Love is Bruin

by Saumya Mahajan & Kristina Mooney

Love, relationships and the dynamics of coupledom are as diverse and complex at UCLA as the student body itself. Beyond academic and professional growth, UCLA also serves as a backdrop for various romantic connections. From chance encounters in the bustling corridors of Powell Library to planned meet-ups at the sun-drenched Bruin Plaza, UCLA’s sprawling campus is a witness to myriad love stories. Whether it’s undergraduates finding love in lecture halls or graduate students bonding over research interests, the university’s vibrant atmosphere contributes to the formation of lasting relationships, reflecting the diverse and ever-evolving nature of modern romance.

Fall in love with three Bruin couples as they recount the beginnings of their relationships and reflect on their romance.

Accidental class enrollment leads to blossoming romance

“We weren’t supposed to meet,” said alumnus Nick Johnson, a former computer science student, as he held the hand of his girlfriend, a third-year student studying biochemistry, Angela Denvir. Two years ago, Nick and Angela met in a fiat lux course here at UCLA, a class worth only one unit and only available to freshman students. Johnson had ended up in the same class as Denvir by mistake, and had actively tried to drop the course until he couldn’t.

The fiat lux in question was titled “Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Awareness in the Medical Field,” and for pre-med track Denvir, it was an exciting and unique learning opportunity. However, for the tech-savvy Johnson, it was an uninteresting use of study time. As the first day of class arrived, Johnson felt as though he had exhausted all options and had no choice but to go. To Johnson’s dismay, when he showed up to the classroom, the professor wasn’t there, but rather a handful of his classmates who, unlike Johnson, had chosen to enroll in the class and were excited to learn about the material. However, Johnson, Denvir and their fellow classmates took this as an opportunity to meet each other and chat outside the locked room.

Johnson and Denvir hit it off well, because after their second class meeting the two left the building together and found their way to Rendezvous on campus to eat lunch. The pair ended up sitting for three hours at the dining spot, intended mainly for take-out meals. However, that was one of the shortest of their first get-togethers, as their next few meetings would last for seven or eight hours. The two have yet to go a day without seeing each other, commenting that summer will be the first time they will have to spend multiple weeks apart.

Johnson was in awe of how selfless Denvir was that first meal together, citing an example of Denvir helping a stranger who spilled their food on the floor inside Rendezvous’s seating area. “We just clicked really well,” Denvir said, and the two felt very aware that their relationship was leaning beyond a friendship with the more time they spent together. However, it took Denvir and Johnson some time to put a label on their relationship. Denvir laughingly recalled two of her best friends telling her, “You need to ‘DTR,’ which means ‘Define the Relationship.’” Johnson detailed how in the middle of watching The Lion King one evening, Denvir paused the movie, turned to him and said, “‘Okay, we need to DTR.’” Johnson asked what DTR even meant, and when Denvir explained, the two knew they were dating from that point forward.

“My favorite thing is that we’re literally best friends, and like can do everything together and I can talk to him about anything,” Denvir said on the current state of their relationship. Denvir grabbed Johnson’s hand and leaned into him, saying, “We’re just like really close.” Despite the opposition from Johnson’s planning to avoid the coincidence of meeting Denvir, the two were meant to be.

Dance floor meeting sparks romance between UCLA STEM majors

When Max Orr, a microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics alumnus, started poking fun at the girl with the quirky dance moves at a party during week one, he didn’t know he was interacting with his future girlfriend. Third-year neuroscience student Lisa Ota was surprised to find out the person she was having fun dancing with during her first week in college had strange similarities to her– he was also half Asian and also had a father that was born in Germany. The two spoke more and hit it off.

Casually, Ota and Orr began spending more time together after that first party, and over time, grew “fond” of one another, in the words of Orr. Both Ota and Orr found common ground in their difficult STEM majors. The pair met when Ota was a first-year student and Orr was a third-year student, and Ota found that Orr was a large support to her as she navigated academic rigor.

“I didn’t expect much out of it,” Orr said. Ota explained that moving from a small town in Maryland to the university meant meeting a lot of new people and she expected Orr to just be one of those people she would meet during week one and never speak to again. Yet, the couple continued to spend time together, finding overlap in their values.

