Love At First Floor Meeting: Finding "The One" At Dartmouth
Every September, over 1,000 first-year students come to Dartmouth. For many, the College provides an outlet to experience new things. For others, it provides a place to meet people from all different backgrounds. For some, it creates the perfect environment to foster a romantic relationship.
Twenty-two years ago, Jeneen Graham ’96 met her husband, Andreas Graham ’80 Tu ’86, while working at Peter Christian’s Tavern, a restaurant in Hanover that has since closed down.
“It was complete serendipity,” recalled Jeneen Graham. “I actually wasn’t feeling that well that morning, so I almost called in sick. It is just crazy that we would not have met.”
The pair would have had little in common if they had not both attended Dartmouth. Jeneen Graham loves music, whereas Andreas Graham prefers sports. The couple will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary on Oct. 3. They have two children and have lived in Southern California for the past 18 years.
“He was really nice and he asked a lot of questions, and I wasn’t used to someone being so curious about me,” Jeneen Graham said. “So I think what I was feeling was just [being with] an adult. I found it strikingly refreshing.”
Here at Dartmouth, such relationships are in the making. Just as Jeneen Graham and Andreas Graham connected through their alma mater, many couples at Dartmouth connect as they experience their New Student Orientation Week together.
Elizabeth Garrison ’21 and Willem Klein Wassink ’21 met during Trivia Night.
“One of the answers was the song to Lion King and she was singing it and waving her arms around … I admire that amount of energy,” Klein Wassink said.
As the couple got to know each other, they realized that they had much in common. Both Garrison and Klein Wassink were members of their debate team in high school. Many of Klein Wassink’s friends in high school were involved in theater, and Garrison was also involved in theater productions. They said that a significant commonality and a surprising revelation between the couple was their shared love for the role-playing game “Dungeons and Dragons.”
“I loved it when I found out that Will was a little more nerdy,” Garrison said. “I was actually really excited because my dad and my brother and I played 'Dungeons and Dragons' … I never really met people my own age that were really interested in those same kind of things.”
For them, Dartmouth’s tight-knit community, its beautiful scenery and its traditions helped them get to know each other.
“I think because we met in fall term, a lot of my Dartmouth-specific memories are now specific memories from my relationship as well,” Garrison said.
Heather Flokos ’19 and Joseph Leonor ’19 also are a couple who met during Orientation Week. However, they found that a different side of Dartmouth helped to develop their relationship.
“Dartmouth had an atmosphere of trying new things, especially for freshmen,” Leonor said.
Flokos and Leonor, who were also hallmates, met during the early stages of Orientation Week over breakfast with Leonor’s roommate.
“I was having a hard time making eye contact because she was so pretty,” Leonor said. “And then her friendly demeanor just made it all the more intimidating. So it took a little bit of courage to start talking to her.”
Flokos similarly recalls her first impression of Leonor.
“I thought he was really funny and nice and just immediately very easy to talk to,” Flokos said. “Whenever we did stuff as a floor I always ended up sitting across from him and talking to him the most … because it was just so easy to talk to him.”
Even with their immediate chemistry, Leonor and Flokos became even closer after they ended up in the same tango class together. Flokos said she joined the class because she had taken Spanish classes throughout middle school and high school and had always wanted to learn tango. Leonor, on the other hand, said he took the class because many of his friends decided to try tango.
“We got to know each other more because we were dance partners,” Leonor said. “I had no interest in tango coming into Dartmouth, but the idea of curiosity and trying new things really pushed me to actually take the class, and I ended up enjoying it and … [got to] know my girlfriend a little more.”
Leonor accredits Dartmouth’s culture of “trying new things” to be one of the major reasons why he grew close to Flokos. To the incoming class, he has a piece of advice.
“Try things that you didn’t think that you were going to be interested in,” Leonor said. “Like I was saying, I didn’t even think of tango, but it’s a good way to make friends and meet people, especially early on.”
When first-year students arrive at Dartmouth, they begin a new chapter in their lives. They meet new people, experience new activities, study subjects that they have never been exposed to. Whether or not they are romantic, each student will engage in important relationships that define who they are. For Dartmouth students,the possibilities are endless.
“Dartmouth has always been a magical place for me,” Graham said. “I am a first-generation college student, and I really felt like I had died and gone to heaven when I got there. That feeling never went away, truly.”