Love, Sex and Romance...?
Finding love at a commuter school? Students admit it’s not always easy…
Making romantic connections at TMU’s campus comes with it’s own set of unique challenges
After moving from Ottawa to Toronto in August 2020 for school, Amelia Willes was excited to get the “residence experience.” To her, this hopefully included meeting new friends and potentially a romantic partner.
During the peak of the pandemic, the third-year creative industries student was living in a single room in the International Living Centre (ILC), interacting only with her neighbours and having food delivered to her door as the dining halls were closed.
Due to pandemic restrictions and public-health guidelines, there often wouldn’t be many people around to socialize with and Willes had a hard time making new connections. She often looks back at this period of time and feels that her residence-life experience was stolen.
She also says that the transient nature of the university is still affecting her social life today.
“People don’t talk to each other. It is a commuter school, so people come for a class and immediately go home. No one’s sticking around to socialize,” says Willes.
She says because many people don’t live downtown and have to use the GO Train or subway to get around, finding time to meet and hang out with new people can be tough. “It takes so much energy and time to make plans.”
As Valentine’s Day’s love is in the air, the holiday tends to remind some Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students of the school’s somewhat-nonexistent social and romantic scene due to its high volume of commuter students.
While students focus on going to class and commuting straight home, finding love can be a significant challenge—if it’s even on their mind at all.
Willes says proximity is an important factor for her when making new connections with people. So much that she can’t imagine having a serious relationship with someone who lives further than half an hour away.
The difficulties of far distances between individuals in relationships is a key reason why people often tend to date those who live close to them.
According to Verywellmind, a mental health awareness organization, the psychological “proximity principle” explains that two individuals living within a close physical distance to one another are more likely to form connections.
In other words, convenience is a key factor for many people when entering a relationship.
Tefina Jolla, a second-year psychology student who commutes to campus from Scarborough, says a relationship is two-sided and requires compromise, especially with regard to distance.
“​​A lot of people in the university come from different areas of Toronto—maybe even out of Toronto and they all commute,” says Jolla. “So if you meet another commuter and you're potentially interested in that person, you both have to make such a big effort to hang out.”
Zorianna Zurba, a faculty member in TMU’s professional communications department with expertise on the philosophy of love, acknowledges the difficulties that come with dating at a commuter school.
“Getting to know someone has become a bit more formal, like an appointment,” Zurba says. “Asking someone in advance is kind of old-fashioned, which makes it different than casual hangouts and dating now.”
Despite the need for hangouts to be more planned, Zurba says this can add to the excitement when people finally get to spend time together in person.
“It can make you look a bit more forward to spending time together,” Zurba says.
She reminds students to prioritize open communication and vulnerability when entering new relationships, especially at a commuter school. It’s important to appreciate one another and have clear intentions as meeting up can involve more work.
Yet, despite the challenges that many students face when finding love, some students, like Palonee Shah and Fady Elsayed, have been lucky enough to make a romantic relationship work at TMU.
Shah is a first-year business management student who lives in residence, while Elsayed is a first-year computer engineering student who commutes from Mississauga, Ont. Despite living over 40 kilometres away from each other, they’ve been dating since Fall 2022.
In the summer before starting at TMU, the couple met through the app Patio, which is an app designed to help people who are attending the same universities and colleges meet each other. Quickly thereafter they moved their conversation to Instagram.
After getting to know each other over Instagram for two months, the pair quickly grew fond of each other and went out of their way to spend more time together in-person. This included making plans to be on the same flight back to Canada after they separately visited Dubai and India over the summer. Elsayed drove from Dubai to Abu-Dhabi and booked the seat next to Shah in order to catch the same connecting flight home that she was on.
While they initially connected over being first-years at TMU, the pair got much closer when school officially started. On Sept. 6, the first day of the fall 2022 semester, Elsayed asked Shah to be his girlfriend.
The couple are thankful for how the university has brought them together. They both agree that while their paths may have somehow crossed outside of school, they likely wouldn’t have been able to actually get to know each other if it wasn’t for TMU.
“The [university] experience helps us be together more often, when I do have breaks and at night we get to hangout,” said Elsayed.
Shah adds that they even made their schedules around each other to ensure that they could spend as much time together on campus as possible.
While Elsayed and Shah both feel incredibly lucky that TMU has brought them together, the couple is constantly working on their communication with each other, especially since the physical distance between them means that they can’t always work things out in-person.
Elsayed mentions how he allows himself to be vulnerable around Shah, leading her to help him change for the better.
“I’ve become nicer, more kind, more thoughtful, I even care more about the planet now. I’m really happy she’s there for me and the way we work in our relationship; for the better. I love her,” said Elsayed.
Elsayed adds how grateful he is that he found his true love.
Love can sometimes be hard to find and isn’t always like the movies, but you can turn it into your romantic journey and possibly find that person you can call home.