YCA Week One: Diving Back In

Left out of groupchats, worried about accom, dating someone struggling with their mental health, and much more!

Hello, hello, hello! What’s that? Your Aunts are back? Yep, you heard right, we’re diving head-first into our week one column, no-nonsense style. Want some niceties and further introductions? Check out our week zero intro column. We’ve got a lot to unpack, so let’s empty those suitcases.

Remember, there’s three of us working on the column now after the addition of the fantastic Emily so this week’s advice will be extra spicy.

Q1: Hi ! Love what you’re doing ! I guess my question/worry is about my friend group.We’ve gotten a long so well during michaelmas term (I’m a fresher) but during Lent most of them stayed in college and I went home. It sort of seems like since the beginning of Lent they’ve ‘forgotten’ me and carried on with their lives without me. Although it’s a bit meaningless, I think they also have a group chat without me… I’m not sure how to take it, I might be overthinking it but should I talk to them about it?

We’re so sorry to hear that you’re feeling like this, but first and foremost we want to say that even if they do have a group chat without you, this definitely isn’t a problem.  Yes, it may make it feel like you’re being excluded but realistically, if you were at home, they probably set it up to organise things without making you feel left out. If you feel more isolated in the friendship group, the best thing to do is talk to them.  Don’t allow your (completely valid!) anxieties to undermine your relationships with them.

I think it’s also important to realise that, naturally, you will not be as close to them as they are with each other simply because you weren’t here last term. They will have new inside jokes and stories that they laugh about but please don’t let this upset you! If anything, be happy that they had a good time and have plenty of stories and drama to update you on! The best thing to do is to avoid villanising them – it’s not their fault that they ended up spending time last term without you – blame it on le pandemic! Just have a casual conversation with them about how you’re feeling, get yourself updated on all the tea and then let the times you missed out on drive you to see each other more! I’m sure you’ll all have a great Easter term!

Q2: I’m pretty worried about finding somewhere to live after my college contract is up. I won’t be given accommodation next year, but as an international during COVID, I really don’t know much about the UK, including the rental market, bills, taxes, or even the currency. I have special accommodation requirements so I’m really worried that I won’t find a place I can afford. The colleges know it’s important to house undergrads, but they think it’s fine to chuck postgrads out onto the street…

This is definitely not a subject that we specialise in, but again we are so sorry that you have to deal with this and can’t imagine how horrendously stressful it must be.  If you have special accommodation requirements, it may be worth speaking to the DRC.  We would also definitely recommend that you make an appointment to talk this through with your tutor ASAP!

Q3: At what point is it okay to tell your partner their mental health issues are making them a bad partner – I know they can’t fix their situation overnight but I also can’t be an infinite sponge for anger, sadness and frustration especially given everything else going on right now

You’re absolutely right about not being the sole bearer of your partner’s mental health. This can (and sounds like it is) taking a toll on your own wellbeing. As soon as this situation starts negatively impacting you, I think it’s fair to have a conversation about it. Whilst it is essential for you to be there for them, you can be there for your partner in other ways than just listening to what they have to say about mental health. 

A sit down chat with your partner is the first thing you can do to help both of you. Don’t blame them for their mental health but just chat about the impact it’s having on you so that they understand how you feel. Certain issues can be particularly heavy – just explain this to them. You are still there to chat and happy to listen to their worries but for your own wellbeing, you may sometimes have to take a step back from this. That is okay! 

After explaining your situation to them, you can discuss new ways in which you can support one another – maybe dates or meeting up can provide a distraction from the pandemic and life in general, maybe you can study together or work on a project together that doesn’t involve talking about the issues that were impacting you both. Whatever it is, try and find fresh ways to spend time together that both of you enjoy. 

I would also add that if your partner isn’t speaking to a professional that this might be a good suggestion to make. Whether they reach out to their college counsellor or talk to someone via the University Counselling Service, you can support them and encourage them to do so. As soon as your partner is able to talk to a professional, you don’t have to be the sole person helping them out and the weight is distributed.

