Those of us that have experienced the highs and lows of halls life will know that living in halls is like living in fast forward. Friendships, relationships, and even hatred will beautifully blossom before you have time to blink. If the idea of this sets your insides into a panic-stricken tap-dance, don’t worry. You’re not alone. In some ways, halls life is like a brief blip in reality. Not only have you been uprooted from everything and everybody you hold near and dear, but suddenly you find yourself living with strangers in exactly the same situation. However, once all of the awkward and shuffling hellos and how are yous are out of the way, you start to appreciate the plethora of fascinating and varied people within your community.
And then there’s Freshers’ Week.
Let’s face it. The majority of us do not come to University to get down to the grind from the first moment. There’s socialising, partying and the occasional close encounter (winkwink) that embellishes Freshers’ Week; a week dedicated to making freshers feel as much a part of the University community as possible. When people take those initial steps on campus, they do so with individual expectations… some more desirable than others. A perfectly decent and morally righteous person can reboot into FAF mode the moment they realise they’re surrounded by multitudes of the opposite sex (and if you don’t know what FAF means, congratulations, you remain uncorrupted). It does not take Einstein to guess why Easy Tiger stuffs so many free condoms into the hands of frenzied freshers, with one aim, during that first week.
However, once the excitement of Freshers’ Week has calmed somewhat, hall life will begin to settle into a more stable rhythm. It is at this point that you will inevitably notice couples (rather than casuals) sprouting up around you. For many people, life on the relationship front really begins at University. Though in-hall couples are common, the harsh truth is that it rarely works out. When asked, many ‘been-there, done-that’ students simply shake their heads and mutter between themselves. There’s little point in skirting around the fact that such situations are tricky, to say the least. In any relationship it is important to spend time apart, developing friendships as well as ‘being a couple.’ When couples are in the same halls, however, this major building block of a successful relationship is often hard to achieve. After all, you’re living, partying and (of course) working in the same place. A relationship that would have taken several months to solidly establish in the ‘outside world,’ is suddenly launched full throttle within a matter of weeks, in the cocoon of the hall. In a matter of days or weeks, those shy little glances across the pool table can become an intrinsic involvement in each other’s lives.
Exciting, fast-moving and explosive? Yes, but equally volatile in the long run. In many cases, the glamour of being in such close quarters quickly fades, and unless time is balanced wisely between friends and partners, in-hall couples swiftly feel the strain. Sadly, too, the halls environment makes cheating or becoming bored with somebody very easy. Any such strains can bring out the ugly side of even the most fabulous of people, and you can find yourself dating a stranger. If the worst should happen, both parties can be left with the unbearable nails-scratching-a-board awkwardness of running into each other. Equally distressing is having the wider community discussing the juicy details. Worst of all? Witnessing the other moving on. So, in an environment where the likelihood of the relationship working out is about as probable as a flying pig, why do so many hall-dwellers choose to take the plunge, year after year, despite all the advice to the contrary?
Well life, they say, is for living. There’s no point in advising those new to halls life to avoid shacking up with their fellow roomies. It will happen. The advantage of living away from home is that you’re given breathing space to make your own mistakes and learn from them. So with this in mind, and the inescapability of in-halls relationships springing up regardless of the warnings, try to remember these three pieces of advice: Firstly, if problem-free coupledom is what you’re after, take time to get to know somebody; a relationship does not have to travel at the pace of a rocket just because you’re in close quarters. Secondly, take time to make friends. Genuine, fun, brilliant friends. These people will be your faithful leaning posts, should you find your relationship tumbling from the stars to the shit in a matter of weeks. Most importantly, have fun! You don’t want to spend your year in halls avoiding or arguing with somebody that you’ve only recently met; you should be having fun with them, and everybody else! It’s not much to remember, but it will help you and that special someone to keep that close connection.