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School Smart, Love Dumb

I recently started seeing a very nice guy who also happens to be a grad student here on campus. My question is, how do I find the time and energy for dating while being a grad student? What specific activities can I do here in Seattle, given that there’s hardly any time on weekdays, we are not living together, and we are both not rich enough to afford cars?

I’m really clueless on how to keep this thing going. Due to class/TA hours, we have only a 30-minute window to meet for lunch, and it always so happens that if he brings lunch from home, I forget to, so I need to go out to eat, which isn’t enough time for him to get back to his next class, and vice-versa. He gets to campus really early, so he’s tired by 7 pm, which is when I get out of OH, so we can’t really meet after that. Which leaves weekends, and it’s always raining here, so hikes are ruled out until summer, I think.

We’ve done all the getting-to-know-each-other talks, now I sense a bit of boredom seeping into our bland meetings. Apart from there not being much time to meet (as described above), there’s also this thing that ever since I started grad school, all I can think and talk about is my research. I literally have no clue what’s going on in the world, I’m too tired to have an opinion on anything, and I haven’t seen any movies recently. I just don’t know how to fix this! Is this something other grad students who are dating relate to? Any advice on how to fix it?  —Stuck in Love, Suck at Love

Well, what an interesting dilemma. It seems to this guru that you need to break down the larger issue of finding time to connect and identify each small problem and then brainstorm solutions with your significant other.  

Problem #1: If one of you brings lunch and the other buys lunch, you have no time to eat and talk together.
Possible solutions: Commit to always bringing lunch. Commit to always buying lunch. Eat in a campus café where you are welcome to bring outside food in (Rotunda, HUB, H-Bar, etc.).

Problem #2: You don’t know what to do on the weekends, especially in the winter.
Possible solutions: Learn to like hiking in the rain. Do an urban hike. Download a Seattle guide and try to do one a weekend. Take advantage of UW events.

Problem #3: You have nothing in common to talk about.
Possible solutions: Try to talk about your research in a big-picture way that’s relatable. Create shared experiences. Consult a guide of free/cheap fun dates
Email or text quick messages throughout the day and try to build up a casual, ongoing conversation that’s less intimidating than trying to save all conversation for weekends. 

And now let’s open it up to other graduate students to share their suggestions. Have you ever found yourself in Suck at Love’s situation? Please leave your tips in the comments!

Ask the Grad School Guru is an advice column for all y’all graduate and professional students. Real questions from real students, answered by real people. If the guru doesn’t know the answer, the guru will seek out experts all across campus to address the issue. (Please note: The guru is not a medical doctor, therapist, lawyer or academic advisor, and all advice offered here is for informational purposes only.) Submit a question for the column →