For Bernie Armstrong and Christian Silva, it wasn’t exactly romance from the start. But as the story often goes, sometimes it’s the unlikely circumstances that bring about the best kind of relationships in the end.
Armstrong and Silva met freshman year of college when they began undergraduate work in the Penn State Altoona physics lab, but they didn’t float in the same circles. In fact, they didn’t particularly enjoy working together at all. For most of the year, conversation between them was limited to the bare minimum.
“We hated each other actually!” Armstrong said. “He thought I was an obnoxious know-it-all and I thought he was going to be an engineering, drop-down-to-business, big-talking idiot jock.”
But the dynamic between the two students changed when Silva experienced a tragedy — his home suddenly burned down during their sophomore year. After hearing about the disaster, Armstrong suddenly felt a surge of empathy for her classmate.
“It was the first time he ever sat down next to me and we really talked,” Armstrong said. “I gave him a hug to console him and from then on we started talking more.”
From that moment on, Armstrong and Silva realized how much they had in common despite their initial first impression. They formed a strong friendship and acted as mutual support systems during rough times, confiding in each other often throughout the school year. It became obvious how much they enjoyed each other’s company, and soon they began hanging out more and more.
“It became good-natured joking about the fact that I can’t reach things sometimes — I’m 5 feet 5 inches to his 6 feet something,” Armstrong said. “And then it was staying after our hours at work to talk to each other even though we didn’t have to.”
But a romantic relationship wasn’t exactly on the table. Armstrong had been in a long-term relationship from the start of college, and Silva dated girls on and off throughout sophomore year. It wasn’t until they happened to become single at the same time that they realized their relationship was deeper than they originally thought.
“We started to realize we missed each other extra during spring and winter breaks, and we’d text and hang out a few times outside of classes. Nothing too serious really, just joking and talking with each other constantly,” Armstrong said. “Most of all, we kept each other sane and stable throughout all the tests and the stress and harshness of college courses that could easily tip people into depression and frustration.”
When senior year rolled around, they hung out one-on-one consistently, often going to the movies or enjoying dinners together. And when the time was right, their hangouts as old friends finally turned into a first date. From then on, both Armstrong and Silva knew they had ended up with the perfect person for them.
Silva graduated from Penn State with a degree in electro-mechanical engineering technology last May, and Bernie will graduate with a biology degree in December. Silva took a job at Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, and Bernie hopes to attend graduate school in 2018 for either a Ph.D. in health psychology or biobehavioral health. For both of them, the long road was more than worth it, and they couldn’t be happier with where they are now.