As Valentine’s Day approaches, many Hopkins students are reflecting on their love lives and relationships (or lack thereof). Hopkins Professor of Sociology Andrew Cherlin remarked last year on recent trends that have pushed marriage — and serious relationships — further down the timeline, as college students choose to focus on personal fulfillment and their academics instead. Six students spoke with The News-Letter about the feasibility and desirability of relationships at Hopkins and got candid about dating, hook-ups and their Valentine’s Day plans.
What are Hopkins students looking for in a relationship?
Most Hopkins students interviewed agreed that qualities like trust, honesty and communication were the most fundamental building blocks of a strong relationship.
When asked about her ideal relationship, senior Caroline Kim claimed that her expectations were pretty simple.
“My ideal relationship is — this is really cliche — with someone who listens, who is kind, respectful. It’s the lowest possible minimum, honestly,” Kim said. “It can be difficult to find a partner who respects me as a woman, or a woman of color.”
Reflecting on what he values in his own relationship, freshman Sebastian Alatorre stated that trust and communication go a long way.
“Someone that I can have a special bond with and I can gain a special sort of trust. Someone that can confide in me and that I can confide in them,” he said.
Junior Becky Shade agreed with Caroline Kim and Alatorre about the importance of meaningful connection. She added that the support system provided by a good partner can help to balance out stress.
“A good relationship is something that adds to your life in a meaningful way. For me, this comes in the form of someone who is supportive, especially when life is harder than usual,” Shade said. “Someone that you can always have fun with, and someone who you genuinely care about... a lot.”
While most of the students interviewed agreed that the campus vibe allows for easier dating-academic balance on campus, some students argued that managing a relationship gets harder in college.
Freshman Brianna Groch explained that she believes it is more feasible to date in college than in high school because of the higher likelihood of meeting like-minded people.
“One thing is that everyone here comes from the same place of really caring about our academics. In high school the biggest thing with dating is that I spent a lot of time doing school work and people would have a problem with that,” she said “Here, everyone understands that school comes first, which is a big step in a relationship to have that discussion.”
In agreement with Groch, Alatorre defended the feasibility of dating in Hopkins because of the common desire for success.
“It becomes easy because [other students] know the struggles of trying to find the time for studying and you do too, so it makes it a lot easier to connect and be open with each other,” he said.
Reflecting on their own relationship, sophomore couple Adam Kim and Gabriel Blanco spoke about how the convenient size of campus helps maintain their relationship.
“We don't go on a lot of dates. College gives you a lot of time to spend together,” Adam Kim said. “It's nice to go on a romantic date and get away from campus, but then at the same time, we’re together so often.”
“We usually eat together, do work together and also, since it’s a college campus and we both live in dorms, it's very easy to go to each others’ rooms,” Blanco said.
Blanco and Adam Kim have been dating for just over a year and four months. There were periods where the couple found it hard to see each other often because of school work, but Blanco pointed out that, since freshman year, it has been easier to find time in their schedules for one another.
While Caroline Kim said she found that Hopkins relationships have a reputation for not working out, she argued that college students in general have trouble with relationships. She blames the relative youth of Hopkins students, not their work ethic, for the relationship demises.
“I feel like we’re still young, so some people are in their first or second relationship, and they haven’t really gotten a grasp for it yet,” she said.
Can Hopkins students go the distance?
While most students agreed that long-distance relationships are universally challenging, many saw distance as a surmountable challenge.
Freshman Ayla Frost, who is currently in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend of two years, said she felt it would be ideal if they were closer.
“Having my boyfriend here and not far away,” she said, when asked to describe her ideal relationship.
When asked what motivated her to stay in a long-distance relationship, however, Frost had a simple answer.
“Love!” Frost said.
Alatorre is also in a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend who he has been dating for just over a year.
He explained that fostering a really strong connection with her and building strong memories of when they were together really motivates him to keep the relationship going.
“I've been able to uphold this long distance relationship with my girlfriend in California because we've been pretty honest with each other and just had faith and trust,” he said.
Having started off the year in a long distance relationship, Groch pointed out that schoolwork at Hopkins can definitely get in the way of love.
