A relationship: it can be one of the most beautiful experiences a person will ever go through. Imagine getting to spend all your time around that one special person that makes you smile, someone that gives you butterflies in your stomach whenever you look at them and someone to have deep conversations with that can go into the early hours of the morning. I can go on and on about the many things relationships can consist of, but hopefully, you have been lucky enough to have been in one, that’ll save me time having to spell it out for you.
But what happens when you combine a relationship with going to university, another one of life’s most treasured experiences. I’m sure you have been told countless times what an amazing time it will be – the lifelong friends you will make and how many parties you will attend. But most importantly that attending university means (for some) moving away from home.
For those who are in relationships, going to university may mean you are now in a long-distance relationship. Some couples can easily adapt to the changes of not having their significant other be in the same area code as them, but for some, it could be the main reason to end the relationship.
In this article, I sat down with two Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) students to discuss how their decision to attend university has affected their relationships. We discussed a variety of topics such as how it is important to have a supportive partner who will encourage and inspire you, not allowing someone else’s energy to interfere with your personality and that communication is the key to any successful relationship.
YOUNG & IN –LOVE…SO WE THOUGHT.
First up in this issue I interviewed a lovely dark-haired beauty (who prefers to remain anonymous)who I will call Lady Red. We meet at the infamous Norwich Playhouse on a breezy day, she had a coffee and I had a cold glass of lemon sparkling water (please try it, it’s so good). We began with some small talk, discussing things like eyeliner, name pronunciations and the list goes on. It all eventually leads to the topic at hand.
KIESHONA BROWN: So, tell me about your first long-distance relationship
LADY RED: OK. Well, he was my first boyfriend ever.
LR: Yea. I met him back home on a week-long school trip to Vietnam. He was in the year ahead of me, so we didn’t speak to each other for the entire trip. On the last day of the trip, the teachers arranged for us to spend the night on a boat.
LR: Yea! On the boat the cabins had complimentary bathrobes, so he and his roommate went out into the social area, with their bathrobes on and the first thing I ever said to him was‘are you wearing anything under that?’
LR: And since then even though we didn’t notice each other for the entire trip, on that last night we kinda just hit it off. It felt like we were already really close friends. Then a year later I was like ‘Hey! I really fucking like you’ (laughs). That happened towards the end of the year. And then in the summer, he went off to university in England, so we did the whole long-distance thing for an entire year. I only saw him during Christmas and Easter cause that’s when he had breaks and then I saw him the next summer. But overall it was really, really, really shit.
KB: Was it? What do you mean?
LR: (Laughs) The time differences. We would try to speak a lot but the time differences sucked, we couldn’t talk all the time. Also, I feel like when you have a relationship with someone over social media when you see them in person after not seeing them for so long you need to connect again.
KB: Yea! Cause people can be quite different online versus in person.
LR: Exactly. It’s like you know two different people. It’s weird cause I feel like every time I saw him in person I had to connect again.
KB: How did he deal with it?
LR: He was really good with the whole long-distance thing actually. But I wasn’t really good with it.
KB: Was it because of the distance?
LR: Yea, the distance and I think also because he was so busy with university. He studied law, by the way.
LR: Yeah! So he was always busy, plus he had his own friends which meant he always had something to do. At the time I was just getting through high school so I had a lot of spare time on my hands, which made me sad all the time. I ended up being really, really unhealthy. Then the next year I moved to England for university, so we got to see each other a lot more. But because we lived in different cities I had to spend so much money on train tickets to see him.
KB: Did that affect your classes?
LR: Yea it did, which sucked. It was so bad like my priorities weren’t in order. He would also come down to visit but I don’t think he liked coming as much. Which was kind of shitty.
KB: Did that make you feel as though he wasn’t putting in the effort- because he didn’t want to come here to see you?
LR: Kinda, yeah. Although that wasn’t his intention it came across that way. We spoke about that a lot.
KB: How was your first year of university dealing with all of this? LR: Because that was my first year of university it was meant to be all about meeting new people and trying new things and I feel like I missed out on quite a bit.
KB: Do you think that’s why people say it’s best not to come into university with a relationship? Cause then you miss connections that you would have gotten without that person taking up your time.
LR: Everyone says that and I so badly wanted to prove them wrong. I was like ‘I love this guy like we are going to be together forever!’ (laughs)
KB: What about age? Did that have an effect on your relationship?
