What you need to know:
- The dating culture in university is often viewed as frivolous, filled with fleeting hookups and devoid of commitment
- Some, however, manage to forge relationships that outlast college and lead to marriage
As they dart from one lecture to the next, chase their assignments and do all that appertain academics, students find time to kick back and relax, to party, and also date.
Campus is the literal home of character development, and if most adults would open up on their experiences, you will hear tales of untold heartbreaks, funny circumstances of falling in and out of love, swapping of partners and other relationship dilemmas that can at best be used as cautionary tales.
As a result, quite a number of relationships never make it beyond university.
But there are always exceptions. There are friendships that graduate to courtship and pass the test of time to see marriage vows exchanged. Four such couples talk about how they managed to protect their love through the stormy campus life, to end up tying a knot with their spouses.
Antony Kamano, 30, and Lydia Mwathi, 29
When Antony met Lydia, now his wife, in the company of a friend 11 years ago, it was love at first sight.
Although he did not make his first move then, he sought her contacts from a mutual friend with a mind to call her later that day.
His first call to Lydia, however, came with disappointments. She got furious and demanded to know where he had gotten her contacts before hanging up on him.
But as fate would have it, the two would bump into each other after a couple of days in a church choir where they got to know each other. That marked the beginning of a relationship that ushered them into a happily-ever-after story.
"I played the piano while she sang in the praise and worship team, we would meet often after the church service, making our bond stronger," says Antony.
While Lydia was attracted by Antony's love and zeal for the gospel, he was awestruck by her physical beauty, humility and God-fearing nature.
The two studied different courses: a bachelor’s degree in science general for Lydia and business administration for Antony. They, however, had information technology as a common unit.
A few months into their relationship, Lydia was involved in a motorcycle accident that had her hospitalised for over a month and Antony moved into the ward to take care of her.
"My boyfriend, now husband, called and assured my mother that he would take good care of me. By doing so, he won my parents’ hearts," Lydia recalls.
Two years later, Antony introduced Lydia to his parents, who welcomed and checked on her frequently. "They sent shopping for two and called Lydia every time to ensure she received her package," says Antony.
The relationship, just like any other, came with its fair share of challenges, including the common disagreements. The couple admits that it takes deliberate effort of both parties to make a campus relationship work.
Antony, who was then a student leader, had a number of admirers eying him, something that made his girlfriend feel insecure. On several occasions, Lydia would pack and leave their room with a note behind explaining her whereabouts.
To make the relationship work, the couple made a habit of settling their differences each day before going to bed.
"Forgiveness is one big lesson I have learnt over the years. Mistakes will always happen, but it’s only proper if couples learn to understand and let go of some issues," Lydia offers.
Her husband adds: "A relationship will also survive if a couple is patient and transparent with each other, not forgetting to put God first."
According to Antony, campus relationships also need a couple to be committed and learn how to balance time and class work.
"One key secret to making a relationship work is effective communication. I remember we would call and text more than 10 times in a day, despite being in the same institution," Lydia reveals. To date, she says Antony remains the most loving, understanding, supportive, God-fearing man.
"Lydia is the best wife and mother of our children, the family pillar that’s supportive in every aspect," says Antony.
In April 2018, the couple had a colourful wedding in Nairobi and are now blessed with two children, three years and six months. The two have also established a music production company called Lyton Productions, where they both work.
The couple’s advice those in college or univeristy to learn how to settle their issues amicably, understand their partners, learn to forgive and understand that no one is perfect.
Cleophas Oluoch and Nicole Omollo, both are 26
In an effort to protect their young love, Cleophas and Nicole had to edit their friends list to eliminate “negative energy”.
While their focus was to grow old together, a number of naysayers thought that the relationship would not outlive the campus circus, so they killed some friendships, and so far, their relationship is six years old.
"We got to a point of keeping only friends who gave us positive energy while focusing on ourselves and listening to our hearts’ desires,” says Cleophas.
The duo met in 2017 while pursuing their degrees at Moi University, Eldoret. Cleophas studied information sciences while Nicole studied linguistics, media and communication.
Thanks to technology, the couple found themselves in a common WhatsApp group where, upon noticing her, Cleophas decided to make the first move.
"A single WhatsApp message changed everything, things have been flowing smoothly with us since then," he says. "We had similar interests and that was the spark. We both wanted something that would last beyond campus," says Cleophas.
To balance their social and academic life, the two, who were in their second year, decided to focus their energy on studies during the week and catch up on weekends.
"We had grades to protect, classes to attend as well as a healthy relationship to keep. At the end of the day, where would our love take us without good grades?" Nicole posed. The couple graduated in December 2020, each performing well.
The two, who graduated in 2020, got engaged this year, and made their parents aware of the relationship a week later. The wedding bells are soon sounding.
Cleophas best describes Nicole as a hardworking, prayerful, loving and decisive woman, who fully compliments him.
"Nicole is silent, and in that lies great reasoning. She is a good listener too, which makes us avoid unnecessary exchanges as I talk a lot," he says.
Nicole describes Cleophas as a loving, caring and visionary partner with a lot of potential, besides being supportive, quick to forgive and the best company.
