FAU Reunites Long Lost Second Cousins

Arizabaleta cousins

Maria Arizabaleta and David Arizabaleta (Photo by Alex Dolce)

By brittany sylvestri | 5/2/2019

In fall 2016, David Arizabaleta, 24, signed up for a general physics class at Florida Atlantic University. Needing some extra review with the professor, he decided to take part in a review session for the class one day. David arrived and proceeded to write his name down on the sign-in sheet and saw something he had never experienced before. Written down a few lines above his name was “Maria Arizabaleta.”  David was bewildered by what he was seeing, especially since he considered his last name to be so unique. 

After the session, he called his parents and shared with them his story, only to find out that this wasn’t just a random coincidence … David and Maria, 23, were long lost second cousins.

“Never in my life I have met someone with the same last name as mine,” said David. “I was so taken back and in a state of shock, I had trouble focusing on the rest of the review session. I just kept wondering who she could be.”

David vaguely recalled his father telling him that he had family in Florida, but never looked into it further. He called his father, Alfredo Arizabaleta, that night and asked his dad more about the family that also lived in the state. 

Alfredo contacted Maria’s father, Nestor Arizabaleta, and was able to get her phone number. David reached out with a text explaining to Maria that they were actually family and that he was in the same review class as her for general physics. 

“It was definitely not a text you get every day,” said Maria. “I was confused at first and called my parents right away to explain.”

Their fathers are first cousins and after living in two different countries had lost touch over the years. Maria and her family moved from Colombia when she was younger and have resided locally in Coral Springs ever since. David graduated high school and moved to the U.S. from Colombia before attending FAU.

Not only did the two of them discover that they were cousins both attending FAU, but they were both studying engineering. Once David and Maria connected, they became great friends and took almost every class together throughout their degree program. They both originally majored in civil engineering and ended up switching to environmental engineering, a newer program available at FAU.

“It was so crazy, I had to instantly create a relationship with someone who I thought was a complete stranger that turned out to be family,” said David.

David and Maria are applying for jobs following graduation and hope to remain in the area. Their fathers, who have reconnected because of David and Maria, will both proudly watch together as their children graduate at the same time with bachelor’s degrees on Friday, May 3 at 1 p.m.

“College can be overwhelming,” said Maria. “It was so nice to know we always had each other to count on. We are grateful FAU brought us and our families back together.”

Arizabaleta cousins

David, third from the left, and Maria, fifth from the left, uncovered this photo of them together as children when both families lived in Colombia.