As Dee Friesen sits in her living room, monsters are roaring from the office nearby. Her husband, Zac is playing video games while she makes her way through her evening of homework. His day is winding down to a close but hers is continuing on.
“Zac wakes up really early in the morning. Every morning right before he leaves, he tells me goodbye and that’s my cue to wake up,” says Dee.
Dee alternates work and classes throughout the day and sometimes goes home for lunch. She leaves campus around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. when Zac picks her up on his way home from work. Dee says her and Zac alternate on who cooks dinner in the evening and then Zac will usually make his way to the office to play some video games while she starts in on homework for the night, finishing normally around 10 p.m.
“If I’m not dead tired by then, I usually join Zac in the office and play some games with him. It’s the way we de-stress and have fun together at the end of the day. Then we go to bed and start all over again,” says Dee with a laugh.
Posters cover every inch of the walls of the office, from some of Dee and Zac’s favorite video games and movies. They describe this as a sort of “gaming world” where they can step away from everything else and be together doing something they love while the rest of the house is what they describe as “normal adult.” On Zac’s side of the office sits a small flat screen TV, laptop and Apple monitor. Dee’s side has a TV and laptop as well but energy drinks also decorate her desk as she tries to stay awake long enough to spend time with her husband after a long day.
While Dee and Zac enjoy being married and spending what little time they have together, it’s not always so easy. Sticking to a set schedule is difficult when Dee is constantly trekking back to campus for Tack meetings, stories she has to cover, and other responsibilities. She has to keep in mind that she has someone else to be concerned about. Her plans don’t only affect her anymore and communication has become a key component in her life. She’s always thinking about her husband and letting him know when her plans change for the evening.
Her priorities have shifted as well. Projects and homework are important to her education but her husband is also important in her life.
“We have to figure out how to balance school and home to make it best for both of us. There have been weeks where we barely see each other for two or three days straight, but he is able to recognize that I need to study and I don’t expect him to sit next to me the whole time,” says Dee.
Financially, there are difficulties too. Because Dee is married to Zac and he’s still paying off college loans, she can’t take out certain loans. They’ve found a way to pay for her schooling monthly out of pocket so she can continue her education but making ends meet isn’t always easy.
“I think I definitely appreciate school more and work harder towards goals because if I fail, it’s coming out of our pocket. It affects us more,” says Dee.
Living off campus isn’t a normal arrangement for students at Buena Vista University so Dee struggles with this as well. While it’s nice to get away from people in her own private space where she can relax and know that there’s nobody to make noise while she’s studying or sleeping, she doesn’t form close friendships as quickly.
“You don’t get the community aspect of living with your classmates and seeing them constantly,” notes Dee.
While living off-campus makes Dee less of a traditional student, she enjoys having someone to come home to every night who shares the same interests as her, even if it means she doesn’t get to live on a campus with her peers.
“I have someone to come home to everyday who will support me and encourage me. He also pushes me, which is helpful on the weeks where I just want to watch Netflix and play video games and throw my computer and text books out the window. He’s my biggest support,” says Dee.
Even with some of the struggles Dee faces on a day-to-day basis, she cherishes the fact that she has someone to go through those struggles with. Dee has found that focusing on the positives makes the difficult days a little more manageable.