Donna Hernandez (SFS ’13) eloped with her husband, Eduardo Panyaguy, two weeks into her freshman year at Georgetown.
The couple, who met in high school, married beforePanyaguy, a U.S. Marine, was deployed to Afghanistan in the fall of 2009.
“We were planning on a long engagement until I realized that he was going to be part of the unit that was spearheading a lot of movement in Afghanistan. The unit he was replacing had a 40 percent casualty rate,” Hernandez said. “We looked at the options and said, ‘Let’s go ahead and do it.'”
Megan Kirby’s (COL ’12) decision to marry young also stemmed from her then-boyfriend’s commitment to the armed forces. James Kirby joined the U.S. Army two years into college and was stationed in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011.
If the couple had not married, Kirby would have been unable to receive official news about her husband from the military or take advantage of education benefits for military families.
“We were going to wait until after college, but with him joining the military, honestly it was more practical,” she said.
Once her husband was deployed, Kirby struggled to fill dual roles of wife and student.
“It was really difficult balancing being a student and being married to someone in the army. Especially with the time difference, I would want to stay up and talk with him, but I would have classes the next day,” she said.
Kirby said that people began to notice changes in her behavior while her husband was overseas.
“One of my professors noticed that I was tired and distracted, so she emailed my dean, and my dean met with me to talk about my special circumstance,” she said.
The attention of Kirby’s dean and professors ultimately allowed her more flexibility with class attendance.
“When I went home for [my husband’s] homecoming ceremony, my professors were kind about giving me time off for that. Overall, Georgetown has been very accommodating,” she said.
But according to Hernandez, the university could do more for married students.
“I’ve never seen anything on campus that’s focused on the married undergrad. I feel like there is much more that could be done, especially with the Jesuits and other leaders on campus,” Hernandez said.
In addition to balancing academia with married life, students said they often have to jump through hoops to secure resources like financial aid because they are no longer considered dependents of their parents.
“It was so odd, because most people don’t have to think, ‘Before I get married, let me talk to my financial aid advisor,'” Hernandez said.
Married students also face unique roadblocks in securing campus housing, because the university’s Code of Student Conduct prohibits cohabitation.
“[Georgetown housing] is hesitant to provide married students housing because they don’t want to provide de facto housing for your spouse as well,” Hernandez said.
For both women, perhaps the biggest challenge of their relationships is balancing their identities as college students with their responsibilities as spouses.
“It’s like you’re stuck in this limbo, middle place,” Kirby said. Hernandez agreed.
“The biggest challenge is really trying to live the college lifestyle,” she said.
“Especially being a female, guys try to tip-toe around me. But I’m just a regular person. I don’t have cooties. I’m the same as everyone else, just on a different path.”