Life panel: love and dating at university

(photo by Rebecca Allison).
(photo by Rebecca Allison).

Pat Benatar once sang “Love is a battlefield.”

With juggling work, school, and a social life, along with an understanding subjective rules and deciphering unreadable texts, dating at university appears to be a war zone we work through.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert, especially since over the weekend I walked around the grocery store getting up the courage to talk to a cute guy and just ended up looking like a stalker. To gain more insight, I enlisted the help of 25 students. With a series of questions in different categories we tackled the many different factors that go alongside with dating while being in university.

Do you date?
From this pool of students there was a mixture of people who dated and didn’t, who were single and who were in a relationship who provided their own understanding.
Kyle Main, second-year archeology: “I am currently in a relationship. A long-distance relationship.”
Laura Staley, third-year environmental studies: “Inconsistently.”
Dylan Clarke, first-year BBA: “Yeah. I go on dates. But no, I don’t have a girlfriend, no.”
Brandon Itware, second-year biology and chemistry: “Umm…I’m not really too sure about dating right now. I’m not opposed to it, but I couldn’t really care less if I’m dating someone right now or not. I feel school takes priority in my life right now.”

Holding Books instead of Someone Else’s Hand
When asked why those who don’t date didn’t the responses were either that they it just hasn’t happened or they just didn’t have the time.
Philip Warner, first-year BBA and financial math: “I don’t have the time.”
Sarah McRea, third-year English: “I really haven’t met anyone and I don’t think I would be in the place. I don’t think I could handle the stress of dating and the stress of school at the same time.”

Time management
We are not living in an episode of Saved by the Bell: College Years so school is actually very important part of university life. This was the hardest thing, or biggest problem, for most of the students as studies affect dating.
Hosanna Asistio, second-year practical nursing at George Brown: “I think the hardest thing about dating at university these days is the understanding and commitment to create a balance between school, relationships, friends, and family between two people.”
Chrissy Elizabeth, fourth-year communications: “You have to be considerate of your partner and be understanding if they go: ‘Hey I’m going to be in the library for a week, don’t disturb me’.”

Where do you meet people?
Mark Pezzetta second-year biology: “Oh, who knows!? Bars, clubs, coffee shops, you know wherever. It’s always easier to meet someone in a more public place like a coffee shop as opposed to a club or a bar.”
Ria Lynch, 4th Year Psychology: “Circle of friends for sure. Cause I feel like your friends know kind of what you’re looking for.”

Now about the bar people have different opinions about its purpose and intention:
Chris Ackie  second-year, communication studies: “Class or bar, it’s the same thing.”
Jessica Trigiani fourth-year communications: “I think many people think it is easier to pick up people in bars. It’s one of the reasons why people go to bars. It gives people a chance to put themselves out there and yet minimize the risk or the fall if you get rejected. If one gets rejected in a bar they have many other ‘options’ to choose from. And there’s also a little thing called “liquid confidence.”

Barney Stinson or Ted Mosbey?
What I found in this process is that dating is an individual approach, which is seen in what we want from and what we see in relationships at university.

What the Students Were Personally Looking for:
Mark Pezzetta: “I’m always looking for a serious relationship. But every now and then with a casual is not so bad.”
Ishaan Kukreja, second-year communications: “More serious.”

Is University More Casual or Serious?
Laura Curk, four-year communication studies: “I think it depends on the individual and what they’re looking for.”
Bisma Bhatti, graduated with business degree and fourth-year communication studies: “For university I say more casual dating, just in terms of people’s schedules and where they are in their life. The good about that is that a lot of those people end up turning into friends. So it’s not like you’re totally cutting off ties.”

The Pros and Cons of our new dating counsellor: the cell phone
There is pressure to talk to people. Texting was seen as a benefit for long distance relationships and for little things, but these students found that if they cared about someone, they picked up the phone or saw them in person.

Laura Staley: “It kind of breaks the nervousness.”
Chris Ackie: “It’s easier to talk over text. So I don’t know. I guess you find out a lot more about people when you text them rather than in person because some people are shy.”
Laura Curk: “It sort of like keeps the communication going and you are reminding each other that you’re thinking of each other even when you’re not together.”

Kimberly Delisle: “I think it can cause a lot of problems. Words get twisted.”
Sarah Mielke: “I just come off really awkward over technology. [Laughs]. I like to communicate with people in person more because I feel like I am only adorable in person.”

It takes a smile and a hair flip
The students interviewed found that a smile or a little eye contact, i.e. not being a person like me who stares at people I am interested in like they are Jason Priestly circa 1993, is an invitation for communication:
Bisma Bhatti: “Usually, you kind of start off with the eye contact so you can tell the person is at least somewhat interested and you just go up to them. If they’re looking at you they’re likely thinking the same thing you are.”
Heidi Cee, fourth-year health studies at Waterloo: “Sexy Eyes.”

“Hi” is all you have to do

Now that you see the sexy eyes across the room all you have to do is go up to the person. And when doing that face to face some people are found to be using a line, but just saying “hi” was good enough for these students.
Ria Lynch: “I think that most people have a line. I have had a lot of: ‘Have you met Ted?’ and other cheesy lines like that.”
Ashan Ali: “I usually go with the ‘hi’ and when, if, we start talking and she’s interested we’ll take it further.”
Chris Ackie: “No, no I don’t have a line. It depends where you are.”

Another year older, another year wiser
While the students thought it could be both casual and serious, some people thought it was because of our age. Many saw that there was a change in the type of relationship as we age:
Dylan Clarke: “I think serious is, ugh, a little too serious.Serious is a big step for people our age and is tough to get into right now.”
Heidi Cee: “I can’t just say it’s just the guys. It’s not. It’s a weird stage of our lives. We don’t know who we are yet.”

So this is how relationships are seen at university these days. It’s an individual battle. But what I have learned from this is that respect is important throughout this whole process, no matter where you are or how you communicate.

If you would like to continue the conversation tweet Erin Sheehan at @erinandtheeras.

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