Love @ First Click

It’s not unusual for MSW@USC students to forge amazing friendships even though they have never met in person. In the Virtual Academic Center at the USC School of Social Work, two of our MSW@USC students not only became close friends, but shortly after meeting in a class group project, they fell in love! These two students, who lived on opposite sides of the state of California, were recently engaged and sat down with us to share their story:

What brought each of you to the MSW@USC program?

Crystal: I have always wanted to run a shelter for abused women and kids. I have also always wanted to attend USC, and when I was doing research on schools of social work, I came across the MSW@USC program. I was so excited! I worked full-time and did not want to relocate to Los Angeles, and this program gave me the opportunity to continue working while attending the school of my dreams.

Jason: A few years back, I was thinking about going back to school and getting my master’s. However, I had recently purchased a house and was working over 40 hours a week, so I brushed the idea aside. It wasn’t until my mom went back to school to get her master’s in social work that I realized it was possible to juggle work, school, family and friends. She had heard from one of her professors about an online MSW program that USC was starting, and I immediately applied. I thought an MSW from USC would be such a great achievement and honor.

How did you first meet?

Jason & Crystal: We met in our 535 policy class with Professor Rick Newmyer. We were in a group project working on legislation regarding domestic minor trafficking in the United States. It was a group of three people–the two of us and our friend Corinne St. Thomas. We all became great friends throughout that semester and began talking about meeting up in northern or southern California. Feelings for each other blossomed, and we became more than just friends.

When did you meet in person?

Jason: Crystal went to northern California to visit one of her best friends, and we planned to meet in Sacramento. You hear about it in movies, and it may sound cheesy, but we just knew we were “it” for one another. Out of all the places to go on a date, Crystal wanted to go to a train museum and walk around old Sacramento! Crystal met my mom that weekend, and we enjoyed Napa Valley, as well as visited with Crystal’s friend. It was a great first meeting. Our relationship was based on communication. We talked every night before she ever came up to Sacramento, and we knew each other on so many levels with the communication we had built doing a group project together.

They say 1 in 4 people meet doing online dating these days. Had either of you tried it before?

Jason: This is a funny question to the two of us because the answer would be no. Neither of us has ever done or thought to do online dating, but we joke and say that this might be the most expensive form of high-tech online dating.

Did you expect anything like this would happen when you first started the MSW@USC?

Jason: You normally think you might meet someone at school when it is in a physical “classroom,” but we can now say that it can also happen in a virtual classroom! We did not expect to meet each other through this program, but it helped us find each other, and we learned quickly we are each very passionate about what we want to do with our lives and future careers.

How did the Virtual Academic Center help you get to know each other better? When people think of distance-learning programs, they often don’t think it can be very engaging.

Jason: In any relationship, communication is a key factor, and the Virtual Academic Center allowed us to work together on a project that we were both passionate about. We were each able to talk about interests, what we love and what we were doing with our time when we weren’t in school. Real friendships are created in the Virtual Academic Center! Our friend Corinne is close with both Crystal and I, and that shows that lifelong friendships can be created in the MSW@USC.

Do you have any tips for breaking the ice for any of your classmates or others doing distance-learning programs?

Jason: Be real with each other, have fun, talk about your internships and the things that are stressful (because you are not alone) and treat it like what it is… a classroom! Break-out groups and the ability to create group sessions online, I think, are what make this the best program because you still do all the things (if not more because most MSW@USC students are working full-time jobs) that students do in on-campus classrooms.

Seeing how you both live in different parts of California, what’s your next step? Will someone be moving?

Crystal: Jason just moved to San Diego! The decision was based on the fact that I was offered a job at my internship, working with victims of human trafficking as part of a brand new program. Jason was able to transfer to San Diego with Nordstrom’s and has great options for future social work jobs here as well. We are very excited! We are getting married on September 1, 2012. Since we are both huge baseball fans–Jason likes the Giants, and I like the Padres–Jason proposed at Petco Park on home plate. It was amazing!