Penn State Love Stories: A Freshman Year Group Project

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College is arguably all about the people you meet and during your first semester on campus, there are quite a few of them. From joining clubs to saying hello to that stranger down the hall, most of your freshman year involves turning new faces into familiar ones.

But for Caitlin Edinger, she had no idea the guy in her freshman year English project group would turn out to be her future fiancée one day.

Edinger enrolled in Rhetoric and Civic Life during her first semester at Penn State — a small, discussion-based English class. Each week, the class would have to post online blogs about a variety of topics. The posts would often combine class discussion topics with students’ daily life experiences, and students commented on the posts from members of their online small group. It wasn’t long before one particular group member’s blog posts — enter fellow freshman Eric Ervine — began to stand out to Edinger. She was shocked at how much they seemed to have in common simply based off something they had to do for class.

“The more I read Eric’s blogs, and subsequently, his responses to my blogs, I began to fall for him. Hard,” Edinger said. “My best friend Hannah can attest to that one!”

As the semester rolled on, Edinger began thinking of ways to sit closer to Ervine during class so she could strike up a conversation. But for a variety of reasons — a stolen seat, a broken computer, a missing chair — her efforts never seemed to work out.

“So I tried to be classic — stare at him from across the room, drop my pencil so he’d have to pick it up and make real contact with me, you name it,” Edinger said. “And still, nothing.”

Soon enough, however, the professor assigned the students a project in which they had to work directly with their online blog groups. For Edinger, this was the opportunity to do finally something about her secret crush.

“I approached Eric after class one day and asked him for his number, since I would have to get in touch with him to coordinate meetings to work on the project,” Edinger said. “What I didn’t tell him is that I never got the numbers of the other two guys in our group.”

When it came time to work on the project, Ervine went over to Edinger’s room in Atherton Hall to complete the video assignment. Throughout the evening, Edinger tried to drop a few subtle hints about her crush by playing romantic music in the background, and she even had her roommate leave before Ervine came over. But to her frustration, her hints went pretty much unnoticed by Ervine.

“The song, in which the chorus so blatantly says ‘Please just fall in love with me…’ and ‘kiss me on this cold December night’ played for two hours before Eric even noticed, at which point he asked where the other guys were,” Edinger said.

The project generally ran smoothly, however, and Edinger eventually told Ervine she could take over the final steps of the editing process. She immediately realized how poor of an idea this had been — she ended up pulling an all-nighter just to finish the project by the time class rolled around the next day. The video itself didn’t even upload correctly by the time class was about to begin, which left Edinger simultaneously exhausted and frazzled by the time she got to the room.

“But nonetheless, it was the first time I had successfully sat with him in class!” Edinger said. “After class, Eric pulled out his meal card and smiled saying, ‘Caitlin, you look like you need a coffee…'”

After class, Edinger and Ervine headed over to Blue Chip Bistro, and the spontaneous coffee trip ended up turning into a two-hour conversation about each other’s backgrounds and personal lives. It turns out the two students had even more in common with each other than Edinger had originally thought when she read Ervine’s blog posts months earlier.

“We spoke of how God had broken us so that we could draw nearer to him,” Edinger said. “And we realized that neither of us had ever met another person who could quote ‘Lord of the Rings’ like we could. I knew from that moment that this was it.”

(Photo: Hannah Beers)

It wasn’t long before the two freshmen became an official couple, and they went on to spend the majority of their Penn State careers by each other’s sides. After graduation, however, their relationship took tricky turns as they attempted to navigate a long distance relationship throughout various work and school locations. Though they now reside in the same state, they still have to work hard to make time to visit each other during their limited free time.

“I am progressing towards my DVM at The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Eric is teaching middle school students in Cleveland through the Teach for America program,” Edinger said. “The distance, though dramatically reduced, has been hard on us, but we know that God’s timing is perfect and has only made us fall more in love.”

On December 16, 2016, Edinger visited the Columbus Zoo Wild Lights Festival with her friends from veterinary school. For her, it was simply a short break from the heavy load of studying she’d been doing all semester. But she had no idea what could come next. It turns out, Ervine had a major surprise up his sleeve. He had originally told Edinger he couldn’t make it to the zoo because of work. In reality, he was waiting around the corner with the perfect proposal planned.

“So imagine my surprise when my friends ran from the photo area and I turned to see him,” Edinger said. “I don’t think I will ever make that facial expression again.”

(Photo: Hannah Beers)

It took Edinger what felt like an eternity to finally process what was happening. When the realization finally hit, she couldn’t help but burst into tears as she said yes. The couple now awaits their December 30, 2017 wedding date — and of course, they still credit their relationship to the tiny classroom at Penn State that brought them together years ago.


To submit your own Penn State Love Story, click here.

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About Author

Claire Fountas

Claire Fountas is the student life editor for Onward State, as well as a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and psychology. She lives in a suburb of Chicago and strongly disagrees with anyone who hates the Cubs or the Blackhawks (so, pretty much anyone at Penn State). You can follow her @ClaireFountas or email her at [email protected]

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