I was once in a similar situation and as soon as my partner reached out for help, a massive weight was lifted from my shoulders – I didn’t even realise how much it had been impacting me. If someone else is there to help your partner, then you can focus on your relationship instead of being their counsellor 24/7. All because they have someone else to talk to! Whatever you decide to do, the main takeaway from this is that what you’re feeling is okay. Do not feel guilty about it! Sounds like you need to start by having an open and honest conversation over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Q4:My gf is back in Cam, I’m stuck at home. She has less time for me now because she wants to catch up with her friends (which I understand), but our first anniversary is approaching and I’d really like to spend it together (online) – but she says she’s meeting with friends that evening. I’m not sure whether she’s sending me a message that I’m not her first priority anymore, or maybe anniversaries just aren’t important to her? (can’t know, it’s the first one) She says things are good between us but I’m not sure anymore

In an upcoming podcast episode, Leila and Amira delved into this question quite deep, but since we’re very generous we decided to give this question some space in the column. 

A tl;dr of Leila and Amira’s conversation in the unreleased pod episode is essentially that: it depends. Is your gf the type of person to actually care about a one-year anniversary or not? Even so, have you expressed to her that it matters to you? Relationships are about compromise, but also about honest communication. If you haven’t expressed the importance of this event for you or the way that her behaviour is making you feel then you can’t jump to conclusions about how she’s feeling. Once you’re in a committed relationship you really shouldn’t be questioning whether your other half is sending you subliminal messages: talk it out. 

Equally, I tend to believe in following your gut feeling. It’s telling you something. That something might not be that your partner doesn’t care about you, but rather that you’re not as compatible as you initially thought. You need to figure out whether you’re diverging in a way that’s irreconcilable, or if this is a small bump in the road before your paths start converging again.

Q5: Hi, I was hoping you could advise me and others in this situation. The other day someone in my household broke the law regarding COVID restrictions. Not just the college COVID rules but the law as well by having an outside guest in our household. They warned us in our household group chat first and others in the household seem okay with it but I’m not comfortable with living with someone breaking the law. Is there any way to help stop this from happening in future without snitching to college? Thanks

Be honest with your other housemates and tell them that this makes you feel uncomfortable. Most people would be happy to hear your concerns! But also realise that even a conversation like this may not fully stop them from sneaking people past you in future. 

If you find this conversation particularly awkward or daunting then you can always anonymously reach out to the JCR. The JCR President at my college sent out a very informal email recommending that households talk to each other and discuss what people feel comfortable with in terms of COVID and the pandemic- they even sent a list of questions that could be used to get started. This email then gave people a reason to have the conversations rather than someone having to initiate it themselves. I had a really lovely conversation with my household and now we’re all in the same boat regarding what we’re comfortable with in these strange times!  

Also, ask yourself, is your problem with your housemate’s actions a fear of COVID, or a fear of the law?  If it’s the former then this seems entirely valid and it makes sense to ask them to take any necessary measures to avoid transmission. You could suggest on the group chat that the visitor stays in your housemate’s room or only uses their equipment/facilities. But if it is the latter then you may seem pedantic and it isn’t your job to police other people’s behaviour. Try not to seem petty and have a conversation with your household before you start clamping down on the people you live with!

Well, that’s all from us this week…

We have an exciting Freshers Special podcast episode, specially designed to help ease the stress of being an incoming offer holder. If you’re an incoming Fresher, we know you’ve got a million-and-one questions to ask and worries to share, so off you pop to our submissions form to share them.

We’ve decided to stop theming our weekly columns, so feel free to submit (almost) anything you’re worried about here. What’s that? Relationship problems? Again? Alright then, into the submissions box that goes.

If you haven’t listened to earlier episodes of the podcast, what are you doing? Seriously, it’s a remote term; what else are you doing with your time? And while you’re at it, you may as well give us a follow on Instagram (@yourcollegeaunts).


Your College Aunts x

Have any worries?

Here is the link for next week, submit questions to your heart’s content.

Want to be our next guest?

Did you ever find yourself listening to the podcast last term thinking that you could’ve added something interesting to the discussion? Well, here’s your chance to be a guest on the podcast! All you need to do is fill out this form proposing a theme for an episode and tell us why you think you would be a great guest. Go on, apply! What have you got to lose?

Featured image credit: Leila Lawrence and Amira Nandhla