Tinder match on campus
Many loves have their origins on campus, though not all of them last. Some campus couples are still together to this day. Towards the university's 100th anniversary, we collect their love stories. Lennart Sinjorgo (25) and Ilona Neve (25) first laid eyes on each other during a volunteer evening of Serve the City Tilburg. Ilona rather fancied Lennart, but he did not seem immediately interested. More than six months later, the students reconnected via Tinder. The first date was so successful that many more followed in quick succession. They have been a couple for three years now and have recently bought a home in Tilburg together.
Lennart studied Econometrics at Tilburg University. Ilona started the Bachelor’s program of International Business Administration. After that, she combined the Marketing Analytics Master’s with a board year at student organization AIESEC. Their common interests? Both students volunteered for Serve the City Tilburg during their studies. Via this organization, students can contribute to making the city a better place. There are various committees, aimed at different target groups. For instance, in the context of Serve the Grey, Lennart took elderly people for walks and, during the Covid crisis, he wrote letters to lonely elderly people. Through Serve the Homeless, Ilona’s volunteer efforts included helping refugees and people escaping domestic violence.
I wanted to sit next to Lennart really badly. I managed to do that, and we did get to talk a little that night. But there were so many other students, and we did not really hit it off yet.
During a festive evening for Serve the City Tilburg volunteers, Lennart and Ilona were in the same group. A fun evening with games and a treasure hunt was concluded with drinks at Café Bolle. “I wanted to sit next to Lennart really badly,” Ilona confesses. “I managed to do that, and we did get to talk a little that night. But there were so many other students, and we did not really hit it off yet.” Lennart reacts: “It was not as if I wasn’t attracted to her, but I think I wasn’t immediately aware of it. And perhaps I was shy as well.”
Nothing happened for a while. For more than six months in fact. Ilona: “We were in two separate committees, so we hardly ever met. And then Covid hit, making it even harder to spontaneously run into each other.” It was a stroke of luck that there was a match via Tinder. Lennart opened the conversation, but Ilona was slow to respond. “I was right in the middle of my exams, so I really didn’t have the time. It was not until a week later that I reacted to his message,” she explains. Their first date took place after three days of online chatting. Everything was closed due to the Covid restrictions, so they agreed to meet at Piushaven. A meeting which had to include special beers, because that was in Ilona’s Tinder bio. “That first date was quite short, because I had to go to the bathroom. But of course everything was closed and I thought it was a bit premature to meet at home,” Ilona smiles.
Then nothing happened for a while: Ilona didn’t hear from Lennart. “I just didn’t get it: we had had such a good time!” Ilona recalls. Lennart smiles: “It wasn’t as if I consciously did not text back. Maybe I wasn’t sufficiently aware of the unwritten rules of dating.” After three days, he texted back, and soon multiple dates followed. Within three months, the two made their relationship public. “Our relationship quickly gained momentum as a result of the Covid crisis,” Ilona says. “Normally when you get to know someone, you are also involved in all kinds of other social activities. You meet by chance in a pub or bump into each other on campus. It was different for us: because of all the Covid restrictions, there was no opportunity to meet by chance so we had to plan every meeting.”
Studying in the Covid crisis
What was it like to be a student in the Covid crisis? “It was a rough period, of course, but for me it actually worked out quite well,” Ilona says. “I had all the time in the world for my studies. If I had been distracted by all those social activities, I would have had to say ‘no’ a lot.” Lennart even worked for the Covid helpline for a while. “People often thought I was a recorded message. We still talk about that, ha-ha. I have good memories of the cocktail nights in our apartment building. Some of my study mates lived in the same building. On such nights, we went from one room to the next, very much like ‘stages’ at an event, and we acted as if we were at a festival.”
My PhD will take another two years to complete, so we will stay in Tilburg for a while anyway. And then we’ll see what comes our way work-wise.
After his Bachelor’s, Lennart continued into a Business Analytics & Operations Research Master’s program. He is still a member of the academic community of Tilburg University: he is now pursuing a PhD in Operations Research. And he is still involved in Serve the City Tilburg, meeting up with an elderly lady every two weeks. “For instance, I give her tips on how to do something on her iPhone,” he says. Ilona is working at the marketing and communication department at the Fontys School of Art. The couple have recently bought a home in the Reeshof district in Tilburg. Any future plans? “A puppy!” Ilona responds with enthusiasm. Lennart adds: “My PhD will take another two years to complete, so we will stay in Tilburg for a while anyway. And then we’ll see what comes our way work-wise.”
Date of publication: 5 June 2023