By Wilfred Goodhart
Everyone can still remember that traumatic first day of university. Your palms and brow sweat out so much liquid that it could amount to a small pond and your heart beats faster than Usain Bolt running on performance-enhancing steroids.
As a young, naïve fresher myself, these memories are all still very vivid for me. As my family turned away, I felt like I was being abandoned, never to see them again. In that brief moment, I thought I knew how Mowgli must have felt when he found himself in the jungle to be raised by a pack of wolves in Rudyard Kipling’s tale.
University made me feel like I had found myself lost in the jungle
Perhaps comparing St Chad’s College to the jungle and its students to a pack of feral creatures is just a little harsh, but it shows how different the world you enter at university can feel. Despite my initial melodramatic fears, I soon found that my quad was not inhabited by perilous wildlife and that I wouldn’t have to eat burgers that had come from animals I had been forced to kill with my bare hands. Nevertheless, it was still a scary experience.
When enrolling at Durham, however, there is an extra element of pressure derived from a certain statistic to add to the already daunting task of starting university. I’m sure you will have all have heard this statistic before, or at least will be aware of its message. It is a number that looms over us like Mitchell Starc over a fragile England batting line up, like the Brexit cut-off date of 29th March 2019, or like the ominous presence of Shere Khan over his jungle.
Indeed, I’m talking about the astonishing statistic that 70% of us will apparently marry fellow Durham students. Consider that number for a short while. Even if you are not good with numbers, or are just fairly incompetent in general, you will still be aware that this number is a lot higher than seems plausible.
The pressures Durham University exerts are not just academic, but romantic
To put that number into perspective, there is a 70% chance that Donald Trump will not be impeached in his first term of presidency. Though he may possess the tweeting habits of an angry teenager and the foul mouth of an extremely angry teenager, will he really become the first president ever to be impeached from office?
For the sports fanatics among you, there is a 70% chance that Manchester City will be winning against Burnley this weekend at halftime. For those of you who are not avid followers of football, Manchester City are twelve points clear at the top of the premier league. And Burnley are Burnley.
Now that you know that Durham is more likely than unlikely to produce you a spouse, let’s talk about the dating culture of this city. Does Durham possess a hidden secret, unknown to the rest of the country, that enables students to immediately fall madly in love and stay that way?
Apparently 70% of us will marry fellow Durham students
Dating in Durham is unusual because it is such a small place. If you go on a date and land yourself a window seat in a Bailey restaurant, you will naturally be spotted by your best mate, your housemate, and somehow your granny and grandad will find out too. Here, everyone knows everything.
The Durham dating circuit ranges from the once-in-a-lifetime experience of the Lumiere light show to the spectacle that is Sunday night Klute. Although Durham is small, there is more than enough on offer.
But what is it that makes Durham University so successful at producing student couples that stay together for a lifetime (or at least plan to)? Does the ‘Durham experience’ create a certain type of person, uniquely moulded by their university days, who is solely attracted to similar people?
If you go on a date in Durham, you will be spotted by your best mate
Personally, my guess would be that Durham student life is a bubble. This is a bubble that is very rarely left, except for the odd night out in Newcastle, enabling students to spend vast periods of time with the same people in the same place. Intrinsic to its success, the collegiate system also makes it very easy to branch out into different groups, exposing you to a whole network of different potential partners-to-be.
So, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, the time for romance is now. Indeed, if Manchester City are winning at halftime this weekend, then it is also time for you to take on the role of Shanti and lure Mowgli from his college.
Photograph: Reading Tom via Flickr