In middle school, Travis Weghofer, ‘19, had a crush on Olivia Barz, ‘19. They barely exchanged more than a few words and only had one class together. Barz hardly noticed Weghofer existed.
In high school, both students were members of National Honor Society, where they were brought together after years apart. This time, Barz was the one who took notice. She messaged Weghofer on Facebook because she thought he was cute.
Now, they are going to get married.
On Dec. 29, 2015, the Northampton couple got engaged after dating for more than two years. They now look forward to their wedding after graduating from Lehigh.
“It kind of just happened,” Barz said. “I did not have a plan to be engaged in college. I also wasn’t one of those little girls who dreamed about a wedding.”
Barz and Weghofer realize they are a minority on Lehigh’s campus. With an overwhelming number of students engaging in hook ups that are characteristic to the social atmosphere, it is somewhat rare to come across a couple, let alone a long-term relationship or a couple who plans to get married.
“I see a lot of my friends going around and meeting guys and having that college experience,” Barz said. “Sometimes I wish to have more of a typical experience, but I realize that this is much better.”
Despite their happiness to be engaged, not everyone shares their sentiments. While the couple has received support from their closest friends, they noted they have received mixed responses from others.
“On a guy’s side of things, I usually get disbelief when I say that she is my fiancée,” Weghofer said. “Then I usually get a handshake or a ‘congratulations.’”
Barz said she also gets weird looks when she tells people that she and Weghofer are engaged.
The couple plans to get married after college due because of financial support they receive from Lehigh. They would potentially lose financial aid if they became legally dependent on one another.
Tamara Johnson, ‘18, and her fiancée Oscar Gomez, ‘18, are also engaged but have not yet decided when they will get married.
“We’ll just have a feeling when the time is right,” Johnson said. “We’re really enjoying being engaged right now, and all of the legal things you have to do to get married in college are a lot of work. But if we want to, we’ll make it happen.”
Johnson noted she received a lot of positive feedback when others found out she was engaged, yet it is nearly impossible to entirely escape criticism. She said the couple got engaged over Thanksgiving break and waited to make an announcement until they were back on campus.
“When we first got back to school everyone was talking about it, even if I didn’t know them,” Johnson said. “I even overheard people talking about it on the bus.”
Despite the opinions of others and a prominent hook-up culture, these relationships on campus prove that it is possible to “make it work.”
Marissa Flores, ‘16, has been in a long distance relationship for over a year and a half with her boyfriend Mirco Hünnefeld, who is from Germany. The couple met when Hünnefeld studied abroad at Lehigh.
“I’m not ostracized for being in a relationship,” Flores said. “To be honest, if I go out and I’m around the (hook-up) culture, I don’t feel uncomfortable because it just doesn’t apply to me.”
Flores plans to spend a semester at Hünnefeld’s university in Germany.
Whether Lehigh students are searching for relationships or casual hook ups, Johnson noted the key to thriving in this culture is to be open about expectations and desires.
“Be up front about what you want as soon as you know what you want,” Johnson said. “Don’t just hook up if you know you want more in the future, otherwise you’ll waste time and feelings on someone who doesn’t want the same things you do.”
Flores also suggests being honest and holding true to standards.
“A really important thing is not to settle,” Flores said. “Because there is a hook-up culture, it’s easy to see someone you hook up with as someone who automatically likes you. Know what you’re looking for and don’t settle.”