But it happened. Gumm and Australia-native Elise Matthews’ friendly letter correspondence that began his freshman year of high school turned into love, and they’ve been together ever since.
Gumm learned of the pen pal program through a friend who was writing to Matthews as a class assignment. Genuinely interested in learning more about Australia, Gumm asked his friend if he could start sending letters to Matthews.
“Right away we just had so much in common,” Matthews said. “We always had exciting new things to talk about.”
Gumm and Matthews continued writing to each other just as friends for three years. In Australia, graduating high school seniors traditionally take a spring break trip after graduating, but Matthews decided to spend the money she was going to put towards the trip to travel to America instead. After plans with a host family fell threw, Matthews stayed with the Gumm family for her entire stay. Upon meeting, it was love at first sight.
“When we met each other in person for the first time we sort of both just knew,” Matthews said. “It sounds funny saying you just click with someone, but that’s what I felt like it was. We just clicked together.”
After his graduation, which was a few months after Matthews first visit, Gumm traveled to Matthews’ hometown of Melbourne, Australia, for two months. Since then, the two have traveled back and forth to visit each other. The two said it was very difficult spending months apart at a time, but it only made the time they were together more special.
“This summer we had 14 days together and it was the best 14 days of 2011,” Gumm said.
Both Matthews and Gumm said they had friends who doubted the relationship would survive, but both of their parents have been nothing but supportive the whole way through.
“They really embraced our relationship and knew we wanted to make this work,” Matthews said.
It wasn’t until Gumm’s sophomore year in college that the two were able to be together for an entire year. Matthews enrolled at UW-Whitewater as an exchange student studying marketing and business management.
When the two weren’t together, they kept daily communication via Skype, Facebook and phone calls. The two said they continued writing to each other and sent care packages back and forth. Today the couple said they both have boxes filled with the letters and mementos they have sent each other over the years.
“Every once in a while I’ll look through some of them and laugh at the way we talked back and forth when we first started,” Gumm said.
Four and a half years later and the two are still “insanely happy together,” according to Matthews. As of last Friday, Matthews has begun her 13-month work/travel visa in the US. The two said they have both talked about their future together and still have a lot of big decisions to make.
“We’ve been looking at rings,” Gumm said. “It’ll be five years this summer. I know she’s the one.”