When most people think of their university’s library, they remember desperate study sessions and all night exam prep. But for Karen and Oscar Ojeda, FIU’s Green Library will always be more than the place where they studied, passed the time, and freaked out about assignments – it’s also the place where they found their soul mates.
Karen, a kindergarten/pre-K Montessori teacher, remembers the day she and Oscar met “as if it was yesterday.” It was in 2011, during finals week, and, in an overcrowded library, Karen spotted an open power outlet at a table occupied by a single boy. She approached. Her attention should have been on her 10-page paper due in a couple of days, but instead the tablemates started talking. Soon, the two took turns buying coffee while the other secured the table from interloping students. This continued through a pizza dinner and frantic work on assignments until the library closed at 4 a.m.
At that time, Oscar headed to tryouts for the sports entertainment show American Ninja Warrior, which was filming that day at FIU. He asked Karen to accompany him, and they chatted until later that morning, but his name still hadn’t been called. Karen returned home but a few hours later he called to tell her he wanted to go to the evening tryouts for a final attempt to get on the show, and ‘would she mind going with him once more?’
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I never understood love at first sight, but I just couldn’t stop wanting to talk to him,” she recalls. When asked about the assignments they were working on that fateful evening, she gave a deep laugh. “Don’t worry! We both got good grades, we both graduated!”
It would have been very surprising to discover that Karen had done anything but extraordinarily well, considering the amount of time she had spent in the Green Library.
“The library was my second home – my mom used to say I moved there. There was an area on the seventh floor that had a beautiful view of downtown Miami, and there was a small table I always used where I hid a few things, so I was always prepared to work.”
A strong work ethic is just one of the many traits the couple shares, along with a love of physical fitness. Karen received a bachelor’s in physical education and sport and fitness studies, and as an ROTC member, Oscar would regularly run around FIU with his military backpack. Karen remembers “he’d stop by my class in PG5 and I’d come out and say hello. People would recognize him and say they hadn’t realized ‘the running guy’ was my boyfriend!”
Oscar now serves in the military so the couple have already had a court wedding, with the official wedding ceremony to take place this September. Karen’s crafting skills she acquired as a teacher are serving her in good stead, as she is DIY-ing almost the whole of the event.
“Everyone is helping pitch in,” she said. “One of my friends is donating the flowers for the ceremony. It’s helped me go beyond what I thought could be done.”
A lot of her memories about FIU involve friends, activities, and that feeling of camaraderie one can find during college.
“I used to live on campus, and it was such a great experience.” She still keeps in touch with her college friends – as a matter of fact, her roommate of three years and best friend is going to be one of her bridesmaids.
Karen is returning to FIU this fall to pursue a master’s in speech communication/pathology, with the goal of becoming a speech therapist.
“We both love FIU so much, when Oscar saw my books for class, he said he wished he could go back as well!” Her advice for students? “Have fun, get involved – that’s what makes FIU, the activities and people. Just enjoy your time here – your college years are a special period and they won’t ever come around again.”