Starting university: a guide for students

White curve
Relationships

Relationships at university can be intense. If you come to university already in a relationship, you may struggle to maintain it - or you may be able to flourish and appreciate one another more.

Everyone is different. Some want a long term commitment, others want a number of partners. Some are not looking for a partner at all. Wherever you fit into this is what is right for you.

For some people, not finding a partner can be hard - yet maybe this is a time to work on self-acceptance and build a better relationship with themselves first. Sometimes therapy can be helpful to understand yourself better before embarking on a relationship.

All relationships do not have to lead to sex. Move at your own speed, don’t do anything that you are uncomfortable with, practice safe sex and seek medical advice if you think you may be pregnant or have a sexually transmitted disease.

Without causing worry, remember that sex without consent is sexual assault or rape. You can’t give or receive consent if the partner is too drunk or asleep. If you find yourself in this position, seek support as soon as possible - your university will help anyone in this situation, male or female.

In general, students tend to fall into one of two categories:

Optimist or worrier diagram

The Optimist

It’s natural to look forward to finding a partner, or several partners, without being under scrutiny from family or friends that you’ve known your whole life.

Dating can be very interesting at this age - it can sometimes be an opportunity to explore your sexuality away from possible family judgement. Practice safe sex if you are sexually active and always remember consent.

If you can be yourself, you have a better chance of finding the right partner. With luck, things will fall into place over time.

Two students sitting on steps studying

The Worrier

You may be worried about finding a partner, or concerned about being expected to move too quickly into a sexual relationship. You may equally be concerned about maintaining an existing long-distance relationship or wanting to break up to experience uni life fully.

If you haven’t had a partner before university, it could be that you’re hoping that this will present new opportunities for you. If you’re shy, take advantage of chances to be sociable that you feel comfortable with. If a relationship begins, move at your own pace sexually and don’t assume you have to have sex if you are not ready (remember consent).

If you’re in a relationship already, keeping it going long distance can be hard but it’s not impossible. Stay in contact but allow each other space at the same time to grow and enjoy the new experiences. Your relationship will be stronger in the long run if you do this.

Should your relationship break up, seek support from friends or possibly counselling if you are really struggling with the loss: don’t bottle up your emotions. Perhaps you found someone else and feel guilty for ending the relationship: this is all normal yet there are always emotional consequences to remember and consider.

And, of course, you may not want a relationship at the moment at all - that’s your choice and no one else’s. There is no pressure for you to conform.

Boy looking away from the camera

Resources

Resource

Starting University

A resource for young people about to start university

View resource
Resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult times

View resource
Resource

Warning signs poster

A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.

View resource

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