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Marianna and Marcel: An Erasmus Love Story

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Reading time: 5 minutes
Don't listen to people who say it won't work. It's up to you!
couple getting married

Studying abroad is a great way to meet new people from all over the world, we can probably all agree on that. Maybe you’ve tried it yourself and if you haven’t, you might have heard that this is one of the main reasons people study abroad.

You make friends for life, contacts for your future career and more often than anyone would have ever thought at the beginning of the Erasmus programme: you can fall in love!

Let us meet Marianna and Marcel. In 2012, Marianna who is from Jyväskylä, Finland applied to spend a year in Bielefeld, Germany. It was her second year at the university and since she was majoring in German, her programme included a compulsory stay of at least two months in a German-speaking country in order to improve her language skills. Marianna wasn’t very excited about going on an exchange, but on October 1st, 2012, there she was, in Bielefeld, to start her Erasmus.

From the very beginning, her mind was set on meeting German people and interacting with them, even though she was lucky enough to obtain a so-called Erasmus family. That group was made of people from Italy, Belgium, Japan, Poland, Bulgaria and many other countries, who also spoke German to each other. However, at a party in an Erasmus apartment, she crossed paths with a German boy called Marcel, who had joined the party only because it was taking place right under his room and it was too noisy to ignore. Little did these two know that they had met their future husband and wife. Marianna first saw him as a cool new German friend but later on, she realised that Marcel was interested in her from the first moment. They bonded over their love for fantasy literature and became Facebook friends that night. Their first date took place in Ikea where smooth talker Marcel lured Marianna to look for a new lamp he apparently needed (they still have the lamp). They kept spending time together but Marianna was not interested in starting a relationship.

Erasmus was kind of a dream for me - it didn't feel like reality or that I could start a serious relationship there - I always knew it would come to an end and I wanted to enjoy my freedom.

However, Marcel didn’t give up and one of the things that helped him win her heart over was being so patient with her intent on mastering German, as he kept repeating whatever he said until she understood.

Marianna and Marcel on a boat
Marianna and Marcel: An Erasmus Love Story

Here’s what happened next: “During the holidays in March we were both doing Inter-rail through Europe (separately) and didn't meet for one month. As we both arrived in Bielefeld, we accidentally met in the laundry room of our student dormitory and for me, this was the moment I realised I actually might not want to be just friends with him. But once again, we didn't start a relationship as it was still Erasmus and there was this continuous feeling of ending and not being real. In May I visited Finland and on that trip, I made the decision I could still try to make it work between us. When I got back, he met me at the airport in Bremen with a sign."

Der Sommer ist noch lang = the summer is still long. It's a song by Bosse, a German singer, whose concert we went to in April. As Marcel was going there with me, his friends were telling him: "If it doesn't work this time, it never will".

After that, they spent a beautiful summer together until August, when Marianna had to return home. However, what we all probably wonder is what happens to Erasmus couples after the exchange period is over?

Marianna and Marcel kissing
Marianna and Marcel: An Erasmus Love Story
We decided to try a long distance relationship from the beginning, even though many of my friends (and even my return orientation teacher) were saying that it won't last. But we tried.

They visited each other and realised that the long distance relationship actually made them stronger, it created a chance to miss each other. They surprised each other with visits, Skyped and sent messages. During the year after Marianna’s Erasmus, Marcel applied for an Erasmus in Jyväskylä, Finland. So they moved in together in Jyväskylä, spent a year there, after that, they spent another year in Bielefeld and soon after that, Marcel proposed to her. The couple soon married in Finland. They had a big wedding with 160 guests from almost every continent of the world.

Marianna and Marcel's wedding
credit: ​Inna Sinersaari

For others who are dreading the end of their Erasmus and saying goodbye to the love they’ve found, Marianna has some words of encouragement to share:

A lot of contact is key. Share your everyday life, send a selfie of you with a morning coffee or a sound message as you are walking home. At the same time, don't spend your time just missing the other one: enjoy your me time.

"Use it as a time for you to do stuff that you can't do at the time you might be spending together - start new hobbies, take part in university activities, meet friends and use your native language, whatever you enjoy doing. Find ways to meet and spend longer periods of time together (work, internship, exchange) and talk about both of your plans and wishes for the future - is there a chance for you two to build a life together sometime in the near future? Would it be in your country, in his country or in another country?"

"Surprise each other! We sent each other a lot of postcards. It was always nice to get handwritten texts of "I love you, I miss you, I wish you were here". Most importantly, trust each other!”

Today Marianna and Marcel are happily married, living and studying in Jyväskylä.  And as if things were not perfect enough, they have two baby cats. “So it all worked out well for the two of us. Marcel has been learning Finnish for the past three years, and I'm keeping my German skills alive with the love of my life.”

People often ask them where they would like to live in the future, but they don’t have the answer yet. Maybe they don’t want to settle down. Maybe they’ll keep moving back and forth between the two countries or maybe they’ll end up somewhere new. Who knows!

This was Marianna and Marcel’s story. We’re sure there are many similar, but at the same time completely different ones out there. If you would like to share yours, e-mail us at [email protected]!