A first year’s guide to dating at the University of York

To break up and ride the wave, or to stay together and just get the train. That is the question…


The first year of uni is like wandering into an amusement park – attractions everywhere and so many rides to choose from.

Away from the familiarity of home, students ditch their old partners, or simply embrace their single life, and look forward to a never-ending rollercoaster of sexual exploration.

Before you get ready to dive into the plastic-bottomed lake that is UoY, here is some advice from other York students:

1. Being single

The common piece of advice given to a fresher is to be single when coming to university. With the chaos of meeting new people, joining new societies and learning to be an independent being, relationships and their commitments can cause too much stress during what is supposed to be the most exciting time of life.

Most couples aren't used to being away from each other for longer than a few days and will then spend all their money on train tickets to visit each other, money that could be spent in Courtyard (or a non-drinking activity, maybe). It's not selfish to prioritise yourself when you first come to uni – these experiences often shape the rest of a student's life, from the partying and new friends, to the career and social commitments they make that may take up most of their time. If the relationship is limiting your ability to engage in university life to the fullest extent, there is no shame in going your separate ways.

2. Exploring

Whether it be sexually exploring the Derwent rugby team or going on Tinder dates (or both), university is a time where there is something for everyone, with no right or wrong answers. There are so many opportunities to meet new people.

You can have a one-night stand and then perhaps meet your future boyfriend while sitting in the library the next day! Don't be afraid to say yes because you think others may perceive you as promiscuous; at the end of the day, it's you and not them who will be able to recognise your likes and dislikes when it comes to proper relationships. By the same token, it's okay to say no to any encounters you may be uncomfortable with, and it is not a prerequisite of your first year to get with every person who asks you to come back with them.

Another tip – try not to explore with those closest to you (e.g. flatmates or course mates), as it can lead to some awkward encounters in term two, when you realise that you have to see them literally. Every. Day. Sometimes, you can get away with dating someone on the same course (to psychology students, I'd recommend sitting behind the glass panes at the top of the lecture hall to avoid being seen) but dating someone in the same tutorial class may be too intimate.

3. Staying in your relationship

Not all people find that they need to give up their relationships when starting uni. Their partner could be close enough to visit regularly, they may be used to long distances, or just have good communication.

A benefit of being in a relationship is that you maintain that pillar of support whilst being in a completely new environment, and this can ground some people, knowing that they have someone to moan to at the end of the day. It also eliminates the possibility of running into classmates when doing the walk of shame.

Additionally, dating is not the primary way to meet new people and create new friendships. For someone in this situation, it can take away the urgency others feel to find a mate and allow them to instead focus on engaging with others on a more meaningful and longer-lasting level.

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Sometimes a relationship can be the support you need at such a vital time in your life

Interestingly, some students believe that coming to university in a relationship was a beneficial learning curve, as it allowed them to fully understand how their lives were no longer compatible with their partner's. This can be a physical marker that shows a student what they want and don’t want, possibly leading them to a journey of emotional self-discovery.

Ultimately, the choice is yours, and each situation is different. The lesson when dating at university is to listen to your instincts and don’t expect your experiences to be identical to those of your friends and flatmates, as it will only lead to you sat crying in a nightclub bathroom. Trust me.