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How We Met
By: Alanna Zentz

I often wonder about fate. I wonder whether fate is deterministic, and whether or not fate has a role in our daily, or life long, decisions. When I think back to all of the choices I made that led me to the day I met Ben, I often feel that somehow, just somehow, fate had to be involved. From choosing to go to Penn State, to deciding to apply and then enroll in the Schreyer Honors College, to agreeing to live in Atherton Hall (the dorm Ben and I lived in)...if I had made one choice differently, would Ben and I still have met? Somehow, just somehow, I think fate would have found a way!

I met Ben on December 9, 2001. I could hardly forget the date, not only because we made it our anniversary, but because it was the Sunday before my first final exam week ever as a Penn State freshman! My friends and I had been studying for exams ALL weekend long, and I (being the perfectionist you all know me as) was incredibly stressed about my upcoming exams. In particular, I was stressing over my Chemistry final scheduled for Friday morning at 8 am.

After spending that entire Sunday studying, my friend Leslie and I, who each lived in Yoe House in Atherton Hall, were thrilled to learn that our R.A., Ang, was throwing a study break that evening in her room! Ang promised lots of cookies and relaxation, so Leslie and I jumped at the chance to abandon our books for a few hours. When we walked into Ang's room, there were already a few girls there from my hall, and also some guy friends of theirs from Cali House (also in Atherton Hall). Leslie and I plopped down on the carpet, grabbed some cookies, and starting chatting.

We had only been in Ang's room for a little while when another guy, apparently from Cali House, entered the room. What made this guy stand out from all the others was the simple fact that he was carrying around a digital camera and snapping pictures of all the friends he saw. Now, for those of you who know Ben, you'll recognize this as typical, loveable, Ben behavior...but I had never met a guy who walked around the dorm with his camera! Needless to say, I was certainly intrigued, but I didn't really think about making a first move. Ben did, however! He must have noticed that Leslie and I were freezing (it was December, after all!), so he grabbed Ang's afghan, brought it over to me, and introduced himself.

Alanna and Leslie with Ang's afghan on the night we first met

I figured any guy thoughtful enough to bring me an afghan was worth talking to...I never expected that our "talking" would turn into hours of conversation! Ben and I realized that we lived on the same floor in Atherton Hall, had many of the same friends, and had nearly met each other at least a dozen times before. However, besides the conversation, Ben and I just seemed to click. That probably sounds cliché, but for those of you who know me well, you know it often takes me a while to warm up to people. Not so with Ben. We began talking that evening and talked until the study break was over! I was simply amazed that I felt so comfortable with Ben after just meeting him a few hours before. Apparently Ben felt the same way, because after I returned to my room, I heard a soft knock at my door. When I opened the door I saw Ben, ready to pick up our conversation where we had left off. We sat in the hallway for probably two more hours that evening just talking about anything, and everything, that came to mind. I don't think I thought about my exams even one time while we were talking!

Once exam week began on Monday, Ben and I were both incredibly busy. We each had exams to study for and take, papers to write, and portfolios to put together. I was still stressing over my Chemistry exam, and spent almost every waking moment studying for the test. Ben and I somehow found pockets of time to spend together. We went to dinner with our mutual friends, studied in the lobby together and even found some time to talk, just the two of us. I could tell that we were both very interested in the other...but with our winter break coming in just a few days, and Ben and I each heading our separate ways, I was curious to see if we would stay in touch.

Apparently Ben had similar thoughts, for he planned a surprise that definitely showed his intention to keep in touch over the break! Ben obviously knew I was stressed over my Chemistry exam. He helped me study (although he's not much of a Chemistry guy himself), but most of all gave me support and helped me calm down. On Friday morning, I woke up to an IM from Ben wishing me luck on my exam, and I merrily headed off to my 8 am exam with the thought of his note on my mind. I struggled my way through the exam, and to this day, I still have never been happier to have an exam over with! I knew I didn't ace my exam, but I was just ready to get back to my dorm room and begin packing for break.

I opened the door to my dorm room and, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that my desk lamp was on. This was curious, for I had turned it off before I left for my exam. However, when I looked over to my desk, not only was my desk lamp turned on, but the light from the lamp was focused on a gorgeous bouquet of flowers covering my entire desk! Tucked into the bouquet was a small note with the sweetest message from...guess who... Ben! Apparently he conspired with my roommate to borrow her key so he could enter our room while I was at my exam. I was shocked, not only that he had worked so hard to surprise me, but by what his note said (sorry, the note's private, but it made clear that he wanted to keep in touch over break).

I raced out of my room to find Ben, so excited, for I knew I wanted to continue our relationship as well! I nearly ran into him in the hallway I was in such a hurry. I gave him a big hug and a sweet kiss (our first!) and told him that I was interested, too!

I guess, as they say, the rest is history. Ben and I continued talking over winter break, and we even visited each other (and met the parents!) at the very end of break. When we returned to school for the spring semester, we picked up right where we left off. It sometimes amazes me to think that Ben and I have dated since, essentially, the beginning of my Penn State career. But somehow, just somehow, I don't think fate would have had it any other way.

Hope you enjoyed our story!
Love, Alanna

Alanna, sledding down the Atherton Hall lawn with a dining hall food tray, on the day we returned from Winter Break


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