Nicole is of the view that for a campus relationship to blossom, it is important for a couple to learn how to solve their problems without involving a third party or going to bed while holding a grudge.
"Saying sorry is not a weakness but a sign of greatness. We have learnt to forgive as soon as we start an argument," says Nicole, adding that prayer, faithfulness, patience and trust are the pillars of their relationship.
The couple also shares that it is also important for students to stay focused in their academic work while dating.
Irene Olwande, 28, and Boaz Ongote, 30
Irene, a communication and media technology student at Maseno University city campus in Kisumu, reached a decision alongside her parents to acquire additional skills to make up for her free daytime.
She chose to take up French language classes at the Alliance Françoise. Here, she met another student, Boaz.
Boaz had deferred his university studies due to financial difficulties. They both attended French classes in the morning and spent their afternoons rehearsing with a theater production group, Laser Arts Ensemble, that was incubated at the school.
At the time, Boaz harboured a dream to become a Disc Jockey, and his desire came to pass. Irene, however, a natural dancer, took part in the musical productions that incorporated contemporary dance, acting and music.
Boaz, found her beautiful, and so made the first move, one that the reserved Irene turned down as she disliked his loud group of friends. But he wasn’t the type to give up easily.
Six months later, after staging their productions, the team held a party to celebrate their hard work and milestones. As they walked home after the event, Boaz threw in a rather strange pick-up line.
He cheekily asked for Sh20 from Irene, which sparked their first hearty conversation that would lead to a relationship and marriage and two handsome boys. By the time they were staging their next production, the two had become an item.
Then Irene moved out of the girls’ hostels into her own space, where she habitually played host to her theatre group friends. Most of them lived with their parents and chose to relax at her house after rigorous rehearsal sessions. Boaz was one of them.
And when Irene raised concerns over insecurity in the area, Boaz moved in to protect her. That’s how the couple moved in together.
A dilemma then presented itself on how they’d inform their parents of their relationship. Already, friends had advised Irene against dating a man who was yet to attend college. Another fear was that they were of different tribes, which they feared their parents would not be happy about.
Looking back, they’re happy to have gained the acceptance of their parents back in 2013.
When they had dated for four years, the two felt they were ready to have a child.
Boaz ventured fully into dj'ying at nightclubs, something that brought a lot of friction to the young marriage. They weathered the turbulence.
He has since graduated with a bachelor in Sociology from Maseno University and no longer works in clubs. He now focuses on corporate functions, which offer more flexible timelines. As for Irene, she is a digital marketer and communication specialist.
The couple, who believe in the mantra, “never say quit”, advises young campus couples to learn to take time to understand and solve their issues and the need to draw boundaries on friendships that can threaten their union.
They duo say they’re at a better place in life because of supporting and appreciating each other, and fighting for their love.
“The bond we have created over time has been cemented by our children, the products of our love. We have invested in this to make it work and worth it,” Boaz says.
Carolyne Omwamba Bosibori,31, and Duncan Abuga,32
A Multimedia University students’ strike that saw the learners sent packing for nearly a month was a blessing in disguise for Duncan and Caroline. Their love story blossomed into a beautiful marriage of close to a decade now.
The two, who studied mass communication at the institution, were also neighbours living in the same compound off-campus. While Carolyne lived alone, Duncan shared a house with two collegemates. The four often converged at Duncan’s to while away their evenings telling stories, and many a times sharing a meal.
Duncan had the privilege to be the campus head of the institution’s radio station and he used the priviledge to teach Carolyne the ropes of radio production.
This camaraderie would go on for a while until a mutual friend let the cat out the bag, informing Carolyne that Duncan had a liking for her.
She didn’t think much of it as she was seeing someone else at the time. Weeks later, Duncan approached Carolyne and laid bare his intention of having her as his girlfriend, an overture that she respectfully turned down.
This, however, did not dent their friendship. Their routine evening wind downs continued, and months later, , she parted ways with the boyfriend.
Around the same time, the school administration sent the students away for nearly a month due to a strike.
With a lot of time in their hands, the four neighbours and friends spent a lot of time together. Slowly, the embers of love that had been suppressed sparked into a flame.
In the beginning of 2016, the couple moved in together when Carolyne got pregnant. It was too late for them to argue whether it was too early to bear children when both were young and jobless. Duncan had graduated the previous year while Carolyne was in her final year at the university.
The couple took up online writing jobs to keep their young family afloat. Fumbling through and picking life-lessons first-hand cemented their bond and the resolve to get married.
Like most students, the duo dreaded opening up to their parents about their decision. Duncan went first at it, but Carolyne only revealed their situation five months into the pregnancy.
For Duncan, it came easy as his family, through his sisters, had known about the relationship from way back. They had occasionally paid visits to the couple’s place in Rongai.
The couple now has two children, with the last born turning three in September. They advise dating college students that are hoping to get married to be patient with each other because the phrase that marriage is not a bed of roses is the reality.
Respect and compromise, they say, are necessary in the face of hardship.
As they plan to celebrate a decade together, the couple stays focused on their life’s goals, which they say have kept them together. The two reminisced how in the early stages of their relationships, they had a book in which they dutifully wrote down their dreams and aspirations, and worked towards meeting them.