As I’ve come to understand, empathy is key to developing a successful solution in human-centered design. One way to understand targeted individuals is to conduct interviews. This feels fairly obvious, but the process of conducting interviews is more convoluted than I initially thought. 
In case you missed it, I am working with two other classmates to answer the question “How might we give freshmen a space that promotes and supports safe sex practices within hook up culture?” This is a highly interesting topic for, honestly for pretty personal reasons. College was an entirely new experience for me, and one that I don’t think I was fully prepared for. Because of the close proximity I have with answering this question, I feel like I already have an empathetic approach to the design process. 
Before conducting our interviews, we also sent out a survey which was designed for current students and recent graduates. We asked questions about safe spaces, comfortability with talking about sex, and personal experience with sex education. A lot of the questions were personal, so participants remained anonymous too. What’s truly crazy to me is that many others feel the same way I do and have a high interest in talking about hook up culture and topics related to sex. We received over 80 responses to our survey, which was sent out primarily over instagram. The responses fueled our interview questions and helped educate us on how to proceed both cautiously and confidently for such a sensitive topic.
We decided it was best to try to interview people we had preexisting relationships with so that a level of trust was already established, promoting vulnerability. We also tried to make our pool of interviewees as diverse as possible, including both females and males of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and involvement in greek life. 
The person I interviewed is a white female involved in greek life. We talked about her safe space, her experiences with hook up culture and toxic masculinity, and instances of assault. She was highly vulnerable, which allowed me to grow in empathy with our targeted user as well as the individual I was interviewing. Her safe space consisted of her friends, where she feels comfortable enough to share any experience, and there is no topic truly off limits. 
The insight given during our interviews has become so valuable to our other research methods and solution process. While it’s necessary to remove ourselves and our personal experiences from a lot of the investigating that we are doing, engaging with real individuals facing the same issues and experiencing the same challenges we are allows for a more personal and applicable solution.