Orr and Ota were both attracted to the drive and work ethic they found in each other, which has allowed them to support one another in their own ventures. Ota said, “Something that’s really important to me is, I want whoever that I’m dating or whoever I like to have their own drive and their own passions, whether that’s similar or different to mine.” In such a competitive and intense environment, Orr and Ota both appreciated how much respect they provided for each other, giving each other the space to grow and accomplish individual goals. “She’s developed this ability to really organize her time well, and work hard and play hard,” Orr discussed when thinking about why he was drawn to Ota. Ota is part of the Alpha Phi sorority and Orr, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The two recognized that having their respective sorority and fraternity participate in so many events together has made spending time with one another during their busy schedules easier and more fun.

While Ota and Orr found so many reasons to take their relationship with one another to the next step, they said they waited to name exactly what they had. Ota recalled, “I feel like we were both waiting for it to kind of happen…we were both super into the idea of not dating someone.” However, allowing time to do the work, Orr said, “It just naturally flowed into where we are now.” Now, Ota cherishes the quality of her conversations with Orr, and said, “I have been amazed at how far listening goes.”

The couple became much closer than they could have foreseen during that first party. Orr has loved seeing Ota put so much of herself into her aspirations and adores how much Ota has enriched his life. “You’re just such a beam of light in my life,” Orr said as he addressed Ota, and the couple locked eyes.

Art, geology and vegan delights: UCLA students’ unique bond blossoms into romance

Third-year student Hudson Billock, studying computational biology, found himself drawn to art and geology student and fourth-year student Anna Turysheva’s silly and goofy nature. Thinking back on one of his earliest memories of her, Billock recalled an incident from their high school drawing class. Turyscheva had finished her drawing at the beginning of class as she held up her charcoal-smudged fingers, oblivious to the teacher’s instructions on using smudging tools to complete their charcoal drawings. However, what really brought the couple together was a shared love of vegan food. Both of them deeply appreciate how they’ve introduced each other to a lot of delicious dishes and are constantly bringing each other food. Billock even asked her to homecoming with all her favorite snacks from Trader Joe’s. This was when the two officially got together, and they laughingly recalled how Turysheva forgot to get him a boutonniere and instead pinned a “pretty branch” to his lapel.

Some of their favorite memories together have been while cooking. “We have our signature dish. We call it ‘The Classic.’” Turysheva recounted one particularly special moment from when she was sick, lying on the kitchen floor in a pile of blankets. As she swayed to the music playing in the background while Billock cooked, “Lover” by Taylor Swift came on. She jumped up from her spot on the floor and moved over to Billock, and they danced around the kitchen, hands intertwined, bathed in the soft evening light.

However, since Turysheva was initially at a different school, the long-distance certainly took a toll on them as they struggled to stay apart from each other for longer periods of time. Despite the distance, both of them drove for at least 4 hours every weekend to see each other at home and would regularly visit each other as well. On their anniversary during that period, Billock surprised Turysheva by showing up at Santa Barbara. He called her and asked her to come to her car under the pretense of having left something in there. Turysheva was thrilled to see Billock standing by the car, leaning against the hood, flowers and necklace in hand. “He’s really romantic actually,” she remarked, regarding him lovingly as they gazed into each other’s eyes, unable to look away. The excitement and relief of being together at the same place again were evident on their faces as the couple recounted the moment Turysheva became a Bruin. Billock, who was “stoked to the max” upon receiving the good news, was the first person she called when the decisions came out, tears streaming down her face as she screamed with joy.

The two have shared many traditions between them and their families that they hope to carry forward over the coming years. One such tradition was giving each other a little pumpkin every Halloween. It started out with Billock giving Turysheva a little pumpkin the first time he asked her out. In high school, they would exchange funny, yet thoughtful handwritten notes. “He remembered, like, the most random little things that would, like, really touch me.” They continue to do so every anniversary. At the same time, Turysheva expressed that it is important to “never stop dating” and to continue to do new and exciting things with your partner. This could be anything from backpacking trips, taking a ceramics class together, to just any new outdoorsy activity. Turysheva and Billock’s parents have expressed support for their relationship. “They get very excited when she comes home, and not as excited when I come home,” Billock remarked jokingly. The couple has said they are excited to take their relationship to the next level, moving in together next year. Turysheva and Billock have fostered a truly beautiful bond that is nourished by the love, support and comfort they provide for one another.

Featured Image Photographed by Dominic Pham/BruinLife Photo Studio

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