In the fall of 1998, Elizabeth Vélez was a nervous first-year who couldn’t find her WOOLF orientation group. After finally finding her way to the field where all the WOOLF groups were supposed to assemble, she headed towards the first group she saw and asked whether her name was on the list.
“And I look[ed] up. I hadn’t looked at the list yet,” Darik Vélez, one of the WOOLF leaders of the group Elizabeth approached, said. “I distinctly remember thinking, ‘God, I hope so.’”
And as it turned out, she was. For the entirety of their WOOLF trip, he accompanied her at the back of the group through every single hike.
Even after First Days ended and classes started, fate seemed to have plans for Darik and Elizabeth Vélez. They would often run into each other during mealtimes and soon began to plan their meetings, eating meals together and spending time in Prospect. One day, as they were sitting on a futon spread out across his floor, she asked, “What’s up with us?” The question was prompted by the fact that they were holding hands.
Neither of them had a fully formed answer. “Darik might have asked [if we should date],” she recalled. “I said that I was 17 and grew up very conservative Christian and wasn’t looking to date at all. So, no, we shouldn’t date, but wasn’t it nice that we were friends?”
“While still holding hands,” he added. “In a very formally Christian way.”
However, the “just friends” phase did not last. The next week, they shared their first kiss during a movie night in the basement of Prospect. The following night, the pair climbed to the top of the Hopkins Observatory, where they decided to start dating.
They stayed together for the next two years until Darik Vélez’s graduation, when they made the difficult decision to break up. He was headed to Puerto Rico for research while Elizabeth Vélez planned to study abroad in the Czech Republic.
Despite being in different hemispheres for the next year, the two kept in touch. “We were not dating,” he said. “We were just writing tomes to each other every night.”
“So yes, we weren’t good at not dating,” she summarized.
The following year, Elizabeth Vélez was back on campus, and Darik Vélez was teaching at a private school in Connecticut. This time, the long distance was much easier to handle, especially when he gave her his leased car along with his gas card so she could visit him over the weekend.
Darik Vélez would later propose to Elizabeth Vélez on the same field where they first met. Within this full circle, Darik Vélez is grateful for the journey he and his wife have had. “We were discovering all the things that you normally discover through a period of dating different people,” he said. “We kind of had to discover it together.”