There's the requisite rom com "meet cute."
Then there's a madcap ski weekend eerily similar to the one in the second "Bridget Jones" movie.
Let's not forget the time Rafael smuggled her across the German border into the Czech Republic. And, most especially, the botched marriage proposal back in Chicago, foiled by his BlackBerry.
After the orientation session, Cathryn and one of her best friends from school headed for Red Clover, a geographically incorrect Irish pub located far from Ireland.
"I literally saw him across a crowded room," says Cathryn, "and thought he was adorable." She's talking about the first time she spotted Rafael Smeyers. It was Jan. 14. She was 20 and he was three years older, a college graduate with a job that had sent him to France from his base in Luxembourg.
Cathryn asked her friend to walk past Rafael to try and get his attention. Then they both did. "We'd walk back and forth," she says, describing a scene you might find in a chick flick. "I don't think he noticed me."
Did too, says Rafael. "She's super cute, and I didn't think I had a chance."
After much to-and-fro, Cathryn and Rafael started talking — in French — with each trying to figure out what country the other is from and not making much headway. "My French is always better when I've had a few drinks," she says.
When they parted, she didn't have a phone yet but Rafael gave her his number "and he kissed me."
For an American college girl studying abroad, says Cathryn, "This is what you're supposed to do: Meet a European guy and kiss in a bar."
Rafael didn't think much about this encounter again until Cathryn called him five days later. "I had no idea who it was," says Rafael, confused by her French and not recognizing the phone number. Finally it clicks and he asks her out.
Eight days and several dates later, Rafael texted her: "I'm going skiing this weekend, why don't you come with?"
"Sure," she promptly texted back.
"I gave him the impression I could ski. … It's a hard thing to lie about," she says.
Since she didn't have any ski clothes she asked at her school if anyone had left some behind. "The only thing they had was a bright pink one-piece ski suit from the '70s. The crotch came down to my knees."
Here they were at Alpe d' Huez, one of the finest ski resorts in the French Alps, and "I could not have looked worse," she says. They hopped on the ski lift and she couldn't even get off it. "I grab her off … and she falls on me," says Rafael.
"Long story short, I literally spend the day rolling down the mountain," says Cathryn.
Day Two: Rafael skis, and Cathryn lounges at the lodge.