Clare Goslant was in search of an affordable place to live in Washington, when she took time off between her junior and senior years at Harvard for an internship with the World Wildlife Fund.
What she found was the International Student House, a community of young students and interns in the district that provides dormitory-style accommodations and two meals a day.
It was there where she also found Alex Plum, who was in a master’s program in East Asian studies at Georgetown’s foreign-service school.
“There was a group of girls, all the same age — 21 or 22 — we all had a bit of a crush on him, but thought he was dating someone else in the house,” said Ms. Goslant, 26. “I sent him a text message asking if he’d want to go out sometime.”
He did, though he tells a slightly different story. Mr. Plum, 29, had grown up in Asia. (His father was the regional president for a small-engine manufacturer.) He had returned to the United States for college and then had stayed for an advanced degree. The international milieu of the residence was familiar to him, and in his job at the front desk, he remembers having seen Ms. Goslant’s application and thinking, “She’s really cute.”
“When she did actually move in,” he said, “I remember seeing her at breakfast and just being really nervous. But eventually I got up the courage to sit down next to her and strike up a conversation.”
The two spent their first date at a briefing by the French ambassador about the European Union at the International Student House. Afterward, they went out for tacos.
They shared their first kiss that night. Both say that within a week, they were already in love.
“At least for me, right away, I knew she was the most caring, compassionate, beautiful person,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience, falling in love.”
“He has a vibrancy and humor and lightheartedness that I hadn’t encountered in anyone else,” she said.”
Ms. Goslant stayed until January 2017 before returning to Harvard, and then in May 2017 went back to Washington for another internship and another summer at International Student House with Mr. Plum.
After he received a master’s degree, he returned to Arizona State University, from which he had graduated and which was also near where his parents were living, in Tempe, and spent about a year working as an assistant director for Asian research. He also began the process of enlisting in the United States Marine Corps.
“He had had a lifelong dream of service that he felt he hadn’t completed,” Ms. Goslant said, though she remembers having questions about how it would affect their relationship. She is now an education assistant at the Boston chapter of Alliance Française, the language instruction and cultural organization.
Last November, at a Marine Corps ball in Las Vegas, Mr. Plum, now Lance Corporal Plum and a machine-gun squad leader, proposed. As his platoon faced imminent deployment this spring, the two decided to get married without planning a wedding.
On March 23, in Phoenix, they did just that. The Maricopa County Courthouse had limited service because of the coronavirus pandemic, but judges were still coming out after the close of court business each day to marry couples waiting there with licenses in hand.
“You pay the judge $100, ask the wedding party next to you if they’ll be your witnesses, and then the ceremony is over in like two minutes,” said Ms. Goslant. “But I was really shocked by how emotional I got during it. Up until that point I sort of looked at it in a more pragmatic way, and I was actually quite surprised by how genuinely emotional I was to be marrying my best friend.”
Ms. Goslant, now living with her parents in Cambridge, Mass., is considering taking the law-school entrance exam and other graduate school options. Mr. Plum remains outside of San Diego, at Camp Pendleton, awaiting deployment instructions.
Both are hoping to narrow the geographical gap after he returns. “It will be difficult but not impossible,” he said. “Nothing’s impossible. That’s the thing. There’s ways and means.”