These Haas couples found love in a pandemic

Finding love in ordinary times is hard enough. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we talked to two Berkeley Haas couples—Jerry Qinghui Yu and Camilla Guo, both MFE 21, and Gary Yin and Aileen Lu, both MBA 22—who found love during a pandemic. Here are their stories.

Jerry Yu and Camilla Guo, MFE 21, exploring wine country in Napa.
Jerry Yu and Camilla Guo, MFE 21, exploring wine country in Napa.

When Jerry Qinghui Yu and Camilla Guo, MFE 21, found love in their class of 96 Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students, it wasn’t a secret for long.

“The program is small, so news travels fast,” said Jerry, who met Camilla at the start of the year-long MFE course.

They shared a sense of humor and similar childhood experiences in China. They both love a good pun, too, particularly if it’s cross-cultural. And Camilla is passing on her passion for cooking to Jerry, who texts photos when he masters one of her complicated recipes.

Ask the pair who is smarter, he’ll swear that she is. Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program, agreed, but added that “they’re both brilliant and they’re fun together.”

“Jerry is very serious and Camilla really draws out that fun side of him,” she said. “He’s been funnier since he’s been with her.”

Jerry is very serious and Camilla really draws out that fun side of him. — MFE Executive Director Linda Kreitzman

The couple, who became avid local hikers since arriving in Berkeley, plans a road trip for Valentine’s Day, to California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park or maybe Yosemite. “We bought hiking shoes for the hills,” Camilla said. “We love to hike when we’re not busy.”

Next up, Jerry, who earned an undergraduate degree in financial economics, computer science, and mathematics from the University of Toronto before coming to Haas, will head to Boston where he’s landed a job at an asset management company.

Camilla, who holds an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Tsinghua University and has worked in derivatives and cross-asset structuring, plans to join him there after graduation in March.

During such a rigorous academic program, only complicated by the stress of the pandemic, it’s nice to have each other, Guo said.

“Since we are in the MFE he understands what I’m learning and we have more to share,” she said. “I don’t have to explain a lot. With friends, I sometimes have to share the background of things. With Jerry I can tell him how I feel right away.”

Gary and Aileen
Gary Yin flew to to London to meet MBA classmate Aileen Lu, who was waiting for a visa to come to Berkeley.  They visited Windsor Castle during their trip.

For Gary Yin, MBA 22, finding love during a pandemic was about taking a leap of faith—and getting on a plane.

Gary met Aileen Lu, MBA 22, in September 2020, when both volunteered as moderators during the virtual Berkeley China Summit. Gary was in Berkeley at the time, and Aileen was 16 hours ahead in Shanghai, waiting for a visa to fly to the U.S. and join her classmates.

The pair got to know each other during a conference on entrepreneurship, a shared passion. Both had started education-related companies before enrolling at Haas and had plans to continue working in the startup world.

Gary, who was born in China and grew up outside of Chicago, got to know Aileen in their shared cohort, chatting constantly on Slack and Zoom. But they both thought there might be more to their relationship.

“I found Gary to be a pretty genuine person and when we talked it was natural to open up and share personal stories,” Aileen said.

“The best part of my day was Slacking with her,” Gary said.

Gary and Aileen cooking
Gary Yin and Aileen Lu cooking in London.

As the weeks passed, Aileen, who earned an undergraduate economics degree at Berkeley in 2015, was still unable to get a visa. Frustrated by the closing of the U.S. Embassy in China, she decided to fly to London to try to get a visa there. Surprisingly, Gary offered to meet up with her, and he boarded a plane out of San Francisco with just five other international travelers.

“I thought ‘If Aileen doesn’t get the visa, this might be my one chance to see her during the pandemic,’” Gary said.

“We both took a leap of faith after knowing each other for two months,” Aileen said.

Over three weeks during the holiday break, they met up with friends and explored London. Since Britain’s coronavirus rules weren’t strict at the time, the couple were able to explore places like Windsor Castle and enjoy the holiday lights throughout the city.

When Aileen’s visa finally came through, the couple flew back to California together. They’ve been together since, living a few blocks apart in downtown Berkeley.

Starting out in two countries

Both are deeply involved in entrepreneurship at Haas. Aileen co-chairs the Berkeley LAUNCH accelerator and is working with Berkeley Female Founders, a campus group that brings founders and funders together. Gary is a Pear VC fellow and co-runs the Haas Startup Squad, a group that helps match Haas students to startups at Skydeck, UC Berkeley’s incubator program. He also organizes Startup Marketplace, a program that connects UC Berkeley grad students with top faculty and researchers for National I-Corps projects.

In their free time, the couple enjoys walking the campus, Aileen pointing out the buildings that have changed since she was an undergraduate. “All of our friends have found it pretty amazing that we’re together,” Gary said. “Things have worked out even though we started in two different countries and met in a third. We’re really grateful for that.”