This past May, one recent Binghamton University graduate took turning your dreams into reality to a whole new level.
After finishing her time at BU, Kari Kowalski, ‘16, set off to the Dominican Republic to film MTV’s reality show “Are You The One?”
Currently in its fifth season, “Are You The One?” is a dating show that takes 11 single men and 11 single women and uses an “extensive matchmaking process” to pair them up. Over the course of a few weeks, the 22 contestants must correctly guess who their match is for the chance to collectively win $1,000,000.
While Kowalski has a chance at love and money, just a year ago she was finishing up her senior year at BU.
“It seems like a little bit out of nowhere that I got involved with ‘Are You The One,’” Kowalski said.
As a student at BU, Kowalski double-majored in integrative neuroscience and English. Outside of academics, she was a member of Phi Mu, as well as a resident assistant (RA) in Dickinson Community.
But Kowalski says that she was following her passion.
“In reality, I always really wanted to pursue TV,” she said.
Besides “Are You The One?” Kowalski also applied to other reality shows.
“First I applied to ‘The Bachelor,’ which was ridiculous because I’m 22 years old,” she said.
On ABC’s “The Bachelor,” the premise is that those involved are looking for a lifelong partner. And at 22, Kowalski says she was one of the youngest who applied.
“I kind of went home and knew that was not going to work out,” she said.
But a friend of hers from the RA program later recommended “Are You The One?” and she was inspired to apply. From there, Kowalski describes it as somewhat of a whirlwind experience in hindsight.
“I just sent in a little, funny paragraph about myself and some pictures, and the next day they called me, and then all of a sudden I was flying out to L.A. to interview, and all of a sudden I was on the show,” she said.
Now that filming has ended and the show is on air, Kowalski says she often gets asked the same question: How real is the show?
She said that her experience in reality TV was true to the name.
“We were never told to do anything,” Kowalski said. “We were never told to say anything or feel a certain way.”
On the show, the 22 contestants hang out and go on dates in order to determine who their match is. As with any dating show, the endgame is love, but also as with any dating show, the path there can be a rocky one.
In some ways, Kowalski’s description of their season is reminiscent of the hookup culture that dominates many college campuses today.
“There are so many hookups,” Kowalski said. “We get made fun of on social media all the time.”
However, Kowalski says that wasn’t her attitude toward the game, describing herself as more reserved.
“At the end of the day I was like, ‘I’m not going to let this game change who I am,’” Kowalski said. “Going into that house, I was serious about playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Kowalski said she is extremely happy with her experience on the show, and while she can’t disclose if she found love yet, she definitely found companionship.
“One thing that […] I’m so grateful for is I that made some friendships that honestly only this kind of experience could tie people together like this,” Kowalski said.
Now, post-filming, Kowalski says she’s stayed close with her former castmates, and looking toward the future she hopes to continue following her passion for television.
“If you want something, if you’re interested in something, always try new things, always try new experiences and that’s kind of how I was in Binghamton [University],” she said.
Kowalski feels that there is no specific way one should have to live their life.
“If you have a dream, don’t think that just because in the past you’ve done certain things that you have to follow a certain path,” she said.