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International students learn healthy dating skills

Romance is a treacherous road for many. But for international students, navigating new cultural norms of American dating can sometimes make the journey extra bumpy.

On October 10, an educational event called Dating in the USA was led by Melanie Matson, director of Emerson’s Violence Prevention and Response center, to engage international students in discussion and activities about dating and relationships.

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Melanie Matson, director of Emerson's Violence Prevention and Response, leads the Dating in the USA event for international students October 10. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

“This event helped us focus on healthy relationships and building healthy relationship skills,” Matson said, “which continues an effort to promote a safe and respectful culture for everyone.”

Matson said the event began with general conversation about dating, which included “all the different terms and definitions.”

“From hooking up,” she said, “to spending time together, to group dating, to many other things, even marriages and arranged marriages. We talked about the whole spectrum of what dating can be, and terms for it. The students had a lot of interesting questions.”

“It was quite intriguing to me,” said Simran Kaur, MA ’15, a Health Communication student from India. “I was well aware that dating in the U.S. is quite different than in my country, but this put structure around it and gave me perspective. It was pretty insightful.”

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Pranav Shenoy, MA '16, and Alex Hsu '18 at the Dating in the USA event October 10. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

Matson said it is important to provide discussion opportunities around dating for Emerson students because of the College’s increasing diversity and international population.

“Any time someone makes a transition, it can come along with learning new social norms or cultural values,” Matson said. “Even myself, being new to the New England area, I’m learning new social norms and values compared to places where I previously lived, like the Midwest or West Coast.”

During the event, which was held in Emerson’s recently renovated Common Ground space on the 10th floor of the Walker Building and included lunch, participants took part in an active-listening activity, in which they were encouraged to use nonverbal cues to provide attention to the person speaking, along with tips on how to ask clarifying statements.

“So often, we assume relationships are built on sharing everything about ourselves,” Matson said, “when often it’s about what we learn from other people.”

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Rainie Zheag, MA '17, Penny Qian, MA '17, and Janet Ye, MA '17, at the Dating in the USA event October 10. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

Dating in the USA also focused on setting physical and emotional boundaries in an activity called “Relationship Blueprint,” in which students talked about dating behaviors they would be OK or not OK with.

“It’s very, very useful to learn about this right at the beginning rather than waiting for things to unfold,” Kaur said. “It was really useful and Melanie was great. I hope more American students participate in this type of event in the future.”

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