Engagements seem to be everywhere, especially at Pepperdine. Whether it’s through a class, a job or Facebook, everyone seems to know someone who is engaged. While this may seem commonplace here, this trend is rather rare across the nation at other colleges and universities.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age for marriage has increased in the past century. In 1900, the median ages were 25 for men and 21 for and women in 1999, the ages shifted to 26 and 25. The nation, as a whole, is getting married later. So why do institutions like Pepperdine still see such a high marriage rate? Religious faith may be one answer.
Senior Kyna Pak, 21, is one of the many engaged students on campus. She says that faith has been vital in her decision to marry Rik Andrews, also a senior.
“Faith has played a role throughout the entire relationship,” she says. “Whenever I felt really excited or really overjoyed with the relationship, I would pray something like, ‘Lord, I’m really grateful for Rik, but if this relationship is not meant to last, if we are not going to get married down the road, then please take the relationship away from me.”
Pepperdine students are well aware of the frequency with which engagements occur on campus. Some students even say the university has a reputation that precedes it; that students who come here seem to have a stronger chance of donning a wedding ring by senior year than if they had chosen a larger public institution.
“It is a strongly Christian school, and many Christian schools have students that get married young,” said senior Lauren Eberhardt. “I don’t think that it’s more common than any other Christian school; that’s just how many conservative schools are.”
Students are not the only ones aware of this trend. Faculty and stuff have picked up on the pattern, and now offer classes and convocation sessions based on this topic. A club convocation group began earlier this semester to discuss preparedness for marriage. Additionally, classes are taught by members of the Seaver faculty and by members of the campus church. These tools, which may help students understand the details of marriage, are available to both those in serious relationships and those who just desire to know more.
For Pak, however, no class was necessary. Her decision to accept Andrews’ proposal hinged on her faith and trust in God.
“Without God, I feel like we would be two completely different people,” she said. “Both Rik and I have a deep foundation in Christ, so as He was the one that brought us together, He’ll be the one to keep us together. We’ll learn to be patient, to run to God with our problems rather than expecting the other person to fix everything for us.”
Eberhardt, who also cites faith as a strong force in her life, maintains that marriage at such a young age can be treacherous.
“I don’t think you should get married in college, because I don’t think most people are mature enough or have the funds,” she said. “Financial issues are a major cause of divorce. You change so much in your college years toward becoming who you are, and you want to make sure you make the right choice. There’s no perfect age, but I think college is too young.”
Pak, too, used to be a skeptic, but says she has had a change of heart due to the faiths she and her fiancée share, and because of the certainty that she says only comes from love.
“When the right person comes into your life, it changes everything you think about love and marriage,” Pak said. “A couple years ago, I would have said I was unready for marriage. But ever since I met Rik, it has made me feel more ready. Sometimes, I still feel like this engagement thing is happening to another person and I’m just sitting by watching. But I think if I was unprepared, I would have said no in the first place.”
Both Pak and Eberhardt, while standing on opposite sides in their beliefs, both say their faith is the most important issue when it comes to making decisions. For one, faith draws her to marriage; for the other, it draws her away.
Either way, this diversity of perspective is even more intriguing in a place like Pepperdine – a place where there are almost as many students with wedding bands as with backpacks.