Agony Aunt April

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Q: Dear Agony Aunt April,

I am a first year student living in halls of residence and recently, after a drunken night out, I slept with one of my flatmates. In the cold light of day I realised it was a mistake and shouldn’t have happened. However, my flatmate has made it clear that she really likes me and wants more. I have tried to let her down gently but feel guilty as I’ve already slept with her. Since that night things have been very awkward between us and also our other flatmates, who found out about what happened. I’m really worried about this, especially as we were all planning to get a house together next year. I just wish that night had never happened! What can I do? Please help.

A: Firstly, stop panicking! You won’t be the first or last person to regret a one night stand with a flatmate in your first year. Starting University is an amazing but crazy time and you’re allowed to make mistakes. The important thing is how you act now. Obviously you don’t want to hurt your flatmate but if you’re really not interested in anything more than friendship, the kindest thing to do is to make this clear to her. Choose a time when you won’t be interrupted and then sit her down and explain that you’re very sorry but you only see her as a good friend who you don’t want to lose and would like to continue living with. Hopefully she will appreciate your honesty, accept your feelings and be able to move on – it’s Uni, there are plenty of guys out there and she’ll soon meet someone else!

Until that happens, just try and be sensitive towards her feelings. For example, if you do meet a girl you like, go back to hers and don’t parade her in front of your flatmate. Additionally, you could try talking to your other flatmates about what happened. Don’t make them feel like they have to take sides but explain how awkward you’ve been feeling and ask for their help in getting things back to normal. I’m sure they will be just as eager as you to get the flat dynamic back on track! As for living together next year, don’t rush into anything. Give it a few weeks and then see how things are between you and this girl. If it’s still awkward and doesn’t seem to be getting any better, maybe you should consider going your separate ways next year. Is there anyone else in your halls or on your course that you could see yourself living with? Don’t be afraid to ask. On the other hand, if it seems like things are back to normal between your flatmates then go ahead and house hunt together – and let this incident remind you never to go there with a housemate again!

Q: Dear Agony Aunt April,

I’m in my final year of Uni and am having some trouble deciding what to do next. I have always really wanted to travel, and a few of my friends have invited me to go with them after we graduate, but, after 3 years of Uni, I feel under pressure to get straight out into the world of work and start building a career. I know that this is what my parents, who have supported me through Uni, would like me to do, as they are worried that future employers will look badly on me ‘wasting time’ travelling. What do you think?

A: Obviously this is a personal decision, and there are potential advantages and disadvantages to both options. However, as you have said travelling is something you’ve always wanted to do, my advice would be to go for it! If you think about it, the period after University is going to be one of the best chances you get to travel whilst you’re young, assuming you can afford it. I can understand the pressure to start working, especially if you have a loan to pay off, but realistically you’re going to have the next 40 or 50 years to build your career – what’s the rush? If you get your foot onto the career ladder now, you may feel like you have too much to lose in the future by ‘upping sticks’ to travel. Added to that, the fact that you’ve got friends to go with seems like too good an opportunity to pass up – just make sure you travel to the places you want to visit, as well as accompanying them to their dream destinations!

As for your parents view on the subject, well, they’re entitled to their concerns, especially as they have been generous enough to support you through University. If it would also be your parents supporting you whilst travelling, you’re going to have to sell it to them. Explain to them that the majority of employers will only view you taking time out to travel as a good thing – after all, life experience can be just as beneficial as work experience. Perhaps the best way to convince them that you won’t be ‘wasting time’ is to decide to work or volunteer whilst you travel. This will not only help you to develop valuable skills to put on your CV but, if you relate it to your intended career, could also turn into unique work experience that’ll make you stand out from the crowd in the future. For example, if you’re interested in being a teacher, you could teach English as a foreign language to Chinese students. If you want to work in healthcare, you could volunteer at a hospital in Kenya or, if your ambition is to save the planet, experience working at a conservation centre in the Amazon may prove invaluable – the list is endless. Hopefully your parents will come round to the idea if you show them how much you want to see and experience the world, and that you’re not just going to spend six months getting drunk on a beach in Koh Samui! For more information on opportunities abroad, try visiting www.travellersworldwide.com or www.globalvolunteerprojects.org. Happy travels!

Q: Dear Agony Aunt April,

I’m down to my last few pennies and the next student loan instalment is still months away – I’m worried I’m not going to survive! I’ve been looking for a job but can’t find one anywhere. What can I do to make my cash go further?

A: Times are hard and, unfortunately for all of us, there is no (known) magic money tree growing in Portswood high street. The good news, however, is that there are plenty of things you can do to make the funds you do have last longer. First things first – work out how much money you have left and how many weeks there are until the next loan instalment. Divide the first number by the second and there you have your new weekly budget. It might be a good idea to only get this amount of cash out at the beginning of each week, and then hide your bank card or give it to a trusted friend to keep safe so you won’t be tempted to draw out more. Treat this cash as the only money you have for the week and spend it wisely. Shop at a cheaper supermarket and try to time it so that things are more likely to be reduced – Sunday afternoons are usually a good bet. Make sure you only buy essentials – alcohol doesn’t count I’m afraid! – and this way you’ll know that, even if you don’t manage to get a job, you will at least be able to make it through the next few months alive!

Now, onto ways you can make extra money to make life that bit more enjoyable. This might not be the ideal time of year to be job hunting but keep looking and eventually something will turn up. Try sending your CV to all the clubs in town – even if they don’t have any vacancies now, many will keep your record on file for the future. Do the same with the University – they will hold on to your details and let you know if any temp jobs come up. In the meantime, now IS the perfect time for a spring clean! Have a realistic clear out of your wardrobe or any Xbox games you don’t play anymore and get on eBay for an easy way to make instant cash. If you don’t already have an overdraft facility, this could be another option to look into. Most banks with student accounts will offer great deals on overdrafts – and even if you already have one, they may be able to extend it. Why not make an appointment to talk it over with them?

If all this fails and you find you really can’t afford to live, are there any family members that might be able to bail you out? Reassure them that you will pay them back as soon as your next loan instalment comes through, and – as difficult as it may be – remember to budget more strictly next semester so you won’t end up in this situation again. Good luck!

If you have a problem, however big or small, and think you could benefit from some friendly, confidential advice from a fellow student, please email alf1g10@soton.ac.uk. All questions, if published, will be done so anonymously.

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