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By Margaret Yau, Marshall ’13
The red rose, boombox-over-head, big romantic gestures faded away with the last of the John Hughes films, so too did traditional love story-tropes for many Triton couplings. But no matter the era, love, of course, is still love. Whatever their generation, UC San Diego students and alumni still partnered up in front of the backdrop of biology labs and eucalyptus glades— they just had a different way of finding their match. Beyond the tales of serendipitous encounters are stories of friendship and trust, of study partners and failed first dates, and in the end, love.
“College is designed as the most effective friend-making machine in the world,” says Nicholas Christenfeld, UCSD professor of psychology. “If you were going to figure out a way to bring people together, it would be in this sort of novel environment, a place of both personal and worldly exploration.”
Sometimes, relationships don’t start with love at first sight — for David Ornelas, Warren ’06, and Parada Kovadi, Warren ’06, it started with a (joking) “I hate you.”
The two met when Parada went to her friend’s apartment in Warren College in the fall of 2003 to “borrow” (read: copy) lecture notes. She met David there, and promptly asked him the question that is often heard on campus during the first quarter: “Where are you from?”
Realizing that she and David were from San Jose, Parada excitedly asked him where he went to high school.
“I went to a very large, public high school,” says Parada. “He told me that he went to a private all-boys preparatory school, which I was not particularly fond of, because I thought they were all pretentious. I immediately said, ‘I hate you.’ That was the extent of our first meeting.”
Their paths didn’t cross again until the fall of 2005, when Parada walked into Earl’s Place (where David worked) and heard music that she liked. When she commented on the CD to the cashier, he called David out to meet her—it was his music.
With a musical connection this time, the couple finally had their first date in October 2005, at Spice and Rice, a Thai restaurant in downtown La Jolla.
“We’ve been inseparable ever since,” says Parada.
David and Parada tied the knot in the same city where it all started, La Jolla, on March 31, 2012. It seems like a dramatic shift for a courtship to take, from non-romantic banter to a lasting relationship, but it is something that happens over and over.
Recently, we asked our alumni couples to submit their stories. What they sent us was a deluge of campus love that illuminated many diverse paths from stranger to life partner. The meeting places ranged from the Che Café to the Sun God, and occurred through experiences as diverse as a study abroad experience to a sexual assault prevention show. The common thread between these stories is friendship—most submissions featured couples who met on campus, became friends and developed lasting relationships and marriages out of the foundations forged at UCSD.
Brandon and Jessica fell in love despite a failed first date; Jeremy waited weeks for his shot to date Jamie; Bryan and Mariko bonded while lost in translation.
Christenfeld cites the “triangular theory of love,” developed by American psychologist Robert Sternberg. In the context of love and interpersonal relationships, there must be three components—intimacy (which includes personal and emotional attachment), passion (generally sexual attraction) and commitment (both long-term and short-term). Love that lacks one or two of these components is not as strong as what Sternberg refers to as “consummate love,” or an ideal relationship with all three aspects.
“Friendship is a critical component, but sometimes it works in the other direction,” says Christenfeld. “Some relationships are drawn together by a strong spark, and to that, one adds friendship. There are lots of friendships with no spark, and lots of sparks that don’t develop a friendship. And when both click—that’s what works.”
For so many couples on campus, all three elements fell into place.
For Bryan Phillips, Muir ’10, and Japanese exchange student Mariko Yamada, frequent encounters were key. Bryan first noticed Mariko when she came into the International Center, where Bryan was volunteering, to register to find housing around campus.
“I can’t forget the expression on her face,” says Bryan. “She had an air of excitement to be in the United States, although she seemed exhausted with having to navigate a whole new set of complicated procedures. And yet, all the while, she had one of the most innocent and optimistic smiles I’ve ever seen.”
For Mariko, the familiarity was comforting.
“I was kind of relieved that I got someone to talk to,” says Mariko. “Every time I went to the International Center, he was there. So I was happy when I saw him.”
Mariko’s persistent questions about buses to Solana Beach sparked a sense of chivalry in Bryan. He offered to give her a ride to go house hunting, but even with a long car ride and banter, Bryan was still unable to get Mariko’s number, as she didn’t have a phone.
“I felt like I missed out again, but lucky for me, she showed up again a couple days later looking for more help with housing,” says Bryan.
Once Mariko’s housing was finally sorted out, she and Bryan were finally free to start dating, and their flame has been carried (long-distance) to Japan and Taiwan, and of course, to San Diego.
The adventurous couple summited Mt. Fuji in an eight hour nighttime hike in August of 2011, where Bryan proposed at sunrise.
“I knew Mariko was not one to draw undo attention to herself and didn’t want a big show, so as we were waiting for the sun to rise, I talked to her and told her how much I loved her and that I wanted to be with her forever,” says Bryan.
Mariko said yes, and the happy couple celebrated taking their relationship to new heights. Though the altitude-induced finger-swelling meant that Mariko could not wear the ring, the couple plans on marrying in Japan in the coming year.
Seth Klonsky, Muir '04 &
Jared Bell, Revelle '05, M.S. '08
When Seth Klonsky, Muir ’04, first met Jared Bell, Revelle ’05, M.S.
