As Valentine’s Day approaches – the most dreaded day of the year for many single people – Bruins of all genders, sexualities and nationalities gathered together Feb. 9 in Carnesale Commons for a matchmaking event – speed dating.
My first reaction when I saw the Dashew Center email on speed dating was skepticism. I had doubts about how much you can learn about one person in merely a few minutes, not to mention trying to find someone you’d actually want to date. Yet as I interviewed participants of the event, I realized that there was more to this event than single students trying to find an antidote to Valentine’s Day loneliness – it was a platform to bring together students from all around the globe.
This year, 200 students from more than 40 different countries attended the event. Participants sat down at a table with a person of their gender preference for five minutes. After the time was up, they switched to a different table. If they were interested in a person, they could write down that person’s name on a piece of paper, which was collected at the end of the event, and the Dashew Center would contact them later on if they found a match.
Most students found out about this event through email, such as Leo Lie, a graduate student studying biochemistry.
“I received the email a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to come,” he said. “I’m interested in Dashew Center events all the time, like a very loyal customer.”
Helen Zapata, a third-year English student, also joined the event as a returning customer.
“I heard about this event through the Dashew language exchange program, so I told a few friends and we came together,” she said.
To my surprise, most people I talked with viewed this event as a chance to simply meet more people and socialize, as opposed to an attempt to start a relationship.
“I came here for the cultural experience,” said Sasha Matviienko, a second-year MBA student. “My goal was to meet people and now my aim is achieved.”
Ajay Muraleedharan, also a graduate student in UCLA’s MBA program, attended for a similar reason, saying that it is a good and efficient way to meet people. Ye Tian, a doctoral student in statistics said that she simply came to meet new friends and it turned out to be really fun.
Reviews of the event turned out to be overwhelmingly positive. Matviienko viewed the experience to be worth it. Muraleedharan also praised Dashew for doing a good job and the event to be very well-organized. Lie, who just experienced his first time speed dating, rated the event an 8.5 out of 10.
Even students who didn’t have high expectations for this event were pleasantly surprised. When Zapata decided to sign up for speed dating, she wasn’t expecting much.
“In the end I met a lot of cool people from all sorts of cool places such as Hong Kong,” she said.
Sashwat Padhi, a doctoral student in computer science also expected it to be awkward, but to his surprise, had a good time and met a lot of interesting people.
However, despite the overall success of speed dating, there were still a few minor setbacks. Tian noted that it depended mainly on luck. It would take some effort to find someone with similar interests in such a big room if a participant were to seriously try to find a significant other. Kai Song, a graduate student in bioengineering, also criticized the size of the room, because it was too big and had too many people, making conversation difficult in such a loud environment. He also said that the time was too short to really get to know someone.
In the end, this speed dating event could be seen to be more like “speed socializing,” giving students opportunities to meet people outside their usual social circles. Even if you don’t end up with the perfect Valentine’s Day date, you still might have a chance to make a multicultural group of friends.