Upon virtually meeting UPenn rising sophomores Alejandra and Eli, the first thing I hear through my computer screen is Eli’s semi-stifled laughter. I glance over at his girlfriend’s name, which oddly reads “Miriam.”They both chuckle and shake their heads knowingly as Alejandra corrects the name on her screen.“Sorry, I’m laughing because her name says Miriam. There’s a reason that’s funny, we’ll explain.”They dive into the origin story of their nearly 6-month relationship, an algorithmically-ordained pairing that’s as fitting as they come. They speak with levity and impeccable comedic timing as they recount memories and inside jokes, each interrupting the other with bouts of hearty laughter.Their story began last October, when Eli and Alejandra took the Marriage Pact survey just before heading home for the fall break.
Alejandra: We first got it in an email from our class president. And I don’t know about you, Eli, but when I get emails from the class president, I’m like, “Oh, that’s spam.” So I just thought it wasn’t that important.
It wasn’t until everyone else was like, “Oh my god, have you done the Marriage Pact? It’s like this questionnaire,” that I was like, “Wait, what questionnaire?” So that’s how I ended up taking it.
Eli: I wasn’t going to fill it out at first. But one of my friends actually got paid by someone to sign all of her friends up, by putting their emails down to send them a secret admirer message. So I got an email that said something like, “Someone’s noticing you…” so I had to fill it out.
When match initials were released a week later, Alejandra and her friends sprung into action.
Alejandra: I was at dinner with my friends, and everyone was trying to guess who we got. And I get the initials EK, and I’m like, “I don’t even know anyone here whose name starts with the letter E.” We all started looking on the UPenn Class of 2025 Instagram and making speculations and everything.
But Eli has a funny story.
Eli: So, finding out who my Marriage Pact was a little confusing. Because the initials I was given were AR, but when the names came out, I got someone named Miriam.
Alejandra explains that while Miriam is her first name, she has always gone by her middle name. Eli was not yet privy to this information, hence his confusion.
Eli: And it became more confusing when I got a notification from LinkedIn that someone by the name Miriam Rodriguez had looked up my profile.
Alejandra: That’s mortifying. I didn’t know there was a setting on LinkedIn that showed people when you looked up their profile.
And he didn’t tell me about this until months later. He decides to tell me this when we’re in my room with my friends and roommate. He’s just like, “Oh, funny story…”
Eli laughs boisterously at himself.
Alejandra: We were on fall break when he first reached out to me, so I was at home. And I got this email from him. I sent a screenshot to my friends, like, “What do I say?” I thought he just decided to email me since he couldn’t find me anywhere because of the name issue.
But no — he had already seen me look him up on LinkedIn. And he decided to drop that bomb on me, unexpectedly, in front of my friends. They all laughed. It’s funny, but I thought, “Oh my god, that’s so embarrassing.”
Luckily, Alejandra wasn’t the only one with an embarrassing first impression.
Eli: My Instagram profile picture has a funny backstory. I was the robotics president in high school, and I had a picture of a catapult. And one of my students photoshopped my face on the catapult to make it a Katz-apult, since my last name is Katz. And that’s the terrible, terrible joke.
Alejandra: I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when you’re used to seeing people’s actual faces, it was a little weird. But he had a funny Instagram bio. So when the names dropped, we were all reacting to our matches. And my friend was like, “Well, he has a funny Instagram bio, so that must mean he has a funny personality.” And you know, she was right. It worked out.
After Eli reached out via email, he and Alejandra started talking on Instagram before meeting in person for the first time.
Eli: We met up a little after Halloween, and I remember because she and her friends were dressed up as elements, and she was fire. But we started talking, I asked her out, and we grabbed dinner at a Chinese place close to campus.
They stayed in touch over the holiday break, which was prolonged due to rising COVID cases on campus.
Eli: At the start of the semester, we hadn’t officially started dating, but we’d been on a couple of dates and had talked over winter break. And then — do you want to tell the story of my foolishness, Alejandra?
Alejandra: So… we come back like January 23. And his birthday was on January 30. And so I’m thinking, “Oh, I gotta get him a gift.” It just felt fitting, obviously I hadn’t been talking to this guy over the break for no reason.
And then on the 29th, he asked if I wanted to go to dinner with him. He was like, “It’s a birthday dinner and I’d love to have it with you. “ And I was like, “Sure!” But I wondered whether he was going to ask me out.
And then, at like, 12:16 on January 30, he goes, “… Do you wanna be my girlfriend?”
