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I’m engaged and a fresher – am I loving it?

Newspaper announcements, magazine features and what having a relationship through uni has taught me

I'm 19 years old and engaged to the man I intend to spend the rest of my life with. Strange? Yes. Quite an intimidating intro line for socialising in the JCR? Definitely.

I actually met Zac, 20, for the first time after a friend bought him back from a club night. With a shaved head and wearing what once resembled tracksuits I (funnily enough) did not immediately see him as the man I would spend the rest of my life with. In fact – I hid the family silver collection from him.

Our first conversation was me telling him if he didn't get out of my bed I'd just get in next to him and his female companion. Lo and behold, little on nine months later we were engaged.

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The night I said yes

Three months of friends with benefits, three months of an open relationship then three months of living together and that was enough to know I wanted to spend every moment of the rest of my life with this egomaniac. So, I took a gap year, he proposed and we lived together for little over a year before uni.

It was idyllic, we were living with his mother in West London, 15 minutes from my parents – he tutored during the day and I nannied twin babies. The next couple of months was a blur of celebration meals, meeting extended family and formalising the newspaper announcements.

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Our newspaper announcement for the Times and Telegraph

So. An amazing year of mini-breaks – Benguera, South of France, Prague, Italy and Sri Lanka took place. We spent a maximum of four hours a day apart and I loved him more and more. Then before we knew it university had arrived.

We knew it had been coming and we were both excited – not disillusioned to the fact this was a step we would both eventually have to take, we prepared to move apart. He stayed at home, choosing UCL over Oxford, and I prepared to move to a uni I hadn't even seen yet.

It was surreal. I went from having someone next to me 24/7 who knew every detail of my life to being on a huge campus with no one I knew. I generally try to be quite 'belt and braces' about emotional situations but for the first time in a very long time I was lonely.

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I spent half of my first night in my room trying to hide the empty feeling I had – it wasn't just him I missed, it was the community we'd built for ourselves back at home. I struggled to not resent him for not having to leave it all behind, staying at home meant he hadn't needed to face any change. However, after a soppy phone call on loud speaker to my parents and him, following my mothers instructions I 'put on a short skirt and went out to party'.

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Preparing for said partying

I was really lucky, I found a big group I meshed with straight away, having people to be around constantly helped to make me feel less alone. (S.O. to my group of girls!).

Then I began to realise what a bizarre experience going to a uni club night as an engaged woman is

Reason number one of why this was a bizarre experience is that people seem to think it's okay to judge what I go out in simply because I'm marrying someone. I don't know what kind of 18th-century-world we live in but in case people were slow on the catch up – if a girl in a relationship wants to wear a cute crop top out, that's not your place to correct them. If a girl with a boyfriend, girlfriend or partner wants to dress her way then let her!

Reason number two that made clubbing a bizarre experience was the fact that some people appeared to judge me for admiring other people at clubs – literally just agreeing that someone was peng. Now, I love Zac – more than anything under the sun, however, this does not mean my eyes don't work. I am marrying Zac for so much more than a solid pair of cheekbones so you need not panic at my suggestion that another male is attractive. People in relationships are still allowed to have eyes!

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One very solid pair of cheekbones

After getting used to what clubbing in a relationship meant, I then had to approach balancing my uni life with my relationship

I'd watched all my friends in second year struggle with this – long distance doesn't always make the heart grow fonder. Having agreed to see each other every two/three weeks, I lasted a week before demanding he came down. I wanted the intimacy that I'd got used to having daily and I needed a break from trying to forge new friendships. He came down and we spent the weekend locked away in my room, the next weekend I went up to London and we did the same thing. It wasn't really working.

We were loving spending time together, and sure the intimacy was back, but it was claustrophobic. We were so focussed on making up for the lost time we weren't doing the things that make us happy. In hindsight I would recommend getting out there more, I should have spent more time with my group getting to know Zac before burrowing back into my room. It's okay for me to spend a couple of hours at a friends room when he comes up and it's okay for him to spend the morning kickboxing if I come down. Space is just as important as time together.

We've just had our first weekend apart…

…and sure we missed each other, but it feels healthier, it's more of an excitement of being able to see each other soon than a sadness at having not seen him for a fortnight. I'm sure we'll have our bumps and I still have evenings where I really miss him and evenings where I struggle with wanting to go out but it's so much better than I thought it would be. Our relationship feels stronger and definitely more realistic – we couldn't have stayed in that 'gap yah' bubble forever and I wouldn't have made some of the amazing friendships I have if I hadn't made this move.

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Up North and forging friendships!

If, after my full five weeks of long distance, I had any advice to impart I would say:

Get stuck in, be open with your friends about where you are – its equally okay to be having fun and not missing your SO as it is to be missing them.

Don't act like uni isn't permanent – find a society to become a family with. Water polo has really helped me feel like Notts is my second home whereas before I had been treating it like part-time education.

If all else fails – just remember you only spend 19.5 months at Uni in three years and then that's it – make the most of it, don't waste it wishing you were somewhere else, boyfriends, girlfriends and fiancé's will still be there loving you come holidays!

Good luck to all those out there in long distance relationships – you can do it!

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