Advice for the new Ole: Navigating romance on the Hill

Hello my lovelies! I hope you are all out there wearing masks, distancing physically and the like. Amidst all the pandemic pandemonium happening on campus (essential as it is), it’s easy to forget the newest members of the Hill: first years and transfer students. Welcome! 

As a seasoned veteran of dating on the Hill, I wanted to reach out with some special advice for all you new hopefuls. Although college is an incredible place to potentially meet the love of your life, I would like to share some words of wisdom and caution to keep in mind when dating on the lovely St. Olaf College campus.

1 . Be wary of seniors 

As a first year, I remember watching my friends become exceedingly smitten with upperclassmen who simply glowed with maturity, intrigue and excitement. But first years, beware of such amorous connections! Although four years is short in the grand scheme of life, the college years are extremely formative. People discover what they’re really about, alight on their future goals and find new dimensions of their personalities over the course of 12 long semesters. 

It can be extremely difficult (albeit not impossible) to find a balance of power between a first year, who is still learning the ropes, and a senior who feels like they have been enlightened. Because of this, it’s easy for a first year to become overly dependent on the relationship and allow too much of the power to fall into the hands of the more experienced upperclassman.  

If you’re trying to avoid heartbreak as a first year, it’s also important to think at least a tiny bit long term when dating a senior. What happens in two semesters? What happens to your relationship when they graduate? They may seem like the best thing that’s ever happened to you now, but will that hold as you finish out a seemingly insurmountable amount of coursework in college and they move on to a very different world? Seniors, even those with good intentions, are most likely only looking for something fun and diverting while they finish off the grand ol’ diploma. If being someone’s temporary distraction is acceptable to you, go ahead. But you’ve been warned!

2 . Tiny, but mighty (awkward): The reality of dating on a small campus

What’s not to love about small campuses? More individual attention from faculty, digestible class sizes, stronger sense of community — the list goes on. However, when it comes to dating, players and Tinder-swipers beware! With only about 3,000 students and a dozen or so buildings, there’s nowhere to hide from previous flames, especially if they study in your department. So proceed with caution. 

Very few can still walk the halls of Buntrock without feeling the need to quickly change direction or hide behind a random, towering Norwegian-American in hopes of escaping the gaze of a past flame. If you’ve spent much time in a small town, these situations should already be familiar to you. The same rules apply here: If you’re going to dip your toe in and sample the many fish of the St. Olaf sea, make sure you don’t try one that will be swimming in your school later. Another option: Become really good at staying friends with people that you failed with romantically. This fine art, however, is a Heartbeat column unto itself. 

3 . What about the high school significant?

Goodness, there is no easy solution to this one. In my experience, the high school relationship rarely lasts through even the first semester of college. I remember watching the strained but hopeful distance-daters around me drop like flies as fall swept through campus my first year on the Hill. I even experienced the same heart break myself with a high school sweetheart of two years. Nevertheless, I do not regret the fact that I gave it a shot. As Wayne Gretzke said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” 

Sure, it might be a bleak cause, trying to hold on to someone from a previous stage of life. At the same time, wouldn’t it be worse to be looking back as you sit alone in bed on a Friday night in sophomore year, slurping Ben and Jerry’s as you bawl over “The Notebook” and wondering, “What if? What if we had at least tried distance?” (definitely not a personal experience there). So if you think they’re at all worth it, give it a shot! See what happens! Let things fall apart or bind together organically, instead of euthanizing the relationship solely based on a geographical change. 

Don’t be frightened my lovelies! College romance can be thrilling, hugely informative and may even impact the rest of your life (Oles marry Oles?). We must take some measured risks to continue rolling out our tapestries of life. At the end of the day, just remember to be confident, be yourself, be smart and always, always be kind!


Deepest regards, 

Dr. Lovegood ’69, Specialist in All Things Amorous

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