“We’re all so busy in college and in classes and with schoolwork,” she said. “Sometimes it can get in the way of spending the time to contact the person that you love that lives far away... it's also just sometimes so much easier to be single and worry about yourself.”
What is the dating and hook-up scene like at Hopkins?
Harping on the typical Hopkins student focus on academics, most students interviewed agreed that hook-ups are common because it is rare to find people looking to be in a serious relationship.
Groch argued that, though many people use dating apps on campus, Tinder and similar apps are simply not conducive to actual relationships.
“Most people just use it more like a video game where you can swipe and look at people, but never actually do anything with it,” she said.
Frost agreed that dating apps are typically used for more for fun than for actual dating. She is involved in a long-distance relationship and not on dating apps herself, but she admitted to looking at profiles on her friends’ accounts.
“I have sent messages on my friends’ dating apps and laughed at their stories,” Frost said.
This trend is comparable to that of hook-up culture at Hopkins, Groch said. She added that she believes freshmen come to college looking to have fun and to explore more often than they do looking for a serious, long-term relationship.
“Obviously there are parties and things, but there's also just meeting people and starting to hang out with them and then realizing that, ‘Oh, they're not looking for a serious relationship,’ and you wasted your time,” she said.
Caroline Kim agreed that Hopkins hook-ups can certainly happen without becoming anything more serious, but expressed her belief that many students allow these encounters to evolve into relationships.
“Most people who are open to hooking up primarily do it casually but are generally open to it developing into something more — unless they just got out of a relationship or explicitly say that they’re not ready,” Caroline Kim said.
Alatorre pointed out that, with many Hopkins students devoted to their education, the time required for dating can be overwhelming.
“People here aren't as focused on dating because there's a mindset focused towards education and studying -- but there's definitely a hook-up culture,” he said.
While Shade agreed with Alatorre, saying that the time needed in order to handle Hopkins academics and clubs can be a lot to manage, she maintained that relationships were still doable given strong communication.
“A lot of communication is key because otherwise if you are super stressed and irritable because of that or don’t have time to hang out so much, it’s not because you’re not interested, it’s because school is a lot for all of us,” she said. “How much time you want to put in your relationship might not be what’s realistic.”
Adam Kim added that, based on his friends’ experiences, the hook-up culture seems to be somewhat laid-back at Hopkins, in part due to the University’s small size.
“You know so many people here already that you already know what everyone else is doing. Nothing can really be private when it’s only five or six freshman dorms, some of which have under a hundred people,” he said.
Despite the inherent difficulties of hooking up on a college campus, Blanco added that Hopkins succeeds in teaching the basics of safe sex to students.
“We have each others’ backs,” he said. “If someone needs a condom, one of us will have it.”
What are Hopkins students doing for V-day?
Each of the students interviewed shared the different ways they intended on spending their Valentine’s weekend.
Adam Kim and Blanco said that they typically purchase gifts and make plans for each other covertly, leaving it a surprise for the day-of. However, Adam Kim mentioned that school can sometimes get in the way.
“We’re very bad about planning. I think last year we went on our Valentine's Day date after February had ended,” said Adam Kim.
Groch stated her plans to celebrate the holiday platonically.
“I'm taking my friend... to go to the museum, and then we’re going to go out to eat,” said Groch.
Freshman Kevin LaMonica did not have any plans as of yet for Valentine’s Day. When it comes to his relationship status, though, he is not upset.
“Whatever happens, happens,” he said.
Wanting to meet future partners organically, LaMonica explained that he feels no need to force anything for a specific day.
Being unable to see her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, Frost also plans on spending the day with friends.
“I want to go to a date party,” Frost said, hoping to go as the platonic date of one of her friends at Hopkins.
For Caroline Kim and her boyfriend’s first Valentine’s Day as a couple, they plan on getting a meal out together.
“I think I’m going to dinner — pretty basic,” Kim said.
Hoping his girlfriend doesn’t read this article before Valentine’s Day, Alatorre told The News-Letter that his plan is to send her a box filled with all her favorite things and spend a long time on FaceTime with her.
“It's kind of hard when you're 3000 miles apart, but you do what you can,” he said. “She sends me boxes and I send her boxes, and that's kind of like our little thing.”