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UC San Diego Couples Share Memories of Magic Moments

Every love story is unique. And many of them begin right here at UC San Diego. This Valentine’s Day, we share the magical moments that brought together student, staff and alumni couples. From a first kiss under an iconic sculpture, to passing a phone number written on a napkin and a La Jolla Cove engagement, these pairs share the unforgettable moments on their romantic journeys.

Ice cream thief

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It was the summer of 1982 when Tina Loren Mata,’87, first saw her future husband, Mike. She was in Revelle College taking part in Summer Bridge, when she witnessed Mike and another student trying to steal a handful of ice cream bars—he was caught in front of everyone in the cafeteria.

They officially met in the fall through mutual connections. Tina was more interested in his friend, but Mike was smitten. He remembers thinking that she was “very cute and had a beautiful smile and puppy dog eyes.” After their first introduction, he would continue to visit her and walk her to class, even if his lecture hall was completely across campus.

Their first date took place at the Children’s Pool at La Jolla Cove. Tina recalls that it was a big step for her because she had formerly only been on group dates. “It was cold and windy, but he was so sweet and hugged me to keep me warm on one of the benches overlooking the wall.”

Several years later, Mike proposed at the Children’s Pool. This year, they celebrate their 36th Valentine’s Day, and 31st year of marriage. “It still feels like our first year,” said Mike. Currently, Tina is a programmer with Information Technology Services with Housing, Dining, Hospitality.

Blind study date

Her midterm was fast approaching. Senior Paloma Santos decided to seek out a study partner for her course on neuroanatomy and physiology. After posting a comment on the class website, senior Austin Sheagley responded that he was interested in meeting up to review notes.

“She was actually 15 minutes late for our meeting outside of Geisel Library,” Austin remembers. “I thought I was getting ditched, but she emailed me saying she was running late and everything worked out. Later on, I asked her if she was really late or if she just didn’t want to show up and she admitted she was nervous about meeting me.”

Despite the rough start, they immediately hit it off while studying for their midterm together. “My first impression of Austin was how tall he was!” said Paloma. “He was super vivid and energetic when studying, so I thought we’d make great friends because we were on the same wavelength.”

Lately, they have spent time playing tennis on campus and exploring San Diego’s best ramen spots. “The study longue on the top floor of Tioga Hall is where we started studying with each other more and getting to know each other,” said Austin. “Being back there always reminds me of the early days of our relationship.” Paloma and Austin will be celebrating their first Valentine’s Day this year.

Napkin note

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Jose Santa Cruz, ’10, admits it was probably love at first sight when he met Robert Kabrel, ’09. They were freshmen at Revelle College, and both worked at Plaza Café with Housing, Dining and Hospitality.

“I asked a mutual friend about Robert and she just wouldn’t stop talking about what a great guy he was,” said Jose. “So one day while I was on my lunch break, Robert was bussing tables and I decided to leave my phone number on a napkin. I’m usually very quiet and shy, so I don’t know how I had enough courage to do that!”

They both laugh now about how the connection happened. Kabrel thought Santa Cruz was “a bit odd at first,” but soon they began dating, meeting up at UC San Diego’s dining halls, enjoying spicy chicken strips at Plaza Café, pizza at Foodworx and breakfast burritos at Oceanview Terrace.

Now, both are staff members at UC San Diego; Krabel is a dining engagement specialist with Housing, Dining and Hospitality and Santa Cruz is a systems project manager with the Office of Post Award Financial Services. They have been together for over 13 years, and live with their three cats in San Diego. Their Valentine’s Day celebration usually includes a trip to the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park.

Beacon of love

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Junior Jordan Raus was introduced to senior Kirsten Rio Dael by his ex-girlfriend. Although they each were dating other people when they first met, Jordan thought she was incredibly funny, friendly and helpful despite barely knowing each other. When Kirsten invited Jordan to a concert last summer, he agreed, and they began dating.

“If I had to choose a place on campus that means a lot to us, it would be in front of the huge sculpture in Revelle College,” said Jordan. The newest addition to the Stuart Collection, “What Hath God Wrought” by Mark Bradford, was where their first kiss took place. “It was the first time we felt like a real couple,” he said.

Kirsten echoed the significance of Revelle College as the place on campus where their relationship progressed. “We danced together for the first time at Galbraith Hall and held hands for the first time at Black’s Beach,” she recalled.

Off campus, Kirsten and Jordan love to try different eateries around San Diego, especially ice cream shops. They frequent University Town Center or La Jolla Cove for their fix of gelato or ice cream. “I’ve practically taken him to every ice cream place—La Jolla, even Belmont Park and Seaport Village,” Kirsten said. “Our favorite place is Creamistry, and it’s totally worth the trip.” This year, Kirsten and Jordan will be celebrating their first Valentine’s Day.

Swim meet

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It was a match made poolside. Alumna Hannah Going was a freshman on the UC San Diego swim team when she met her future husband, Brett Going, ’05. “The first time I remember seeing him was when he visited on his recruit trip when I was a freshman in the spring of 2001,” Hannah said.

They became teammates on the swim team and spent time together at the Canyonview Aquatic Center. Two years later, they began dating. “One of our very first dates was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla,” said Hannah. “Many, many years later we chose that spot as our wedding venue. We also spent a lot of time at beaches around San Diego like Black’s and Scripps.”

Hannah and Brett are one of several couples from the swim team who connected and married. They have two young daughters and reside in University Heights. Brett works as a software engineer and Hannah works in marketing.