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'They're always gonna be there through everything': Married undergraduates share about their non-traditional paths

March 2, 2022
<p>Photo illustration of Taylor and Christian Halquist at the Beaumont Tower in East Lansing, Michigan, on Feb. 3, 2022.</p>

Photo illustration of Taylor and Christian Halquist at the Beaumont Tower in East Lansing, Michigan, on Feb. 3, 2022.

It was psychology junior Hafsa Khan-Owen’s second day at MSU. As she approached the ticket desk at 1855 Place, she thought all she would be leaving with is her student section T-shirt. Little did she know that she would also be leaving with a crush on her now husband, David.

Khan-Owens is one of the, maybe surprisingly, many MSU students who are married. Although the route these students have taken is untraditional, they expressed that it was the right one for them.

“I think everybody's college experience is very unique to them, and to label the quote-un-quote college experience kind of takes away from the uniqueness of everybody's college experience,” Khan-Owens said. “I still go to games, I support my school, I get my education — to me, that's my college experience, and I enjoy it. I just get to do it all with my best friend."

Khan-Owens and her husband’s love story began a couple years ago, but their lives have touched for much longer. Her father and his mother worked together before they were born, and his two sisters have been her lifelong best friends.

"We became each other's person to go to if we needed anything,” Khan-Owens said. “We became best friends. He genuinely, from day one, has just become my best friend in the whole world. Something that's really interesting, I think, that people don't know about marriage is that 30 to 40 percent of marriage is the romantic and the honeymoon phase ... but the other 60% is really just like hanging out with your best friend all day."

Some people believe in the notion that being in such a serious and committed relationship takes away focus from school, but for agriculture, food and natural resource education senior Nathan Snow, this is far from true.

"It's so nice to be able to have somebody that's consistently around to be able to go over things with you,” Snow said. “I've got friends and other support groups and things like that, but having her always around to look things over and ask questions ... is super helpful."

Khan-Owens agrees completely.

“Our relationship, honestly, drives me to be more successful because I want us to succeed, and that includes me doing well," she said.

When somebody hears that their fellow student is married, one of their first questions is about how their parents reacted. 

"I think they kind of thought I was going to miss out, even though I haven't felt like that at all yet,” elementary education senior Kaitlynn Woods said. “They were a little bit worried about that, and they voiced those things not in like, condescending way, or an 'I don't think you should do this' way, but just like 'Maybe you should think about that. How will it be for you then?'"

Woods explained that having someone who is more than just a singular part of her life has been one of the best aspects of being married.

"There are nights where I have a late class, and normally, if I were on my own, I would miss dinner, or I wouldn't be able to do my laundry,” Woods said. “Just sharing those daily burdens with each other ... and being able to share that workload that you'd normally have to pick up all by yourself is just wonderful."

Managing time can be the most challenging part of being a college student, but this becomes an even bigger struggle when sharing your life, and therefore your time, with another person.

“Because I'm going to school ... and I work full time, it's hard to just be able to spend significant amounts of time with each other,” Snow said. “I had to rearrange my last fall semester schedule ... so that we could take an actual honeymoon ... I remember emailing my one instructor three weeks before the semester started asking him, 'This is the week we're going to be gone. We're getting married. Is that going to be an issue?' And his reply was, 'You're better off dropping my class because I have an exam that week, and I don't offer exceptions.’”

To combat the hardships this can bring, Woods emphasized the significance of being attentive to what is going on in her husband’s life.

"Take time to make sure that you know the other person's schedule, and you're making an effort to make it easier on them,” Woods said. “Being an undergraduate is already hard enough, and so adding in a whole 'nother person can seem daunting, but when you work together, it makes everything easier."

Snow and his wife, McKenzie, try to set aside a couple hours every day to dedicate to each other. There isn’t any pressure to do something grand at this time; their only goal is to be there for one another.

"Sometimes, it's as simple as going out to eat, sometimes it's playing some video games together,” Snow said. “It's making the most of the little amount of time we have."

But being in the same room together or out together is not the only thing that matters. It’s important for these couples to show one another that they are emotionally present as well.

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"The advice I would give is to be together,” Khan-Owens said. “You can physically be together and not be together mentally, but to stay connected, to stay really connected, that's something that's gonna keep you going."

Accounting junior Amanda Lamp has had a unique college experience. After graduating high school in 2004, she went to college in Massachusetts. Her now husband, James, moved up there with her, and they eloped soon after.

Lamp took some time off from school, but when she returned, her whole life had changed. She now has three children who are her priorities.

“My kids come first,” Lamp said. “I might have a test to study for but if they need me, then they're gonna get me first."

Woods and her husband did not live together before they got married, so for them, moving in together was a huge change that nothing could compare to.

"You think moving out of your parents house and moving to college (is) a big change, but then getting married and moving with a whole other person is also a big change,” Woods said. “It's not the same as having a roommate like everybody kind of paints it out to be. It's a lot more different because you're way more worried about what the other person is doing, what they need, those types of things."

Woods and her husband still go out with their friends and socialize with peers, but being in such a different part of life can sometimes be lemons life is giving when it comes to fitting in.

"They're really close,” Woods said, referring to her classmates. “They're really tight knit, they're having a lot of the same experiences of, 'Oh my gosh, where am I going to live? How am I going to do that' and I kind of have all those things figured out. They're still figuring out budgeting; we were forced to figure that out when we got married. It's kind of like feeling like I've already done those things, but not quite fitting where they are in life still."

Something that Khan-Owens has noticed since tying the knot is how adults perceive her has changed. For example, her professors treat her like she is older and more mature.

"I think that there is a slight shift in how even adults will view you because there's a difference between saying, 'Oh, yeah, I brought my boyfriend or my girlfriend' versus 'I brought my husband or my wife.'"

Although Lamp’s experience being married as an undergraduate student has been wonderful, she knows that it is not the right path for everyone. For some, dating in college is the best option, but for her, having a constant was what she truly needed.

"I just settled down ... I mean, we had fun, but I wasn't out looking for a boyfriend or companionship or things like that,” Lamp said. “We were able to just be a couple and have fun and go on adventures together. I think it took a lot of the stress and the pressure that a lot of college kids have to find a companion."

Since Lamp has been married for 16 years now, her and her husband have both grown as individuals. It has been crucial to recognize that and embrace it.

"We've obviously had our low points, and we've had really tough times, but being committed to working together, not running to our friends or family members to complain about what's going on, and just working with each other and giving each other the benefit of the doubt that we all go through tough times, and we are not always our best person, and just understanding that we are all growing (has been important,)" Lamp said.

Regardless of being an undergraduate, being married is not always sunshine and rainbows. There can be cloudy days, especially when there is so much on your plate already. What matters, though, is that even when the sky is gloomy, the sun is out somewhere. 

"It's not always going to be easy, but at the end of the day, you're with somebody who you love and care about and loves and cares about you,” Snow explained. “They're always gonna be there through everything for you if they're truly the right person. I don't think I'd be able to do what I'm doing without McKenzie around, and it definitely makes it a lot different an experience, but for the better."


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