By Aviva Woolf
Love in college is tricky. You are in a jam-packed city full of students with little supervision, little privacy and a lot of people to meet. And by “meet” I mean bump into at a party at 1 a.m. and awkwardly see the next morning as they gather their dirty jacket and walk out your door.
Well, maybe that’s not love. But it’s definitely part of this bizarre equation of being 21 years old and finding someone you don’t hate. Some of us are trying to make the long-distance thing work, some of us are too busy trying to get into med school to deal with navigating the complicated flirtationship rules of midnight texts and “hanging out” late at night.
While most of those dating in College Park are a little more used to the national average marrying age of 29 for men and 27 for women (a record high!), the weekly Kedma e-mails “Mazal Tov-ing” newly engaged couples have become quite the norm in the Orthodox community.
Some auspicious students at this university, amid the chaos and hullabaloo of sticky college romance, have found love in a hopeless place. And they liked it. So they put a ring on it.
So what’s it like to go to your 8 a.m. sociology class with a rock on your finger?
“I initially thought that being engaged would not feel any different from being in a serious relationship,” said Shira Finklestein, 23, a senior communications major. “What could a ring possibly change? It changed everything. We are no longer individuals with mutual interests, we are a team working towards the same goal: Torah, family and love.”
Samantha Lichbacht, 21, an overnight YouTube celebrity after her fiancé’s rap proposal went viral this past fall (the video currently has 1,000 hits, certainly no “Gangnam Style,” but still impressive) admitted that most of her non-Jewish friends were shocked by the news, claiming she was too young to get married.
Some consider college as a time to be selfish, to explore one’s dating options.
“There is a lot about yourself you discover as an adult you can’t discover as a college kid and sometimes marriage is a limitation on your ability to discover,” said senior Middle East studies major Ziyad El Baz.
Sure, 22 might be way below the national average, but going into this less than booming economy as a couple might be even better than waiting a few years after grad school. It might even be the financially responsible thing to do.
According to State Farm’s website, rates for men under 25 drop once they get married. Not to mention the employee benefits that extend to spouses as well as the fact that being married to someone with a great credit score can likely help you improve yours.
Joy Sutton, 22, an education major at Queens College in New York, is getting married in August and says she is pretty set financially for now.
“We have enough saved up to get us through a year of rent and bills and know we will be getting enough monetary gifts to get us through another year of rent and bills,” Sutton said. “Next semester I plan on getting a full time teaching job so there will be an income too.”
Senior Aaron Foust Stehley and recent fiancé after a year of dating described how his peers viewed his new status.
“There’s a sense among my classmates that it makes me somehow more of a ‘real person’— which is fine with me,” Stehly said. “I’m excited to live as an adult. I’ll get to work a job that I’m excited about, and come home to my biggest fan and best friend every night.”
While it might not be the path for all, college engagements at this university are not all that uncommon and for these engaged seniors, taking the plunge into marriage is less scary than diving into adulthood alone.