When I first stepped onto the BCIT campus, I had no intention of falling in love. Neither did he.
His name is Tai. We’re both taking a two-year broadcast journalism program. He instantly caught my eye on orientation day. He asked for my number, and since then, we’ve texted each other non-stop.
We dated for a month before we became official, and this gave me plenty of time to consider the risks. I had to seriously consider if I wanted to commit to a relationship right then.
Post-secondary, like any job, sets a standard of professionalism. Just as you wouldn’t mix work and romance, many would advise not to mix romance with school. The biggest risk was the relationship ending poorly. We’re going to be stuck in the same program for two years, so we don’t want to make things awkward down the line.
On balancing school and love
Early on, I brought up the topic of commitment to Tai. How serious was he about us? Asking this before entering any relationship is important. Think about what type of relationship you’re hoping for—a hookup or a long-term commitment? From there, figure out the boundary between work and feelings. Be honest. If either person is not committed as the other, the relationship may see a poor ending.
Next, we had to define our priorities. How does one balance a relationship with an intense workload? On top of a busy BCIT schedule, figuring out how to dedicate time to my significant other (SO) was a challenge. The first few weeks seemed easy, but the work piled up eventually.
Tai and I needed to make time for each other, so we compared our schedules; we figured out what classes we had together and where we had overlapping breaks. We take the same route to campus, so commuting became another way for us to spend time together.
BCIT curriculums may be time-consuming, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work a love life in.
School romances have their advantages
Being in the same program, Tai and I also get to use each other as resources. We’re there to help and support each other through the steep learning curve. We study together, carry each other’s equipment, and proofread each other’s work.
There have been numerous moments when I’m on the verge of breaking down. However, as soon as I hear Tai’s voice over the phone, my worries quiet down. In the end, we cheer each other on.
Being a single student has many advantages. A single student has the freedom to focus on themselves, to just think about their grades and future. A relationship will take away this valuable time. Schoolwork entails a lot of stress and pressure, but love can be a way to break that tension.
Tai and I, for example, don’t think of each other as chores, but rather, as support. We ‘re simply holding hands as we pursue our respective goals and paths.
Tai and Maria (Courtesy: Maria Diment)
Drawing the line between professionalism and affection
Hookups and flings are common in companies—some employees even develop long-term relationships. There are no laws against working relationships, but there can be policies in place. Per BC regulations, a workplace relationship would go against HR policy if it can influence your performance, work conditions, or your salary.¹ If that isn’t a worry, consider if the relationship goes against the employer’s interest. Finally, make sure to read up on company policy. The last thing you want is to compromise your job.
Unless you are breaking a rule or going against a policy, the main thing that would work against a professional relationship would be how you conduct yourselves in a professional setting.
This means no Public Displays of Affection (PDA) or flirting in the workplace. Our program at BCIT simulates a workplace setting, so Tai and I had to agree on how to conduct ourselves. We try to work with other people on assignments as much as possible, and only occasionally work with each other. This way, we’re not isolating ourselves into our own bubble away from our classmates. We’ve also established how much affection is appropriate to show in public.
If permitted, a relationship in a professional setting is very much possible with the right people. Ask yourself if you’re able to manage it and be aware of the risks and sacrifices you may face.