“I guess he didn’t want to ask for my number, so the only way that I knew him was on Instagram," Zahraa Mohammed (C'19) said. "We followed each other, and so he DM’d me and was like, 'Hey, I don’t really have your number, but I was wondering if you could iMessage me—like, not even text me—and I was like, 'Oh, I don’t have an iPhone.' And he was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have text messaging,’ so then we started talking on WhatsApp."
This exchange marked the start of her nearly two–year relationship with her now fiancé. Zahraa is one of the few Penn students who have taken college relationships to the next level: putting a ring on it. Read more of her and other engaged Quakers' stories below.
Zahraa Mohammed (C'19)
“Within the Muslim community, it’s not like out of the norm to get engaged at this age, but at the same time, I am 19," she said. And when people find out that she's engaged, "There’s always genuine happiness for me, but it kind of shakes everyone in different ways. When you come to college and everyone’s like, ‘This is a time to explore yourself and date other people,’ it’s different to be solidified when everyone around you is trying to figure themselves out," she says.
Though it's hard to balance school, a social life and a significant other, Zahraa feels her engagement has given her a sense of stability, as well as an opportunity to grow.
“It definitely does helps you focus and settle down," she said. "Plus you’re still young enough so you can mold each other, it’s not like you’re both 35 having already gone through a bajillion–and–five things and have your mind set on what you think of certain practices, and then having to try and find someone who fits what you think exactly. Right now, you’re still learning, so you give and you take."
Luis De Castro (C'17)
“We got engaged at the start of this year, so like January, this month, couple weeks ago," Luis said. "It’s kind of been like an understood thing for a while, you know, that we’re just sort of biding our time because of school."
Luis has been dating his fiancée, a model and dancer in New York, for five years. "We want to get married some time in the late summer or early fall this year, but you know, like I said, we’ve been de facto engaged for years already,” he says.
“I feel like people over–value things like the stereotypical college experience and, you know, ‘being single,’" he says. "And I’m personally happier being with someone, and I value that highly. I don’t think the benefit of just being single for being single’s sake is there, just because you don’t want to be tied up in something long term when you’re young. But also I think a big factor behind the rising age of marriage is just going to be the rising number of people going to college because you’re just postponing it for four years for the majority of young Americans now.”
Emily Stinnett (C'17)
The reactions of people in Emily’s life when she tells them about her engagement are generally positive, but she's tired of hearing one key phrase: “You’re so young."
"I get that every time," she says. "Doesn’t fail. Especially here. Not so much in Tennessee. I don’t know, the Bible Belt, a lot of people get married young, I guess, but it’s definitely a shocker here.” She and her fiancé, who currently attends West Point, have been together for seven years, and both come from families where their parents got married at a young age as well. “Being on this end of it, I think there is a little bit of a stigma against marrying young just because people are like, ‘How are you so sure?’ or, 'You’re so naïve." That mentality led Emily to take off her engagement ring before dental school interviews.
Doug Dolitsky (E'17)
“We’ve been long–distance the vast majority of our relationship," says Doug. "We started like a month before senior year [of high school] ended, then I was away that summer, then I took a gap year in Israel, and she was in New York, so we were super far for a year, and then the past three and a half years I’ve been here. So, it’s been all we’ve known basically."
Doug comes from an Orthodox Jewish community, and so getting married at a younger age than the national average was expected for him and his friends.
“I have a ton of friends who are married or engaged. There are a few girls from my grade who have kids already, so definitely the ‘rising age’ is a little distant from me, but...I don’t think there’s a right or wrong age, whenever you feel ready.”
Header Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons, Wikipedia Commons