Ask Vincent Ho and Kami Nagami what defines their relationship, and they’ll find many ways to answer.
She’ll say he’s kind, generous and understanding beyond description. He’ll say that she’s his rock, his pillar of support. They’ll tell you about annual traditions and their plans to travel the world together.
But mostly, when they think of each other, of their years spent together, one place comes to mind — USC.
Kami met Vincent at the end of her first week on campus. It was her first visit to a USC fraternity — Sigma Phi Delta, his house. He greeted her with the two words most likely to garner immediate interest from a girl at her first frat party — “Jello shot?”
It wasn’t quite love at first sight. But it was close enough. From that day forward, Vincent filled in the details of Kami’s time at USC.
As it turned out, they’d grown up brushing the corners of each other’s lives. They came from the same suburbs of Los Angeles, their parents frequenting the same stores for years. Somehow, they’d never crashed into each other until now, at a Welcome Week party in her freshman year and his last year of his progressive engineering degree.
If they tried to explain what happened next, it would add up to a sum of predictable cliches. What mattered most was that they worked in the most uncomplicated of ways.
There was never a resounding moment where either one of them suddenly realized that this would never end. Maybe there should’ve been, Kami said. But instead they fell into each other, slowly building a life together with an ease that never went away.
Vincent was the son of immigrants who never carved out the practices of American holidays, so Kami filled each year with new traditions. She hid eggs for him to find at Easter, forced him to watch all of her favorite Halloween movies and planned a trip to Disneyland each December to see the Christmas lights.
Eight years later, their lives are still patterned around these little rituals.
He proposed in December 2015, a little over seven years after they first met in that crowded frat house. At first, he had grandiose ideas — a drive to the beach for a sunset proposal, maybe. But Vincent knew himself too well. He knew that he was terrible at keeping secrets, especially from Kami, and that his face would give it all away in a heartbeat.
So instead, he took her back to the place where it all started.
He told Kami that there was a Christmas party on campus with some of his old friends. They walked hand-in-hand through campus, which was starkly empty in the week after finals commenced and winter break began.
Vincent’s phone wouldn’t stop vibrating, and despite his nerves, he took a second to glance at it. His screen was filled with texts from the photographer he’d hired to capture the moment — she was warning him that a wedding photo shoot had already beaten him to their location.
He went for it anyways. He walked Kami to Tommy Trojan, the most recognizable symbol of USC, and as they closed in on the statue, the wedding party took a break and moved over to rest by Traveler. This was his shot.
When Vincent dropped on one knee, Kami thought he was stopping to tie his shoe. It took her a moment to realize that he was pulling out a ring, and another to cover her face in surprise. A year later, she can hardly remember the words he used to ask her to spend the rest of their lives together.
“I think I blacked out through it,” she laughed.
He didn’t mind — she said yes, and that’s all that really matters.
Afterward there was a party with friends and family, a wedding, a honeymoon, matching rings and a home together. This isn’t the type of story that has a happy ending, because even after eight years together, the couple is still at their beginning.
“It’s everything you hope of when you think about how you want your life to go,” Vincent said. “It’s been the easiest and the best part of my life.”
They’re both back on campus now, in their respective first and last years of graduate school. It’s been a nostalgic year, as if they’re caught up again in all the firsts of their time together. It’s also their last year before the rest of their lives, and they’re both enjoying soaking in the twilight of their college years together.
There’s some certainty to their future — Vincent just accepted a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Kami will take another year to finish her graduate degree. After that, they might go abroad for Vincent’s new position, take time to travel like they’ve always talked about.
But beyond that, they haven’t laid concrete plans. And as far as Vincent and Kami are concerned, they don’t really need them.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but he’s the constant,” Kami said. “This is the most important thing we have, and no matter what, that’s always going to be true.”