The Cavalier Daily
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Tying the Knot Early

(This is the second in a four-part weekly series on dating and relationships at the University.)

In the long sequence of life's experiences, "boy and girl get married," often falls sometime after school is finished. But not for all.

Take 19 year-old Emily Dragulev. This second-year College student has been married since July to her husband Assen. "I felt very confident in my decision to get married," Emily said. "I tend to make pretty impulsive decisions, but I never regret them. I trust my gut."

Emily is not exaggerating when she describes herself as impulsive. She and her husband dated for only four months before getting married. To some, this might seem like a bit of a whirlwind romance, but Emily said she never felt like she missed out on a thing.

"I've dated a lot of people, but I immediately realized that this was so much different. I felt a connection with him from the first time we went out and we have been inseparable since," she said.

For other married couples, getting hitched is more of an issue of practicality. Fourth-year College student Sarah Hobbs has been married to her husband Brian for six months. Both are in the Air Force. She and Brian were engaged already, but by exchanging vows they guaranteed that they would be stationed in Colorado together next year.

If the couple had waited until after they graduated, they would run the risk of being stationed separately.

"We were already engaged when we made the decision; we just chose to get married sooner rather than later because it was important to us to be together," she said.

But this couple is no stranger to separation. Brian attends Virginia Tech.

"People are always shocked when I tell them that I am married, saying that I am so young or that I have not yet graduated, but when I tell them it is a long-distance marriage they look at me like I am crazy," she said.

Although the distance does place a strain on the relationship, she believes if they can make it through this they can make it through anything.

"Yeah, I felt very nervous at first. I thought I was going to miss out on the experiences of the crazy young adult phase, but when I look back I know I made the right decision," Sarah said.

Eric Lee, a Tennessee native, also is familiar with getting a shocked response when he informs people he is a married undergraduate.

"I usually get a lot of dropped jaws and wide eyes when I tell people that I am married," said Lee, a third-year College student.

He says people are even more surprised to learn he has a 15-month-old son.

"I look 20 years old so it is the last thing people expect, but at the same time a lot of people admire me and look up to what I do," he said.

But looks can be deceiving. Eric is actually 25 because he took a few years off before he went to college. He was 23 when he got married and his wife Shannon was a mere 18. Both are Mormons and they met at a church function.

"In our religion they don't condone premarital sex so marriage was a way around it. We would have gotten into trouble if we had waited," Eric joked.

Eric said the marriage wasn't without its share of hardships, however. It put a lot of strain on the couple's friendships. "When we were dating we had a group of people we hung out with, but as soon as we got engaged and particularly, married, they put us into a different bracket," he said.

When a person has kids things also don't fit into the college social group very well. "All of those without children don't hang out with you," Eric said.

Emily said this was less of an issue for her because she had a wide base of older friends before she came to the University. "I think that after my friends got over the initial shock, it wasn't a problem," she said.

For Sarah Hobbs, whose husband is three hours away in Blacksburg, her biggest problems were the paperwork associated with changing her name and the way it affected her financial aid package.

"Brian and I got married and they still considered my parents to be the main source of income for my education when in actuality they were not," she said.

Sarah said this created a huge issue with financial aid because Brian and her parents were in very different income brackets. She spent months trying to fix it. She now receives financial aid based on her husband's income rather than based on her parents' income.

Eric also knows all about the financial strains of being married.

"I'm borrowing and living off student loans. My wife works part time, but with a child it can be especially difficult," he said.

Emily Dragulev is in a different situation because her husband, Assen, already has graduated.

"Assen, who graduated from the Commerce School, works in marketing, so finances are not really a problem," she said.

Still, Eric said managing money leads to a lot of stress, which can then result in disagreements.

The pressure of school builds up and causes little fights like, "Why didn't you clean the kitchen or make the bed" bickerings.

"You really have to be humble and learn to suck it up and apologize," he said.

Eric tries to make the most of his time by doing things like studying at home, but this has its difficulties as well.

"My son will pull my books down and want to play around," he said.

Many of these couples don't know many other married couples at the University. None knew about the others, or any married undergraduate couples for that matter. This population is a minority and the University offers limited programs for the young couples.

Though the University does offer family housing in places such as Piedmont and University Gardens, the population which takes advantage of this is primarily graduate students.

"The University really offers nothing in the way of organizations for married couples and I really wish they would. It would help us to establish connections with other couples in similar circumstances," Eric said.

Eric says fatherhood and marriage are the hardest things he's ever faced, but also the most rewarding.

"I don't think there is ever a time when you say 'Okay, I'm ready to get married.' You just have to close your eyes and grit your teeth and do it," he said.


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