LR: I don’t think there was anything different there but there was a difference in the way we thought. I’m very excitable and optimistic all the time and he was kind of like an emotional brick wall. We very much reflected our degrees. I was an art kid and he an academic kid.
KB: It’s very interesting when academic students have relationships with art students cause there’s obviously that difference in personalities. LR: Oh yea. We were interested in what the other was studying, but I don’t think either of us understood what the other person was doing. Then at the start of my second year was when things got quite rocky. I think it’s because I was reflecting a lot more of how much I missed out. I didn’t really want to travel to his city anymore.
KB: So after you stopped travelling that distanced you two a bit?
LR: Yea, I wasn’t excited to see him anymore. Maybe I just fell out of love with him. He was also turning me into a bit of a brick wall, and I realised that and I really didn’t like it.
KB: What do you mean? Was he changing your personality?
LR: Yea. I’m very empathetic and sensitive towards things and I was kinda loosing that. We grew into different people and then we just weren’t right for each other anymore. When we finally decided to end the relationship it wasn’t mutual at all. It was just me who didn’t want to do this anymore and he really didn’t take that very well. I mean who would if you’re with someone for 2 ½ years and they suddenly say ‘Hey, I fell out of love with you’?That’s really harsh, but at the same time, going back to the whole ‘putting in the effort’ thing, I think I put in most of the effort and he was always prioritising other things.
KB: Over you?
LR: Yea! I didn’t want him to prioritise me over everything. Especially since my degree has made me feel that art comes before absolutely everything else.
KB: Yea. I get it, that’s your future.
LR: Yea! But he didn’t get that. I think because he did law he thought that art was kind of an easy thing to do. I’m in university and love what I am doing, but the person that I was with didn’t get it or support it. He also didn’t really inspire me to do my work, not in the sense that I want to make work about him, but I wasn’t surrounded by someone who encouraged me to do something that I wanted to do. I think having support in a relationship is very important.
KB: Now that you think back, do you feel that you two shouldn’t have been together?
LR: Yeah! I kind of just woke up one day and decided ‘I do not want to be with this boy.’ I kept reflecting on everything and I realised that we weren’t really meant for each other. We had been in a relationship for some time, which I think we both were holding onto. Also, we both wanted to prove the stereotype ‘you shouldn’t be in a relationship when you go to university’ wrong.
I FOUND MY PRINCE CHARMING
Now we have Beth Graham, the bubbly, larger-than-life film student. We met just outside the entrance to the NUA library. She wore a bright yellow skirt which I thought was quite a risky fashion choice, but she pulled it off very nicely. We started the conversation talking about her friend getting engaged and that her outfit reminded me a lot of Belle from Beauty And The Beast, moments later we finally touched on her relationship.
KIESHONA BROWN: So would you like to state your name.
BETH GRAHAM: I’m Beth Graham.
KB: Would you like me to mention your name in the article?
BG: Yes no problem I’ve asked Jack about it as well he’s fine with it. He loves it.
KB: That’s your partner’s name right?
BG: Jack yeah, I haven’t told him too much about what we will be discussing because I want to surprise him with it.
KB: So when did you meet him?
BG: OK so we met I think when we were 11?
KB: I’m sorry what? You met when you were 11?
BG: We weren’t dating that long.
KB: Oh. (laughs)
BG: So I met him in my first year of high school. We sat next to each other in German class which was the only class we had together. We went to high school together but didn’t really know each other, I mean we knew each other through that one class and through acquaintances. He then went to the Jane Austin College which is close to NUA.
KB: Oh so you guys are quite local then?
BG: Yes. We’re both from Norwich. So he went there and I stayed at art school and we lost touch for 7 years. Then just before I started Year 0 at NUA we got back in contact. We’ve been in a relationship for 2 years now.
KB: So you guys are basically around the same age right?
BG: Yeah I’m 20 and he’s also 20.I’m September ’97 and he’s March ’98.
KB: Oh OK so you’re pretty close in age.
BG: Yeah pretty much.
KB: Does he attend university?
BG: No. He works at Norwich Airport in the air traffic control tower.
KB: That’s quite far from here right?
BG: It’s actually not that far I think it’s about 15 minutes by car and with the new road, it’s really easy.
