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Penn State Love Stories: A Chance Meeting On A Service Trip

For many Penn State couples, it’s easy to think of a few ways they could have met — maybe they happened to be in the same group for New Student Orientation, or perhaps they even lived on the same floor freshman year. But for Abby Wilt and Branson Small, two 2016 commonwealth campus graduates, their fateful meeting didn’t happen until they left the country for a service trip.

While Wilt was a student at Penn State Brandywine, she decided to embark on a service trip to Nassau, Bahamas. Penn State Brandywine was paired with Penn State York for the trip, and the excursion gave students the chance to both help a worthy cause and interact with members of the Penn State family they had never met. When Wilt went downstairs for breakfast shortly after the trip began, she met a variety of students from Penn State York. Little did she know, however, that one of them was her future boyfriend.

“Once they were done with their training, I walked over to the table and introduced myself,” Wilt said. “Branson was the first person from Penn State York to introduce himself.”

From the moment they struck up their first conversation, Wilt and Small discovered they had an unusual amount of interests and characteristics in common. They became fast friends and enjoyed participating in a variety of the same activities, such as visiting a local church, reading stories to first graders, and taking tours of historic sites throughout Nassau. 

It wasn’t long before their friendship began to blossom into something more. As the pair got to know each other further, they realized they didn’t want their time together to end once the trip itself came to a close. When they took an evening walk on the beach one night, their mutual feelings for each other suddenly came to the surface.

“…he held my hand and said to me ‘You know, I came on this trip to make an impact on people’s lives and to make new friends. I think I’ve made the best friend of all.’ We still argue over who kissed who first, but none the less, it was a perfect moment,” Wilt said.

Wilt and Smalls have been together since their trip to Nassau and have now spent more than two years by each other’s side. They both graduated from their respective universities in December 2016, but their relationship is currently long distance. Wilt works in a school district near her hometown while also pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership, and Small currently works as a technical consultant. Though it’s difficult to see each other during the week, the couple uses frequent travel and Chipotle dates over FaceTime to make the distance easier.

“We may not live close to one another, but our love for one another is strong,” Wilt said. “We look forward to the day that we don’t have to drive three hours to see each other.” 

(Photo courtesy of Abby Wilt)

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About the 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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