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Undergraduate students turn long distance relationships into engagements

When Cassie O'Dell was a sophomore in high school, she walked to her kitchen table on a random Saturday afternoon was surprised to see her classmate Drayton Santavicca sitting across from her.

Cassie's mother was an English teacher at their high school, and Drayton was one of her students. He had been in their yard all morning doing various landscaping chores.

Drayton was a senior in high school at the time and started his own landscaping business on the side. Cassie's mother took a liking to him from their time spent together in various school activities and decided to hire him to do some work around their home. Cassie knew of Drayton, but was unaware of the bond that he and her mother had developed.

"My friends like to call it an arranged marriage," Cassie joked.

After they shared a meal together on that Saturday afternoon, Cassie did not think much of it and went on with her life.

"He ate lunch with us and I didn't really talk to him after that," Cassie said.

Meanwhile, Cassie's mother had her own agenda. She said that her mom would come home and mention Drayton casually and talk about little things he had done that day. Cassie would just respond with short phrases.

"Sometime toward the end of the school year she gave him my number," Cassie said. "He thought it was really weird, so he asked me for my number and we started dating."

Cassie said that she didn't even want to date him at first because of their awkward scenario. Drayton was on the brink of graduating and she was only a sophomore in high school at the time. Soon, he would be off to college and she still had two years remaining.

When Drayton went away to college, the couple began communicating more and their bond became stronger.

"Eventually it just made sense that engagement was the next thing we did," Cassie said.

Cassie plans to marry Drayton in the next year or two after receiving her degree.

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While Cassie's fiance lives only about two hours from campus, distance is a much bigger challenge for sophomore Sarah Eick.

Sarah is engaged to Daniel Cullison who is a "navy boy" currently stationed in Washington. Unlike Drayton who is only two short hours from Cassie, Daniel lives 33 hours from Sarah.

"We have to schedule time to video chat," Sarah said.

Sarah was acquainted with Daniel through their mutual friends one day during their sophomore year of high school. They clicked instantaneously and began dating.

Just like Cassie, Sarah also has the complete support of her family and friends. She finds it helpful that she is not distracted by having her fiance nearby.

"Although I miss him, it's nice to have my own college life," Sarah said.

Sarah has become a part of the Geology Society and plans to take on internships during her summers. After receiving her degree, she plans to move to wherever Daniel is stationed.

"The military is great with providing assistance for housing and finding a job," Sarah said.

Sarah has not found anyone to be critical of her decisions regarding her relationship. She said that people do ask her for advice and she finds that people inquire about age.

"I don't think age is an issue, but I think maturity is very important," Sarah said.

Cassie and Sarah are both living proof that long distance relationships can be a success in the long term.