Like, no pressure. I said yes, but then right after, I was like, “You know, you just asked me out on your birthday.” He was like, “Oh my god.” You could see his eyes widen.
Luckily, Eli had two things to celebrate that day. Plus, at least it’s easy to remember the anniversary date.
Eli: Okay, in my thought process, we get back the 23rd, and I knew I wanted to ask her out. It just so happened that the first weekend lined up exactly with my birthday. It was just a coincidence.
And I also just want to say that your birthday present is right there.
Eli points to the vintage Airplane and Spaceballs movie posters tastefully adorning the wall behind him.As it turns out, Alejandra isn’t the only one with a knack for gift-giving.
Alejandra: My birthday was later during spring semester. And as my birthday gift, my roommate decided to make a music video starring all my friends from back home.
The song of choice: “Forever” by Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem.
Alejandra: They did a mini surprise party downstairs, and Eli was there, which was a total surprise. And then he showed up in the video, which I was not expecting at all. It was really sweet.
The pair recount another favorite memory from their semester together.
Eli: It was the best and worst day of spring semester. I went to a Lil Yachty concert with her and had an absolutely amazing time, but then the next day I got COVID.
Alejandra: It was a rough week. It was taking out everybody.
Eli: Luckily Alejandra didn’t get it. I was one of the last people to get isolation housing before they ran out of room and people had to quarantine in their rooms, so that was nice. When we reunited, that was a really fun moment.
While Eli and Alejandra headed home to opposite coasts for the summer, they’ve had little trouble keeping the connection alive.
Alejandra: We text every day and will send snaps and stuff. We don’t really have a schedule of when we wanna FaceTime. It’s more just like, “Do you wanna FaceTime later tonight?” and we will. The only hard thing is the time difference, but I think we’ve managed it well.
Most recently, Eli flew out to meet Alejandra’s family on the east coast.
Eli: She has a very, very nice family. All older brothers, who are very cool. But it was funny, because I kinda got grilled by her older brother instead of her dad. We were just sitting at her brother’s place, and he looks me dead in the eye and asks, “Eli, do you drink?” And I’m like, “Oh god.”
Alejandra: I’m planning to go and visit his family in LA towards the end of the summer. So soon it’ll be my turn to be asked the hard hitting questions.
While they can’t recall the survey answers that brought them together, Eli and Alejandra say their similarities abound. Their ease and comfort with each other is obvious from first sight.
Alejandra: We have the same family values — we’re both very close to our parents and siblings and everything. We also have similar interests: video games, movies, etc. Even if we didn’t watch all the exact same movies, we had really similar opinions on all that kind of stuff.
It was just a general vibe, like, “I’m super compatible with this guy.”
Eli: I think we’re also great at actively communicating, and we have a lot of independence. I don’t think either of us are especially clingy. And also, she’s really funny. Which is just a nice bonus.
Nonetheless, they note a few areas of stark difference. Most notably: their social media app of choice for mindless scrolling.
Eli: If I want to show her a meme, it’ll be on Instagram, and if she wants to show me a meme, it’s always on TikTok. And the day she found out I watch YouTube shorts, she was furious. Furious.
Alejandra: It’s like second-hand TikTok! But now he’s got me doing it too. Like, I make fun of him for it. But the other day I couldn’t find anything to watch on YouTube, and I found myself on YouTube shorts. I had to give myself a reality check real quick.
In social settings, they say their complimentary demeanors make them a perfect match.
Eli: I am not afraid to talk to anyone. Okay, my wording could be a little better. But the one story I like is when we went out with a couple of our friends to dinner. One of her friends split something, and they realized they only got half of what they were promised. So Alejandra’s roommate asks her if she could flag down the waiter. And Alejandra turns to me and is like, “Can you flag down the waiter?”
Alejandra: Yeah, Eli is just very charismatic. He’s always talking to whoever, while I keep to myself a little more in public settings. But it’s for sure a good balance. If we were both quiet, nothing would ever happen.
Despite Eli’s usual enthusiasm, he recounts a time when Alejandra had to step in to keep the ball rolling in the early stages of their romance.
Eli: I will say, though, that in our early text conversations, I would have just killed the conversation if not for her. I would sometimes give her basically nothing to respond to.
Alejandra: When you send “lol,” it’s like, where do you go from there?
There was one time where we went back through our old DMs so we could talk about what we were thinking when we sent them. And I told him, “I could have ghosted you so many times.”
But I was like, you know what, he’s nice. I should keep this going. Why do the Marriage Pact to get matched with someone at your school only to not meet up with them? At least do it for the plot.
I was just trying to keep it alive. And I did, and it turned out great.
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