Compared to most, I had a rather unconventional university experience. For most students, going to university is all about independence. You say goodbye to your family and friends, and at the beginning, you’re pretty much on your own. However, moving into halls means you soon find your feet in a new social group, and before you know it, it feels like a second home. That’s the typical experience that’s shown in countless movies, TV shows, and it’s what usually happens for most students. However, for me, things were pretty different.
At the time of choosing our universities, my boyfriend and I made the decision to pick the same five choices, with the ultimate goal of going to the same one and getting a flat together. You may think that’s a ridiculous decision – how likely would it have been anyway? Well actually, despite me having multiple panic attacks about it, it wasn’t quite as difficult as it sounded. Of course, with every university having different entry requirements for different courses (I studied psychology, he studied computing), it took an awful lot of planning. We genuinely spent an afternoon in front of two monitors comparing entry requirements for half the universities in the UK. We eventually narrowed our choices down, and our five choices matched. Even when it got to picking our top two choices, we picked the same, just in case.
Thankfully, A-level results day meant that we ended up going to our first choice, the University of Northampton. Then the fun really began. We both decided that we didn’t want to go into halls or a house share, so we began searching for flats. However, finding a privately rented flat that the landlord will willingly let to students with no source of income was incredibly difficult. Thankfully, one little gem came up on the university housing list and we took the executive decision to go with it.
So we were all set. Moving to Northampton was so much less scary because we had each other. We moved in a good week before the freshers events began so that we had enough time to get settled and to get to know the area. Even though we weren’t in halls, we were determined to still be part of everything that was going on. However, it was easier said than done.
We headed off to our first freshers’ event together a week later – a T-shirt party. It was what it says on the tin – you were given a T-shirt which you’d write your name on and things would go from there. However, no one goes to university as a couple. No one wanted to talk to us because they instantly assumed that either we were a creepy couple that went to uni together (which lets face it, that was pretty true), or they didn’t want to interfere with two people who’d looked like they’d just pulled. Either way, it was a pretty uneventful evening and no one really spoke to us. Most freshers’ events went down that way, so we didn’t go to as many as we should have. Not only that, but because our flat was pretty expensive rent wise, we couldn’t quite afford as many nights out as those in halls.
Starting classes officially gave the promise that things would get more sociable, and for my boyfriend it did. We were both on different campuses so it meant that we both had the chance to meet new people. But because I was shy and didn’t particularly have a lot of confidence, it took me months to find my feet. The people I hung around with initially had a ton of inside jokes because they were all in the same halls together, and because my campus was a good hours’ walk from my flat, it meant that I had to politely decline the already rare invitations to house parties and nights out.
Looking back, I now realise I’d dug myself a hole. Being shy was my problem and I didn’t particularly make the effort with people. I just expected them to come to me. All in all, first year was pretty lonely on campus. Things fizzled with the group I met during freshers’ week, and I met a few people in between but it didn’t exactly feel like I’d made any real friends. Of course, going home to the person I loved most in the world made everything better at the end of the day, but being by myself during the day when everyone had already established their friendship groups really started to take its toll.
Thankfully, towards the end of my second year I’d established a pretty good friendship with two girls on my course, and by third year we were having regular nights out. If anything, third year was definitely the most social for me. I had the most nights out I’d ever had during my third year, and I was definitely the happiest I’d been in those three years.
So, what’s my point? Well, I guess my situation was a bit of a rare thing, but for those who are in a similar one, this post is for you. Let me get this straight, I have no regrets about moving in with my boyfriend. However, I think I should have lowered my expectations. Even though I wasn’t doing the halls or the shared house experience, I still expected to establish the ultimate group of friends and have that amazing social life that students supposedly have. Unfortunately that was not the case. My point is, if you do make that decision, you may find that you need to work a little harder if you want to make friends. I’m absolutely not saying that friendships will just fall into your lap if you move into halls because that’s not the case. You’ll need to put in the work regardless. Just a little more so if you go down a similar path to me.
It’s not all bad news though. My boyfriend is now my husband, and in February this year we celebrated 10 years of being together. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have made it if we didn’t go to uni together, but I’m not entirely sure a long distance relationship would have been for us. So many people would roll their eyes when we told them our decision, but I like to think we proved them all wrong. We made some wonderful memories during our time at university and we knew that we couldn’t wait to move back home after graduation to be with our friends and family.
So if you’re in a similar situation, my advice to you is simply to put in a little more effort when it comes to making friends. With the relationship side of stuff, it’s not going to be easy for sure, but again, if you’re willing to put in the work, there’s a good chance that things will work out in your favour.
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