During the first week I was here, my orientation ambassador, Amy DeCillis, brought up how it would be hard to date across a different class, especially with the system of our study away possibilities in junior year. “Say if you were to date a sophomore as a freshman, he/she would likely take the third year somewhere else, and so when you’re a sophomore, you wouldn’t get that year with them being where you are,” she explained. “And after that, accounting for that long distance relationship to work, when you are studying away in your junior year, he or she would be finishing up his/her last year in Shanghai, so basically, another year of separation. And finally, when you are in your last year at NYU Shanghai, that person you’re dating may or may not live in Shanghai anymore. So, at the minimum, you get one year with your significant other being near you.”
I don’t want to be a downer on long distance relationships, but I do think that this sort of separation caused by the format of this school can strain relationships between people who are trying to date across classes. I’m sure that this doesn’t mean that NYUSH kills love, which was going to be my original title for this article, (for clickbait). Because, with all seriousness, there is a part of me that wants to believe that even if someone wanted to date someone else in another class, it could work out.
Decillis said she was lucky enough that her boyfriend remained in Shanghai after graduation because he got a job here.“I don’t think it’s hard to be in a relationship with someone from a different class, it definitely depends on their study away plan.”
Other students have considered this as well, with varying conclusions. “Why I refuse to start a relationship between different classes is [that] it is true that me and that guy can only meet with each other for one year,” said sophomore Jessie Yang. Freshman Simone Ye agreed that it would be difficult.
Some saw the question as being just a general relationship issue. “I believe a relationship greatly depends on what each party desires… that being said, different classes inherently separate due to our school’s study away policy, which essentially functions as a lottery in terms of what dating potential you will have in a cross-class relationship,” said junior Eric Morales.
Freshman Michael Zhang agreed with Decillis. “It’s hard because of the study away policy, you only have one year to be together physically, but there is the chance of being a freshman and dating a senior, and then depending on if that senior stays in Shanghai, the relationship can still work, Zhang said.
Like freshmen Simone Ye, she said “it’s hard to be in a cross-class relationship”, and long distance relationships are complicated in general. Ye is currently in a long distance relationship. “Long distance relationships can work if both parties value the relationship. And on top of that, I think ‘long distance’ per se is something that all relationships have to face from time to time. Once couples establish attachment to one another, long distance still cannot separate them.”
Morales recalled his previous cross-class relationship with another student from NYU Shanghai. “I was in a 2.5 year-long relationship that functioned for all intents and purposes despite her originally being a year above me,” he said, with 1.5 years of long distance. This was Morales’s first time doing long distance, and he would not want to do it again. “I’ve felt that before most of the cons regarding long distance relationships had to with separation and being estranged from one another, nowadays the consensus seems to be how unsatisfying a long distance relationship is to all parties,” Morales explained. “There might be many factors that cause this but to me all our advances in communications technology are ironically the prime catalyst for LDR woes.”
He has seen relationships that lasted through the distance, however. “ I will admit all of the ones that I happen to know are not from NYUSH. All the truly infallible long-term relationships are composed of people who are in the same grade,” he said, meaning those that lasted throughout four years.
The impact of the study away year is that it can create a lot of long distance relationships if you were to date someone in another class. Decillis explained her take on it, given that she is still in the midst of it. “In general, in terms of balancing study away and relationships, I think each individual’s personal goals need to come first and their study abroad experience needs to be emphasized over a relationship in college that, in reality, is not permanent in most cases.” This is why Yang is opposed to long distance relationships.“If it’s impossible for him to ’stay’ with me …when I’m down in mood or when I literally need him, so then it’s definitely not an ideal relationship for me,” Yang said. “It’s different situation for a relationship which has been for a long time,” she continued, since “the impact on existed couples could be another aspect of this topic.”
The new study away policy has thrown even more confusion into this problem. “The study away policy severely limits each student’s opportunity to maintain any kind of relationship with students from other classes,” Decillis said. “And at our school, I feel like you’re less inclined to date in your class because you’re all so close and it’s so small.” Zhang agreed that NYU Shanghai’s small size and Sino-US roots are contributing factors to how students view relationships in general.“People don’t really care whether you are dating, pretty normal, compared to other Chinese colleges. No one judges you about that,” Zhang said. “Also, it’s a small school, so everyone knows if you’re in a relationship, and it’s kind of weird, but then you get used to it.”
There’s also other potential ways to continue a relationship that’s distanced by this school’s study away format. One way is to not study away for both semesters. Maybe not based solely on the relationship, but studying away for only one semester can actually be suitable for some people who really like Shanghai.
When students were asked if they’d compromise their study away year for a relationship, the resounding answer was no. Students unanimously agreed that they would not compromise their study away year for a relationship. Ye believed that making a compromise wasn’t necessary as “being physically or geographically close doesn’t necessarily indicate commitment”. In Morales’s situation, he said “I absolutely love China, and I often even think about staying here after graduation. Thus it was no extra skin of my back to choose to study abroad for only one semester (in fact, I don’t even want to study away), I just happen to prefer quality over quantity when it comes to my experiences.”
In some cases, cross-class relationships do work out. “It’s worked out great so far because when I was a freshman he was a senior and now he’s working in Shanghai so in my sophomore year we’re able to date,” Decillis said. “We’ll see how it goes when I study abroad next year,” she added.
Morales believes it’s clear that the structure of NYU Shanghai has a big impact on the relationships students form. “For both those inter-class relationships that are currently in healthy long-term relationships and the attempted, but failed cross-year relationships, the single thing that is certain, to me at least, is that only time will tell how dating across grade lines at NYUSH will shape us.”
This article was written by Kai Zheng. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Kai Zheng