Despite pandemic, Bruins find ways to make Valentine’s Day special

The COVID-19 pandemic is not preventing some students from celebrating Valentine’s Day with their loved one.

Student couples are reimagining their Valentine’s Day plans to limit exposure to public spaces and follow social distancing guidelines – an extension of how they spent time with their partner under the constraints of the pandemic.

Savi Nasiri, a fourth-year communication transfer student, has not seen her boyfriend for three years, a fourth-year student at UC Santa Barbara, for about a month.

Nasiri also doesn’t plan to see her boyfriend, Leonardo Di Donato, in person on Valentine’s Day.

In previous years, they have visited their previous date locations in Orange County and enjoyed going to the beach. This year, they were hoping to rent an Airbnb for a private Valentine’s Day dinner away from family and roommates, but instead opted to celebrate virtually by cooking dinner and watching a movie on Zoom.

Although Nasiri is frustrated that the pandemic has lasted so long, she said she and her boyfriend plan to slow down.

“We’re just trying to take it day to day,” Nasiri said. “I think we’re still trying to be optimistic about when we’ll get out of all of this.”

Savi Nasiri and Leonardo Di Donato haven’t seen each other for about a month due to security concerns. For this same reason, they plan to spend their Valentine’s Day on Zoom. (Constanza Montemayor / Daily Bruin)

California has recorded more than 3,300,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Gabriela Lopez meets her boyfriend, Sebastian Casillas, a kinesiology student at CSU Dominguez Hills, at least twice a week – even though they live about 10 minutes apart. The third-year communications student said the two struggled to spend time together as full-time students with part-time jobs in virus restrictions.

While they were hoping to take a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, they plan to have dinner together and watch a movie on their own in one of their apartments.

“I think the pandemic has made us more grateful for our time together,” Lopez said. “We know how important it is to keep our own limits during the pandemic, not to go out with other people so that we can still see each other at the end of the day.”

(Constanza Montemayor / Daily Bruin)
Gabriela Lopez and Sebastian Casillas have found it difficult to navigate the constraints of COVID-19 as students and part-time workers. But they manage to meet at least twice a week and have come to appreciate the time they spend together even more. (Constanza Montemayor / Daily Bruin)

Robert Ulrich plans to spend Valentine’s Day with his boyfriend the same way they spent most of their dates, 2,500 miles apart. Ulrich, a doctoral student in biogeochemistry, and Joe Shaffer, bartender, have had a long-distance relationship for nearly three years.

The couple plan to watch the documentary “Queen of the Trees” and cook steaks together on a video call, and will likely send each other gifts, Ulrich said.

“We usually send a gift to the other person’s house to open it,” he said. “And it’s always a cute, fun surprise to receive in the mail… to line up with Valentine’s Day.”

Morgaine Mandigo-Stoba, a freshman physics graduate student, and Milan Roberson, a new physics graduate student, will celebrate Valentine’s Day in the safety of Mandigo-Stoba’s parents’ home, where they both live. They plan to order a dim sum dinner, bake a strawberry cake, and watch the lesbian romantic comedy movie “Happiest Season.”

Mandigo-Stoba and Roberson spent most of their dates at home. The couple reunited just before the start of the pandemic and progressed rapidly in their relationship, moving into Mandigo-Stoba’s parents’ house together after just a few weeks of dating.

Back then, Mandigo-Stoba said, it felt like the world was ending. So they decided to live together.

“We were able to stay together, make it work and not panic,” Roberson said.

(Constanza Montemayor / Daily Bruin)
Morgaine Mandigo-Stoba and Milan Roberson got together a few weeks before the start of the pandemic and quickly left from there. The couple felt moving in together during a pandemic was a ‘now or never’ type of decision. (Constanza Montemayor / Daily Bruin)

Aaron Wolf, a freshman in environmental science, said he plans to take his girlfriend to his favorite bakery and have a picnic on the UCLA campus on Valentine’s Day . Although they would have traveled to Solvang, a Danish-inspired town in central California, had it not been for the pandemic, Wolf said he hoped to make this Valentine’s Day special before his girlfriend is not leaving for college.

Some couples feel that although the pandemic has made it difficult to spend time together, they have become more grateful for the time they are spending together.

[Related: In a new pandemic reality, students in relationships go virtual to stay connected]

Dating during the lockdown prompted Wolf to reconsider his take on relationship milestones. Instead of defining their relationship by activities they had done together, he now focuses on the milestones of their emotional intimacy, like the first time he told his girlfriend he loved her, did he declare.

“I have dates on my phone of… all of those intimate, cheesy moments that I feel like I haven’t paid so much attention to,” Wolf said.

Nasiri said she and her boyfriend plan to enjoy their Valentine’s Day and stay upbeat. But she still looks forward to spending more time with her boyfriend once the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

“(The pandemic) has really affected the way we communicate and see ourselves, but we make it work, and we’re still in a happy relationship,” Nasiri said. “We know each other and we love each other very much. “

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