We’ve all seen them, the lists of ‘top advice for freshers’ that flood the internet around this time of year. They feature helpful and well-meaning advice such as ‘learn how to cook pasta’, ‘don’t be a dick about the dishes’, or ‘try something new!’
But the more damaging advice is there too – nestled discreetly amonst these snippets of counsel that you’ll listen to blindly when starting the daunting and overwhelming experience that is university – and it’s the cutting remark: ‘don’t go to uni with a boyfriend or girlfriend‘ that will ring in most people’s ears after they’ve finished reading.
Don’t get me wrong, for some people this might be the advice they needed to hear, to help them realise that their relationship with Dan from year 10 wasn’t quite as romantic and passion filled as they’d believed, now that they’ve found themselves miles away from each other and surrounded by new people. But what worries me is the way that this piece of ‘advice’ leads to people intrinsically linking having a good time and being single at uni.
Undoubtedly, university – with all its new experiences and opportunities – goes hand in hand wth being free and potentially single. But damaging articles circulating the web claim that being single is the only way to enjoy your time at university, something which aside from being untrue can also lead to people doubting themselves, their relationships and their uni experience.
Articles such as this one, published in the Guardian, tells freshers that they shouldn’t ‘even think about starting uni in a relationship’. Whilst the article definitely raises some important questions (such as encouraging people to re-evaluate relationships that might have gone stale long ago), the attempt to dish out unasked for, one size fits all advice has the potential to worry some people, when in reality it doesn’t apply to their situation.
University is an incredibly stressful time, a breeding ground for depression, anxiety and other issues that come from the pressure felt from all sides to have the best time of your life – whilst conforming to an idealised notion of hooking up with tons of people.
But there are tons of reasons why uni doesn’t have be all about getting with people. The chance to join societies and take up activities you’d never have thought of, make loads of new friends who share common interests with you, and learn how to look after yourself (or at least attempt to) are all components that make university the incredible experience it is – and none of them are affected by whether you’re single or in a relationship.
For some people, the omnipresent single propaganda can make their time at uni incredibly hard. It’s easy to feel isolated and like you have nothing in common with your new mates if they’re all swapping stores of hook ups, and you’re feeling inadequate in your committed relationship. But if university is as much about embracing freedom as everyone makes out, then surely we should be embracing people’s freedom of choice – instead of telling people their choice to be in a relationship means they’re ‘missing out’ or ‘not doing uni properly’.
For me, on top of (shock horror) being able to enjoy uni without being single, I’d go so far as to say I couldn’t get through uni without my boyfriend. In an incredibly daunting time there are undoubtedly infinite examples of times when it’s been a saving grace to speak to someone who understands me, as well as understanding the stress of uni and the pressure on us to have the best years of your lives.
Fundamentally, university should be an amazing experience where you feel able to be yourself, not somewhere were you feel like the only way you can do it properly is by being single.