’08, there was no love at first sight—just friendship. They met as many
couples do—mutual friends brought Jared, a Revelle sophomore, to Seth’s
Muir College apartment for introductions in October 2001. In Seth’s
words, it was a nonchalant and unmemorable experience.
Fast forward to spring quarter 2002: The casual friends reunited at
UCSD’s Sun God festival, an annual bacchanalia that has sparked more
than one campus romance. Seth realized during Cake’s headlining act that
he wanted to date Jared.
“It was the end of the year [May] and I thought it would be a fun
springtime romance. And it never really stopped, for months and months.”
Case in point: during their first quarter of dating, Jared took his
first physics requirement, a course that required focus and
concentration. Coupled with his newfound relationship, his grade did not
“He would spend all of his time with me and my friends at our apartment, and he made a move to leave to study for his class, I would convince him to stay a little longer. He ended up failing physics that quarter.”
The couple married in May 2010, after 10 years of dating.
For Yunnie Song, Pharm. D. ’07, and Russell Luke, Pharm. D. ’07, a
literal fire lit their flame. The two met while waiting in line for ID
badges during the Skaggs doctoral pharmacy program orientation. As
members of the second inaugural 26-member graduating class, Yunnie and
Russell gradually became friends, until the year of the fires in 2003.
“When the fires happened, we all evacuated the campus,” says Russell.
“[Yunnie] lived in Rancho Bernardo at the time, and I gave her a call to
see if she was okay.”
Russell Luke, Pharm. D. '07 & Yunnie Song, Pharm. D. '07
This simple act of outreach was surprising, but comforting for the San Diego native.
“Honestly, I was surprised to see that he cared enough to call,” says Yunnie.
The holidays were what clinched it for the pharmacy students.
“It was Thanksgiving, and I asked him if he was going home to see his family,” says Yunnie. “He said that he was going to stay on campus and study Pharm law. So we stayed and studied through Thanksgiving.”
Though their studiousness brought them together, a New Year’s Eve party cemented their couple status.
“We went downtown to the annual New Year’s Eve Bash,” says Yunnie. “And yes, there was the kiss.”
Five years of dating, studying and interning later, the couple tied the knot in 2008 and stayed local after graduation. Russell works up in Oceanside at the Tri-City Medical Center, and Yunnie works at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas.
For Jessica Saavedra, Revelle ’09, her love story did not take off without a few missteps. Jessica met Brandon Buzbee, ERC ’06, in fall quarter 2005 when they were both leaders for the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on campus. After noticing that the attractive junior was the apple of many eyes, Jessica resolved to “just be friends.”
The two developed a casual friendship, and several instant messenger conversations later, Brandon invited Jessica to La Jolla Shores to go surfing, on what he intended to be a one-on-one date.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get that this was a date and told my roommates and other friends that I was headed to the beach with Brandon, and the one-on-one date turned into a group outing to the beach,” says Jessica. “Oops!”
Luckily, Brandon saved the date with a post-surf frozen yogurt outing (just the two of them).
“Brandon told me that he was attracted to me in January 2006, but he never asked me out,” says Jessica. “I told him that I would “date” him but promised myself that I didn’t want to kiss another guy until I knew he was the one. That only lasted 8 months.”
Luckily, their first date fumble hardly deterred the couple from dating the rest of their college career, and beyond. Shortly after Jessica graduated from UCSD in the spring of 2009, Brandon proposed, and the couple married in 2010.
Patience was the key for Jeremy Cookson, Warren ’04. The Warren sophomore and the goalkeeper for the UCSD men’s soccer team, asked out his future wife, Jamie Lautenschleger, Warren ’05, in December 2001 during the final four tournament of the soccer national championships. Unfortunately for Jeremy (but fortunately for Jamie), the women’s soccer team, where Jamie was a freshman keeper, actually won the entire tournament that season and their date was delayed until after Christmas break.
The couple dated through the rest of their time at UCSD, and they kept it local. Jeremy has fond memories of meeting Jamie for lunch dates on campus and taking long walks to the cliffs for the romantic ocean view. Shortly after Jamie graduated, Jeremy realized that Jamie was a keeper (pun intended) and proposed. The two married in 2005.
And so, is there something magical about this place, this beautiful mesa situated at the edge of the Pacific, or is it the confluence of so many young adults at such a formative time in their lives? It could be the vibrant and stimulating atmosphere of new ideas and shared values or the friendships forged in the hothouse of tests, papers and exams.
“This is an age when people are generally looking,” says Christenfeld. ”It is an age when they are curious instead of being stuck in a rut.” That curiosity opens them to new experiences and new friendships. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that, “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” So many of the relationships forged at UCSD are born in friendship and seem to have stood the test of years.
In finding love on an academic setting, perhaps Tolstoy said it best: “Everything I know, I know because of love.”
And so, “The Journey Continues.” To see more photos and stories of these Canoodlers and others join us at alumni.ucsd.edu/canoodler
Margaret Yau, Marshall ’13, is an editorial intern at Triton Magazine.