Dating in the Bubble

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Illustration: Rosie Catcheside

It comes as no surprise that a university town with a local café that  proudly hangs a banner advertising “Where Kate Met Wills” is seen as a promising place to find love. Thanks to the stunning beaches, Gothic architecture, beautiful sunsets, and of course , the fact that Prince William found his match in this relatively quiet town, St Andrews is one of the most romanticised universities in Britain. Every year, the University receives thousands of applicants, many of them — international or not — drawn not only to the high-ranking academic programmes offered, but also to the appealing notion of meeting their very own Prince William or Kate Middleton. Living in a town where every other bush, tree, cobblestone, and brick is a memento of the Duke and Duchess’s real-life fairy tale can heighten the aspect of romance for some. On the one hand, some may feel that the fact that they are still single in a place known for bringing people together is somewhat of a frustration.

Many incoming students hop off the train at Leuchars, bags in hand, full of excitement about their course and of course, the prospect of a thrilling college romance on their horizon. The luckiest – and perhaps most skilled — of these freshers manage to make a solid group of friends and find a few possible love interests all over the expanse of their first week. For others, however, Freshers’ Week signifies the start of the longest romantic dry spell they’ve ever had. So which ones of us are destined to find the love of our life at university and which ones of us should plan on adopting a couple of cats? In the cosy and intimate location of a third floor Sallies dorm, freshers Grace Harrison from Houston, Texas and Herman Wuttudal from Oslo, Norway dish about their newfound relationship. Hailing from completely different hemispheres, chance brought the two of them together on move-in day three weeks ago at St Salvator’s, the residence hall known for hosting none other than Kate and Will.

“I met Grace’s mother before Grace, and that’s how it started. And then, I don’t know, I saw Grace and thought she was attractive,” Mr Wuttudal recalled about the pair’s first meeting.

“He was very charming,” Miss Harrison added in with a laugh. “We talked about how we both liked tennis.” After their first encounter, the duo immediately hit it off, although it came as a complete surprise to both of them, finding one another so soon after they had arrived.

“I didn’t have any expectations about getting a girlfriend here, and then it just felt right,” Mr Wuttudal said as they share a fond look.

He went on to explain how, Sallies being a small, tight-knit community, the two ran into each other often in corridors or in the dining hall during mealtimes, and had plenty of opportunities to chat and get to know one another. Evidently, living in a hall where interacting with other residents is a big part of the lifestyle made it easier and more convenient for Miss Harrison and Mr Wuttudal to become close.

“The fact that I met him just on a whim, just walking back from my dorm, I feel like that’s really lucky,” Miss Harrison said.  How big, exactly, is the role that luck plays in relationships in St Andrews?  Was it luck that brought Miss Harrison and Mr Wuttudal together, or was it simply the result of St Salvator’s Hall being so tiny that everyone is bound to get to know each other eventually? According to Miss Harrison the size of Sallies does not compensate for the difficulty of meeting people here at university. “There are so many people in Sallies that I haven’t even met. There are people on my floor that I don’t even know.”

Illustration: Rosie Catcheside
Illustration: Rosie Catcheside

Sian O’Sullivan, another Sallies first year, brings a different point of view to the table. Living just a floor above Miss Harrison, she reveals another perspective on meeting people in St Andrews. While Mr Wuttudal’s and Miss Harrison’s chance meeting was spontaneous and effortless, O’Sullivan describes how her friends so far have been made through her lectures and through other people. Not unlike the majority of other first years who have just arrived, O’Sullivan has not yet set her sights on anyone in particular, although she has taken a quick peek at her options via the popular dating app, Tinder — purely for “entertainment purposes,” she clarified.

“After I looked on Tinder, I ended up recognising a lot of people from the app on the streets. It was weird,” she said. When asked whether or not she was disappointed by the dating scene at St Andrews, she said, “I wouldn’t say disappointing because I generally am not focused on it or looking for it all the time. It’s not high on my priority list.”

Many other students will give a similar response. The point of university is to learn rather than to focus on finding a future spouse, is it not?  This brings up the question: are most of the successful St Andrews relationships largely in thanks to luck and chance rather than purposefully prowling clubs, pubs, and bars in the hopes of finding a match? If anything, Miss Harrison and Mr Wuttudal’s coincidental relationship emphasises the role that luck plays in meeting someone at university. It could be that the small size of St Andrews makes using dating apps somewhat obsolete, since chances are most of the people one scrolls through on Tinder are people they already know or recognise, as Miss O’Sullivan said. The same goes for hunting for a partner at clubs or pubs, where most likely one is bound to see the same faces they have seen in lectures, parties, societies, halls of residence, or in Tesco.

St Andrews definitely does not offer the same dating scene as other bigger and more vibrant towns or cities and as a result it has claimed the moniker “the Bubble.” Aside from the slew of freshers that are blown in each September the student turnover is low, and so the dating pool is limited.

However, despite its size, one of the defining characteristics of St Andrews is the fact that it is a melting pot, and the melange of different cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities almost makes up for the fact that its entire population could probably be squeezed onto a decent-sized iceberg.  Dating in this town remains quite an interesting paradox. On one hand, the town is so small that there is a scarcity of people to choose from. On the other hand, it has quite a unique and original blend of people that is unlike many other towns or even cities.

Ultimately, it all depends on perspective. Looking at St Andrews through rose-coloured glasses, one might find the small yet interesting mix of people in this town convenient.  There are plenty of different sorts of people, and the community is close-knit and small enough for one to get to know a number of people quite well.

Even if you are simply here with the idea in mind to study and make some good, sturdy friends, you might not want to give up the possibility of finding the love of your life just yet. It is, after all, mostly a game of chance.

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