Student Life

Loyola Lovers: Students Couple Up In College

Hanna Houser | The PhoenixMichael Chopra and Clara Barton, both environmental science majors, bonded over the vegan options in the dining hall line.

From the subtle hand hold outside of Mundelein to lakefront dates, love at Loyola is all around. As the thrill of summer subsides and chilled November air fills its place, a new phase of the school year emerges — cuffing season. 

About 28% of married college graduates attended the same university, according to a 2021 Facebook study. Yet, with growing negative coverage surrounding Gen Z and hookup culture, today’s narrative ignores college couples, propelling the notion that Gen Z is incapable of sustaining relationships. 

The Phoenix interviewed four Loyola couples about the experience of dating in college and how they found love while attending the university. 

Sweethearts from High School to College

Juniors Nadia Gill and Michael Spine met in their high school clay class. The two Louisville, Kentucky natives found themselves in the same friend group and eventually began hanging out one-on-one — as friends.

“I had no game,” said Spine, 20. “I did not ask her out. I probably should have, but it all worked out in the end.” 

Finally, at their high school’s junior prom, the two made things official and have continued their relationship ever since. 

On their first date, the couple recalled getting boba together after Spine had completely totaled his car in an accident moments before, Spine said. 

Hanna Houser | The Phoenix Michael Spine (left) and Nadia Gill (right) first met in their clay class in high school.

“It’s pretty symbolic of our relationship,” the marketing major said. “That’s just one example of her making me feel better when things were going really bad.”

Given the unpredictability of COVID-19, the two simultaneously gravitated toward Loyola for the scholarships they received and the proximity to home. However, neither of them purposely intended to go to the same college. 

Coming into Loyola, the duo took on the Windy City as a unit, frequenting local thrift stores and restaurants together. Since high school, the pair said their relationship has changed as they have taken on more responsibilities. Now, the two share an apartment and a cat while balancing date nights with schoolwork. 

Having been together for three years and seven months, the couple said their relationship is sustained through mutual admiration and communication. Despite their different passions, Gill said that taking interest in the other is crucial to maintaining a relationship.

“If you just listen to him rant about soccer or dinosaurs for like 30 minutes, then it honestly will just make their day,” the exercise science and French double-major said. “It’s been really important for us, making an effort to be interested in their interests.”

The Long-Distance Lovers

According to an American Counseling Association study, approximately 75% of college students have been in a long-distance relationship — and 21-year-old senior Abby Utley is no exception. 

After spending some time on Hinge, Utley said she encountered Becca Padilla, an entrepreneurial business major at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The multimedia journalism major was quick to reach out to Padilla with a cheeky message that read, “I would never act right if you gave me attention.”

“One thing I’m gonna do is shoot my shot over dating apps, because for some reason it just feels more desensitized,” Utley said. “I can really be goofy and not afraid of rejection.”

Courtesy of Abby Utley According to Abby Utley (right) she’s confident in her relationship with Becca Padilla despite managing long-distance.

While some use apps to secure a hookup, Utley said she had serious dating intentions on the platform. However, neither Padilla nor Utley said they expected a success story. 

After talking for a month, Padilla shared with Utley that she owns a bakery business. On a visit to Chicago for the weekend, Utley said Padilla met up with her with a box of baked goods in hand. Utley said she was “wowed,” when she first saw Padilla.

“She was very calm and interesting,” Utley said. “I was so intrigued.”

Now, Utley said the pair frequently dissect their first meetup. As one of Padilla’s first queer dates, Padilla was both excited and nervous, according to Utley. 

The two maintain a long-distance relationship, making visits to one another a few times each month. Utley said the distance has been harder than she expected. The pair constantly try to innovate the ways they stay connected from afar, whether it be through regular FaceTimes or virtual dates.  

Yet, having dated other people in high school, Utley is more than confident in her current relationship. When comparing previous experiences, Utley said she was consumed by her own social status. In college, she said her relationship is less superficial because of her own personal growth. 

“I’ve become a real, much less insufferable person,” Utley said. “Basically, in college when you grow into a more mature, independent person, you naturally want your relationship to reflect that in a sustainable way.”

The Science Behind Romance

Environmental science and film and digital media double-major Michael Chopra first saw 21-year-old Clara Barton in the lobby of Bellarmine Hall. The pair had coincidentally run into each other a few times before finally conversing in line at Damen Dining Hall. 

Both environmental science majors, the pair made small-talk while waiting for the vegan dinner options after a mutual friend introduced them to each other. 

Despite the two’s year and 7-month-long success as a couple, Barton said she was initially averse to dating in college. 

“I was very nerdy in high school and I really enjoyed learning,” Barton said. “I was like, ‘College is gonna be full of distractions. I’m here to learn, get my education and get my degree.’”

After hanging out for some time, Barton said Chopra asked her out on a morning walk to Loyola Beach. The two even unintentionally shared a classroom together in the spring.

On the first day of their Science and Civilization class, the duo quickly noticed one another but tried to avoid being the “cringy couple” after sitting side-by-side in class. 

Having entered Loyola with the hurdles of social distancing, Chopra said they have enjoyed navigating the uncertainties of college together. Similarly, Barton said she’s learned a lot from her college relationship and appreciates being able to grow alongside Chopra. 

Barton said she believes Loyola is a good campus for meeting people. The two nature-lovers felt the campus offers countless scenic walks, perfect for a date. 

A Relationship After Rejection

Juniors Kaitlin DeLacy and Vijay Vinayakan met on Tinder after Vinayakan’s Valentine’s Day loneliness consumed him. For pre-med Vinayakan, the initiative was prompted by enduring the torturous happiness of other Loyola couples. 

After messaging her asking to watch SpongeBob together, Vinayakan received a rejection from DeLacy.

“She told me her parents were in town and I thought that had meant she was with someone else,” Vinayakan said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a good lie.’”

Despite the initial rejection, the two eventually made plans to reconnect, though neither of them intended for anything serious to come from it. In fact, DeLacy, like Barton, said she was against dating in college, having been advised not to by her older sister. 

Hanna Houser | The Phoenix Vijay Vinayakan (left) said meeting his girlfriend Kaitlin DeLacy (right) “didn’t feel forced,” and just felt right.

“I didn’t want it to interfere with school and friends, but really it’s only helped both of those things,” DeLacy said. 

Two months later, the pair began dating after many deep talks in their dorms. For DeLacy, who said she hadn’t met many students due to minimal socialization throughout Fordham Hall, Vinayakan helped her make friends as a first-year. 

Now, the two reflect positively on their college relationship. As a nursing major, DeLacy said the pair, both medical students, have experienced similar challenges within their coursework and have complementary schedules. 

Overall, what started as an unsuspecting dating-app meetup spawned a close knit partnership for both Vinayakan and DeLacy. 

“It didn’t feel forced,” Vinayakan said. “Usually first meeting you have staple sentences, but it really quickly branched off into natural talks. I think that was special.”

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