Take a glance at today’s UK Top 40 and it is clear that our youth culture revolves around wild partying, heavy drinking and an overtly liberal attitude towards sex. Judging by the majority of song lyrics, one would be forgiven for thinking that every young adult’s university experience is basically just one large orgy.
Asher Roth’s musings on college consist of him repeatedly stating ‘I love drinking and I love women’, whilst Katy Perry speaks of the ‘blacked-out blur’ of her last Friday night, in which she is greeted by ‘a stranger’ in her bed. In fact, the topic of one night stands occurs with almost alarming regularity. In ‘Give Me Everything’ Pitbull urges a woman to ‘take advantage of tonight’, he cannot promise tomorrow. Fidelity and commitment are given no chance.
This article aims to address the question of whether these stereotypes regarding university and teenage promiscuity are actually a reality. Do long-distance relationships stand a chance? Must you really be single to get the most out of Freshers?
The typical view regarding the start of university is that of ushering in a fresh start. This is, arguably, more easily done as a singleton. As Melissa, a first year, explains to LS2, ‘university is a time for branching out, meeting people and figuring out the kind of person you want to be’. If you are constantly on the phone to your childhood sweetheart, this will prove more difficult. Being single undoubtedly gives you more time for yourself: to join societies and focus on friends and career. Gemma, a third year, described how she threw herself more into university life after her relationship deteriorated. She says, with relief, ‘I’ve enjoyed being free from the pressure of travelling back and forth’. University is your last chance to have fun and experiment, before entering the responsibilities of a nine till five job. As Jenny, a second year, puts it, ‘being single gives you the chance to be free of worries, especially when out’. You are only young once, you may as well embrace it.
However, one of our interviewees adds that, ‘the time I really miss a male presence is when I’m in bed watching a movie’. Another girl, Ellie, comically describes a time in which she was egged on her way home from a club. But her gloomy afterthought is that, ‘there was no one to hug me better’. Especially when in a house with non-inclusive bills, a bed companion would be welcomed with open (albeit, shivering) arms.
In theory, there is no reason why a long-distance relationship has to fail. Tom, a second year, has relied on Skype for communication between Leeds and Edinburgh for almost two years. He clarifies that it is about mentally being with the person even if he cannot physically be there, calling it ‘a little date every night’. Another second year in a long-distance relationship, Jess, states the bonus of never getting bored with her other half. She describes the situation saying – ‘when it’s all you really know, you get used to it’.
Nevertheless, sustaining the spark, long-term, is laden with potential pitfalls. Jess warns, ‘it can be difficult planning when to see each other because of work commitments’; meetings must be planned far in advance. Third year Gemma explains why the restrictions of being in a long-distance relationship eventually led to a break-up. Her boyfriend’s university was three hours away and she illustrates how difficult it was not having enough time to travel down to see each other. ‘It was a case of balancing a life at university with lots of weekends away, when we both had very separate lives and social groups.’ A long-distance relationship is just another thing to juggle. And when the university workload increases, this can be a tricky task.
Personally, I was surprised by how few people gave up relationships for the beginning of university. I had been under the impression that Freshers would be a testosterone-fuelled, free-for-all. However, unlike me, a good half of my flatmates maintained their pre-university relationships. This meant that my first week of university was laden with conflicting emotions. On the one hand I was, unsurprisingly, upset at breaking up with my ex, on the other it forced me to be more sociable than I would have been otherwise. And by the Wednesday of Freshers, a new boy had already emerged on the scene. Over a year later, we remain incredibly happy. Gooeyness aside, who would’ve thought that accepting a sambuca shot from a stranger at a packed 90s night would end so well?!
As with any relationship, there are pros and cons to being a ‘couple on campus’. Aside from the obvious ‘fun factor’, university relationships lack the ‘expiry date’ that comes with many high school romances. This is important because it provides the couple with the chance to act like civilised adults. Date nights and restaurant trips are a pleasant escape from the university bubble of icy houses and long hours spent procrastinating in Eddy B.
Despite this, if you live near each other at university, it is unlikely you will be as lucky during the lengthy holidays. There is always the fear of neglecting studies for your other half. I must confess to missing a seminar this morning as a marathon of Modern Family and snuggling proved far too tempting. Also, living so close to each other means that bickering over the smallest issues is inevitable; my boyfriend and I came disturbingly close to having an argument about an onion last week. But the looming worry remains the awkward break-up. Though this appears to be only a minor concern as our second year interviewee Kate explains, ‘I haven’t ever bumped into my ex on campus, it’s so big’. There are so many people at Leeds that university life need not be affected by the making and breaking of campus relationships.
Ultimately, there are no conclusive dating rules applicable to university. There is no reason you have to end a relationship for it, or be in one at all. As one of the students sees it, ‘if you go looking for action, you will get it’ – there are, after all, various perks to being single. But, anyone can benefit from the multitude of opportunities on offer. Whatever your relationship status, university is what you make of it.