KB: So do you guys live at home or do you live together?
BG: No. I live at home and so does he. KB: So with him having a job how do you guys manage?
BG: His job is tricky because he works shifts and the way they work, he does 2 earlies which is like 5 AM to 12 PM and a day shift which are 9 – 3 and the late shift is 3 to half-past 10. So he has 3 days off in the week, so the way we tend to do it is like if he’s on the early depending on when my lessons finish usually mine are from 9:30 – 12:30 and we can meet. We love to go for breakfast in the city. That’s when I can tell him about my film and he can tell me about his air traffic stuff.
KB: Aww that ’s cute. And drama at work?
BG: Yes (laughs) there’s a lot of drama like you would not believe it.
KB: So what do you enjoy doing together?
BG: I kinda make him watch a lot of films which I think he appreciates. Watching La La Land was one of our first big dates. It’s quite funny actually, we went to see La La Land and I absolutely fell in love with it, I was crying and for my 20th birthday which was last September he took me to Edinburgh for a surprise trip and he bought me tickets to La La Land live in concert.
BG: Yes, basically it was this big projector screen and it had live orchestra and they were playing all of the songs they did 3 stops in the UK; Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh so it was actually on my birthday he took me there. I was in tears, literally in tears all day.
KB: That ’s so nice when guys actually listen.
BG: Yeah he really does.
KB: A common thing with young couples is that they don’t really take into consideration what each other’s interests are. Do you feel that’s why you like being with him? He listens to your interests and takes part in them?
BG: Yes I love it I think it’s very different because I’ve been in relationships before where they didn’t really care. We are very different from each other, there’s me loving films and him loving planes and somehow we make that work. We also love listening to each other’s stories and that’s why we’ve been together for 2 years in August.
KB: Now that you are in university, what would you say has been the most challenging thing in your relationship?
BG: I’d say probably the different lives because obviously the student life is very different from a professional’s. His job is stressful, I think it’s ranked the fourth most stressful job in the UK. It’s a lot of work controlling planes, which is a big thing and there’s me like ‘ooh film!’ you know doing my essays and stuff. I feel like we’re both mature enough to make it work. Also, there’s socialising, I meet so many people and with his job, he only knows a select few, but I feel like both of our lives just mix which makes it easier because at first he didn’t know any of my university friends, now he knows all of my really good friends and my production group as well.
KB: Has he ever wanted to be a student? The reason I ask is that some couples can get jealous of each other when one gets to experience student life and they have to work.
BG: No, he never really wanted to do it. He already knew what he wanted to do and he just went straight for it. He started off as a baggage handler and worked his way up. We also always talk about what each other’s plans are. ‘I want to write films,’ I would say and he would say ‘I’m a baggage handler hoping to move up.’ So we both kind of had these clear paths so that helped.
KB: What are the drawbacks of your relationship?
BG: I’d say stress. So I’d say to him, ‘I’m really stressed, I gotta deal with these people who aren’t doing this, I need to hand this paperwork in and so on,’ and sometimes he can be like, ‘oh well I got to control these planes that are far more stressful.’
KB: So you feel like he underestimates how stressful the student life can be? Have you guys ever bickered about that?
BG: Only at times. If I’m shooting these films and I list out all of these things I have to do, he would say, ‘that doesn’t sound that bad,’ and usually, when that happens I have to sit him down and show him what I’m doing. Once he sees the footage he then starts to understand. It’s vice-versa as well he’ll explain the technicalities of his job and I understand how that can be stressful.
KB: So you feel like communication is the best thing?
BG: Absolutely. For my first film project, we didn’t even speak to each other for 2 days. I was in this bubble and didn’t elaborate on what stress I was going through, but now he understands it and it’s much better.
KB: Where do you see your relationship going long term?
BG: We have spoken about moving in with each other, we’re both very open with that. Yeah, we’re not afraid to be like ‘hey I like this city!.’ There’s no specific plan, we’re not afraid to talk about the future.
KB: Do your family and parents support your relationship?
BG: Yes, they do. Jack and my mother are ‘two peas in a pod’, she adores him. It’s the same with his family – his niece and nephew are obsessed with me now.
KB: Once you get the kids you’re good.
Words: Kieshona Brown, Storehouse Content Team, @kieshona
Photography: Uzi Okotcha, Storehouse Content Team, @uzitookashot