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Married students find University experience fulfilling

Mary Kate Malone | Tuesday, September 27, 2005

They seem like the typical Notre Dame couple. She’s a sophomore; he’s a graduate student. They go to Student Union Board movies on Friday nights, study at the library together and cheer with the best of them at Notre Dame football games.

The only difference? They do it all with wedding rings on their fingers.

Andrea, 21, and Andrew Dreyfuss, 26, are newlyweds. The couple was married in August and live as husband and wife in a house on Napoleon Street.

“It’s so nice to have someone to share everything with,” Andrea Dreyfuss said. “It’s nice to wake up with somebody and sleep with somebody and have breakfast together. I just like it. It’s made me feel very happy.”

Married couples like the Dreyfusses are uncommon among Notre Dame undergraduates, but wedding engagements between seniors tend to peak as graduation nears.

Marriages are far more common among graduate students, said Elly Brenner, an assistant rector at University Village and Cripe Road Apartments.

Brenner said there are only one or two undergraduate couples living in those residences. The rest of the close to 100 couples are graduate students.

The complexes cater to specific cases. University Village is designed for students married with children, while Cripe Road Apartments are meant for married students without children.

“Obviously the needs of students with families are very different from single students,” Brenner said. “A very small percentage of Notre Dame’s students are married, so on the whole, students with families are not the primary focus [for the University]. The University Village is very unique in that our entire focus is on student families. At the University Village, we make every effort to make sure that both the student and his or her family have a strong support network.”

The University’s policy states that no student can live in the dorm and be married. Married couples without children can find housing at the Cripe Road Complex, or, like the Dreyfusses, live together off campus.

Jessica Guo, 27, a China native and the wife of a physics graduate student, lives in University Village with her husband and their one-year-old son Theodore.

She said the University does an excellent job taking care of married students.

“I think Notre Dame is a really good place that allows people from other countries to come here,” Guo said. “For a foreigner like me, I am happy to live here and raise my child.”

University Village was built in 1962 and modeled after “Vetville,” an apartment complex for returning World War II soldiers and their wives. Vetville was located behind where the Hesburgh Library now stands.

Unlike married students, students who become engaged during their last year at Notre Dame don’t need to change their living arrangements. But other habits often change.

Senior Mary Elizabeth Steffan who is currently planning a summer wedding with her fiancé who lives in Maine, said her plans after college changed the way she socialized at Notre Dame.

“I have a different perspective on social life and activities,” Steffan said. “I don’t have the added stress of the dating scene. I feel a whole lot more laid back, but then again a bit more lonely in that way [since my fiancé lives in Maine].”

While her friends are busy plotting their future careers, Steffan is content with the domestic life that awaits her.

“Being engaged sets me apart in a way, as far as out of the crowd of super-achievers

or those that have huge ambitions for service, self-made careers or travel,” Steffan said. “There’s a concrete future for me, namely a husband, and for many of my peers, they just haven’t figured out anything concrete yet.”

For Andrea Dreyfuss, life since her wedding day has been blissful, despite the reactions from shocked peers who spot her wedding ring.

“I tell people my name and they’re like ‘Oh, you’re the girl [who got married],'” Andrea Dreyfuss said. “It doesn’t come out in class. Sometimes I prefer not to say [that I’m married]. I’m afraid people will say that I’m immature, but hey it’s my life. I should be able to make my own decisions. They don’t know who I am.”