutrient content of tinned /frozen as opposed to fresh fruit and veg: great news for the health-conscious student!

Although certain water-soluble vitamins may be lost during the processing, the extent to which this occurs may be less than the losses occurred during cooking.

Often canned/tinned produce is processed straight after harvesting which prevents oxidation and therefore conserves the nutrient content.