At an Extra-Credit Assignment, Romance was an Added Bonus

While Andrew D’Alton Eversden was studying abroad at the American University of Rome in the fall of 2017, one of his professors offered students extra credit for volunteering. He chose to do so at a meet-and-greet event with a local refugee center, which was how he found himself waiting outside an Italian government building in the city on a September afternoon.

Rachel Dawn Wertz, a full-time student at the university, spotted Mr. Eversden immediately. Both Americans, Ms. Wertz, 25, said she could tell that he was from the United States “just based on the running shoes and jeans” he was wearing.

“He had a baseball cap on, which you know, no one else not from the U.S. would wear that,” added Ms. Wertz, who had lived around the world while growing up because of her father’s job.

She introduced herself to Mr. Eversden, 24, who said he “was surprised at how friendly she was and how genuinely interested she seemed like she was in getting to know me.” It didn’t hurt that he found her to be “very, very pretty.”

Over the next few weeks the two continued to hang out as friends, and that November they traveled to Barcelona, Spain, with another student. Each felt an attraction to the other, but even after a romantic evening on the beach in Barcelona, they kept their feelings to themselves.

“I think we both were under the understanding that I was staying and he was going back to the U.S.,” Ms. Wertz said.

On Mr. Eversden’s last night in Rome, he and Ms. Wertz went out to dinner to celebrate the end of the semester. When she got home that evening, she realized she wanted to tell Mr. Eversden how she felt. A few hours before his flight out of Italy, she called him to confess her crush.

While happy to hear from her, Mr. Eversden also felt “a little bit of heartbreak, because I was leaving for the airport in four hours, and I had known that I had met someone really special.”

They continued to speak in the months after Mr. Eversden resumed studying at American University in Washington, but by the spring of 2018 they had mostly fallen out of touch. That August, both traveled to Paris — Mr. Everdsen for a vacation, and Ms. Wertz to visit her brother — where they reconnected in person almost a year after first meeting.

“It actually didn’t go well at all,” Ms. Wertz said. “I think the build up of the expectations kind of overwhelmed both of us.”

They didn’t talk for the next seven months.

In the spring of 2019, Ms. Wertz reached out Mr. Eversden to catch up. Both had plans to be in London that May and when they realized that their visits would overlap for a day, they decided to meet for dinner. At this reunion, both said their romantic feelings came rushing back.

After parting ways, “we both cried on our plane rides back,” Mr. Eversden said. For the rest of the school year, Ms. Wertz said she “just thought about Andrew the whole time.”

Following her graduation in the spring of 2020, Ms. Wertz decided to look for jobs in Europe and the U.S., including in Washington, where Mr. Eversden continued to live after his graduation in 2019.

She told herself that if she got a job in a different city, she would finally force herself to move on from him. After applying to hundreds of positions, she was offered a spot in the AmeriCorps program — and she was assigned to Washington.

When she told Mr. Eversden, he “just about fell out of my chair,” he said.

Ms. Wertz relocated to the city that June, and within a month they were officially dating. She now works as a local marketing associate at Total Wine & More in Bethesda, Md. Mr. Eversden is a reporter for Breaking Defense in Washington.

In July 2021, he proposed in front of the Department of Education building in Washington, the American equivalent of the Italian government building the two met outside of in Rome. The couple were married April 17 at Villa Siena, an Italianate-style events venue in Gilbert, Ariz., before Jordan Gustafson, a Presbyterian minister, and about 70 vaccinated guests.