Photo by Francisco Osorio
Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d avoid the cheesy posts and instead offer some advice for young couples who are facing decisions over continuing a relationship at university. When I first received my acceptance letters, took those dreaded exams and realised I had got the results I wanted and needed to move on to the university life I had been dreaming about for the past two years of hard slog throughout A-levels. Everyone had been worried – my parents thought I wasn’t spending enough time on my work and revision because of my boyfriend and my friends were worried he would lead me astray. But I sure showed them when I got that A and three B’s – more than I needed to go to the University of Hertfordshire.
Again, my parents were worried about UoH being my first choice because it asked for a lot less UCAS points than I was predicted, even less than I received. I had chosen it based on the course content, the number of live researchers who would be my lecturers, the beautiful campus and accommodation, and of course the great feeling I had when looking around. I’ve always been one for going with my gut when decision-making, and from the second I walked on to the campus and looked around, I just knew this was the university for me. I refused to compromise this for courses that didn’t cover what I wanted to study and for accommodation that looked like a prison, and it worked well because I left with a 2.1 BA Hons in English Literature and Language and Communication.
Photo by Oleh Slobodeniuk
But enough about all of that – this post is focusing on the fact that throughout all of my time at university, I stayed with my boyfriend while he lived and worked back at home. I have spoken to several girls since who were just heading off to university and just didn’t know how they would cope with having a boyfriend back at home while they studied – they didn’t know what it would be like. Just as I was asked for advice back then, I will give it again now.
University will test your relationship, probably beyond anything before this time. You will be madly in love with your boyfriend before you go and often can’t bear the thought of breaking up, but at the same time are ready for a whole new adventure – it’s a confusing time for many. For me, it was simple. I loved my boyfriend and wanted to stay with him regardless – I didn’t see why university would get in the way of that. Of course, distance plays a big part in this and I had chosen a university that was just two hours drive from my home town (not chosen because of boyfriend, just coincidence). But if you really want to make it work, it won’t matter the distance.
Becoming an independent woman:
You need to remember that you will be experiencing a whole new world of living away, new-found independence and freedom, making new friends, discovering new passions, keeping up with your course and lots and lots of partying. Your new schedule may not have space for boyfriend time at first with all of the nights out and busy days associated with Fresher’s Week (ours turned into a month). So you have to remember that your other half might find it a bit difficult at first – not only are you off having a new adventure without him, but you suddenly might not have much time for them. It is important to make the effort to keep them updated and make them feel a part of it as well, you wouldn’t like it if they disappeared off to get drunk with strangers for two weeks without speaking to you.
Photo by Elizabeth K
Time-management is the key
A lot of this first month of university (and the rest) is spent getting pretty drunk and the lectures often take up a lot less of your time with more work expected in your own time – often this time is spent in bed, hungover and watching rubbish TV. I know there is a lot of other work thrown in, otherwise how did I get that 2.1? But my point is that your schedules could end up the opposite of each other – I got to a point where I was up all night, either partying or in the library and would sleep most of the day when I wasn’t in lectures – I just seemed to work better at night. This was difficult when my boyfriend was at home working shifts at an engineering company because often I would want to drunk call him after a night out or text him all night but couldn’t because that would wake him up, likewise, he would text in the day but I would be asleep or in lectures. You need to find your own balance that will work for you as a couple.
Don’t forget the importance of alone time
One huge benefit of going to university is having your own space, perhaps you were both living with parents at home and struggled to get time to yourselves. Suddenly, you have your own room in a block of people that won’t disturb you – you can go off for dinner, or cook your own, lay in bed all day and watch movies or do whatever you want. This freedom is great after being interrupted every five minutes at home. Make the most of this time. We had it easier because my university was quite quiet at weekends with many people going home to work in London, so my boyfriend could come up and visit and often we would have the whole flat to ourselves. Likewise, I made sure to come home and visit both him and my family – in my third year I had a car at university so I could nip home at a moments notice, or likewise he could come to visit me without relying on the trains.
Photo by LetMeBeYourSwearWord
This is the main one I get asked about. Yes, there is a lot of temptation at university, especially if you like sweaty blokes who are wearing too much aftershave and have been daring their mates to down dirty pints without being sick on themselves. Not really my type thanks. For some girls, they might feel they are being left out of all the drunken snogging and sleeping around that comes with Freshers but what are you really missing out on other than the Walk of Shame while dressed as Superwoman (as one of my friends had to do) and a bout of chlamydia? It is possible to go to university and not sleep with everyone, it is possible to go on a night out and go home with your girls and a greasy burger, it is possible to spend a night in your own bed. There are a lot of girls out there who get drunk and just need some affection – this was the tough bit, being drunk and wanting to call your boyfriend because you miss him, but not being able to because he’s got work in two hours. But you deal with it and move on. There’s a hell of a lot of other stuff going on that you don’t need to concern yourself with all of this – but if you are tempted, them be sure to end the relationship before making a big mistake and hurting your partner.
Put simply – it is possible to have a happy, loving, long-distance relationship while at university. It isn’t always easy, but in the end it is more valuable than any one night stand. You will have wobbles and strops over seeing each other and missing each other, but you will also have amazing times that you will never forget and you will end up a lot stronger for it. My main advice is to be sure of what you want before you go but don’t be afraid to change your mind when you actually experience university life – choose what is best for you. If you think it is worth it, it probably is. I was two years into my relationship when I went to university and now we are coming up to our eighth anniversary.
Have you been faced with a big decision over whether to break off a relationship or stay together at university? What did you choose?