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Hooking up in uni dorms: An international student perspective

Tam Tran

Wed Sep 06 2017


Residential accommodation on campus is a popular option with many international students. Your neighbours are fellow students, you get to become really familiar with your school and you’re also encouraged to participate at campus events as well. But one part of dorm life that education agents and schools likely won’t advertise is the likelihood of students witnessing or engaging with hook-up culture first-hand.

A ‘hook-up’ is the catch-all term for when two individuals become intimate for a short period of time — whether its passionate kissing at a party or a one-night stand.

International students from conservative countries and upbringings living on campus may find casual hook-ups quite surprising and something they’re completely unprepared for. Having lived in the dorms since she first arrived in Melbourne, Chinese international student Yufei was “shocked” when she saw people kissing at a campus-hosted party she attended.

“These were people who just met and an hour later they’re making out,” she said. “That’s when I realised that relationships were not as straightforward as I thought it was. Though I was surprised at first, after two years of living on campus, I became accustomed to it,” Yufei shared.

For Yufei, this sort of thing wasn’t always experienced back home. She attended a public school prior to her education abroad where hooking up “wasn’t considered the right thing”.

“I did hear rumours about one night stands happening around my school but overall we didn’t really talk about it. I simply thought that people [were] either in a relationship or just platonic friends,” she said.

But attitudes towards casual hook-ups have slowly changed in China, Yufei feels. In the last three to four years, Yufei has noticed that people in her country have become more open to talking about it.

“It wasn’t a popular thing to discuss a few years ago. But now, interestingly, they have been talking about it more openly. I guess it’s the result of new dating apps that have become popular in China recently,” she said.

Alina, a Chinese international student who also lives on campus, agrees with Yufei and feels the introduction of Chinese dating apps have led to a more sexually active lifestyle for young Chinese individuals.

“There [is] a significant number of people hooking-up in China, especially since the appearance of TanTan, which [is] like a Chinese version of Tinder,” Alina said.

Unlike Yufei, however, Alina was well aware of what hook-ups were prior to her arrival in Australia.

“It wasn’t a big problem to talk about it in my high-school,” she said. Alina graduated from an international high school in China and was already fairly exposed to the concept.

“Before coming to Melbourne, I already knew that there would be lots of hook-ups happening on campus in residential areas, since that was all I saw in college-themed movies,” Alina said.

And like the movies, both girls revealed they first witnessed casual hook-ups at O-Week parties happening at residential colleges where students lived.

“There’s a certain expectation built around these parties, that you’re supposed to meet lots of new people and have a blast and maybe make out with someone,” Alina said.

While meeting new people can be fun, casual hook-ups can sometimes take a darker turn. In its national report on sexual harassment and assault, the Australian Human Rights Commission found that most recent incidences of sexual assault in a university setting commonly occurred at a university or residential social event. In an environment where alcohol consumption is encouraged and students live in close proximity with one another, both Yufei and Alina reminded students to follow their instincts and do what they feel they’re most comfortable with.

“I haven’t tried it, but I’m open to it,” Alina said. “[But] just because it’s a prevalent culture doesn’t mean I should feel obligated to fully immerse in it,” she added.

There are no right and wrong preferences. But whatever it is you prefer, be sure that you are approaching the situation safely and carefully. If the hook-up lifestyle is not for you, do not feel peer-pressured into doing something that you are not comfortable with. And if you are completely open to it, be sure to use protection, communicate with your partners and take care of yourself physically and mentally.