Going the distance…

Long-distance relationships in Cambridge


Perhaps you're a fresher, reading this after waving a tearful goodbye to your hometown partner and making the bittersweet journey to Cambridge. Maybe a blissful summer of love has come to an end as your return to uni ushers in autumn. Possibly your boyfriend or girlfriend graduated, leaving you to tackle Cambridge without them. Long-distance relationships are never ideal, but the transient nature of University makes them surprisingly common for students.

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The sad snapchat – a staple of the LDR

Exactly a year ago, I wanted to write an article with the same title, but with a wildly different opinion – I even pitched it in my interview for fresher columnist. Thank goodness I didn't, because my two-year-long relationship lasted only one month after moving to Cambridge. Any opinions on this topic are subjective; I can only talk from personal experience and that of friends (pls don't dump your sixth form sweetheart because of this article – I don't want to be the anti-cupid).

Long-distance relationships are hard. Long-distance relationships in Cambridge are harder. University is a place for 'finding yourself' (for those of us who didn't trek the Himalayas during a gap yah), developing independently of your parents, breaking the mould you form in school, and becoming a real-life grown-up adult-type person. No wonder, then, that having such a tie to home can feel like a muzzle on your newfound wings.

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A very professional and thought-provoking symbol of me in freshers' week

For many, their years as a student are filled with sexual experimentation – here, we have the space to discover what we like and how we like it. Harbouring a secret desire to try something new in this liberal environment is common for people in LDRs, yet this often comes with guilt and shame; it is tricky to be spontaneous and experimental when you only see your lover a few times a term. Even for those who don't feel sexually inhibited, the phrase 'ball and chain' is apt – it is difficult not to feel like you're missing out on a real student lifestyle.

Also, can we just talk about phone sex for a second? I'm sure it's 'hot' in some circumstances, but if it is your only consistent form of intimacy, it is just depressing. Trust me…

These problems are universal at any university; Cambridge has the added problem of the bubble. Studying here is a very insular experience – saying that other people don't understand doesn't make you a brat. My relationship survived being long-distance for nearly two years, but ended almost as soon as I matriculated. With an abnormally large and time-consuming workload, unique traditions, the 'special' (read: tragic) Cambridge nightlife, really-not-that-confusing-but-nobody-else-seems-to-get-it collegiate system, and all-consuming hatred of *the other place*, it is no wonder that others don't understand.

My ex was jealous that I would be college-married to someone else and consistently told me that I worked too hard (even though everyone else worked similar hours to me). It was frustrating; someone that previously knew me so well gradually didn't know or understand my life at all. Growing apart, particularly in such an isolated community, is natural.

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True love conquers all etc etc

That is not to dismiss all LDRs out of hand. I repeat, I do not want to crush your dreams. If you can do it, do it! I take my hat off to those who make it work. Visiting your partner is a regular and fulfilling way of escaping the bubble and taking a break from the Cambridge intensity. The excitement of seeing your boyfriend or girlfriend after a long period apart is incredible – every date feels like your first. Moreover, with an LDR, you can have the satisfaction of a relationship without the consistent distraction from work, friends, or societies.

Despite this, everyone I know who came to uni with a partner is no longer in that relationship. I believe that LDRs are more often chains from the past than foundations for the future. Still, only you know what's best for you and your relationship.

You do you boo; just don't feel obliged to stay if it's not working.