Valentine’s Day is here again and it’s the perfect time to look back at some of the great love stories that started during study abroad. Turns out when you embark on a life-changing experience and you’re being your best self, it’s pretty easy to meet a fabulous life partner. And while we don’t recommend students head abroad looking for romance, sometimes the universe has a plan of its own.
Without further ado, here are 13 love stories that’ll pull at your heartstrings!
Russ and Melissa Whipple | USAC San Ramón and Shay and Kurt Hoseley | USAC Torino
Brenna McKee | USAC Prague
In the summer between my Junior and Senior years of college, I was fortunate enough to attend a study abroad program with USAC in Prague. I was nervous about being abroad alone and having such a short time to make friends. Of course, those fears proved needless, as I spent the most amazing summer getting to know my peers and making memories with them in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
One of the friends I made was a friendly and quiet young man who was also in the USAC program, from a university on the other side of the country (I attended school in Florida, he in California). Throughout the course of our program in Prague, our connection grew and he began to mean more to me than a friend.
Unfortunately, we had just a few short weeks together before we had to return to opposite corners of the U.S. and finish our degrees. We were both concerned about the distance and doubted the logic of maintaining a relationship from Florida to California. But after returning to the States from our study abroad trip, we simply couldn’t stop talking and visiting one another. Our love withstood the long distance while we each finished our final year of undergrad and we’ve been together 3.5 years now and both happily reside in San Diego. Drawn together by our love of adventure and travel, we have continued to travel and explore new places.
Quinn Western | USAC Viterbo
I met Danny LeMelle on the first day of the program. He was one of five guys in the program of 50, so he stood out, to say the least.
We met again in our cooking class, again among a group of students at a pizzeria, and then again when the only open bus seat on a field trip was next to him. We don’t remember how long the journey was because every minute was full of chatter. We found a million things in common from our family’s culture, our favorite eras in history, to, most importantly, our love of Harry Potter. During that field trip to Civita di Bagnoregio, I overheard him talking to other students about some of his favorite foods. Without thinking, I invited everyone to my apartment for a homecookin’ potluck. My roommate went along with it. He arrived to help me in the kitchen with one of our coincidental favorites — jambalaya. Cooking together became a theme throughout the semester. So did getting lost by getting on the wrong train or bus, exploring new cities together and watching The Godfather. He introduced me to the Coppola classic, I taught him how to bake cookies and flip pancakes. He would always forget about my tree nut allergy and ask if he could make me a plate of pesto.
Time has flown since that semester. Danny proposed to me on New Years Eve 2017 and we now are planning on returning to Viterbo to be married in 2019. Anyone know a good florist?
Annalise Walkama | USAC Pau
During my semester abroad in spring 2012 in Pau, France, I met my friend Sarah. We recently reunited for the first time in six years this past December. Despite the distance (she is from California and I am from Ohio), we have remained extremely close and still talk almost every day. Friendships such as this are beautiful and rare and deserve special recognition on Valentine’s Day! Incidentally, I also met my partner Kelson during that same semester abroad, but after 6 years, he knows that when I talk about my “life partner” I’m usually talking about Sarah. I am currently a PhD student studying French history and Sarah is a marketing and events manager for a French marketing company. Thanks to USAC for bringing us together & creating this amazing long-distance friendship.
Margaret Mikulski | USAC Cork
I was studying abroad in Cork, Ireland in the spring of 2017. One weekend I went on a group tour to Northern Ireland and the last town we stayed in was Londonderry/Derry. In typical fashion, my friends and I went to a couple pubs one night and we walked into this bar that didn’t look overly crowded. As we were walking through people I heard a lad ask “Hey where are you guys from?” I was the only one from my group to turn around and start talking to him. After a bit, I ended up standing and talking to one of his friends and he said that they were from Dublin on the last hooray for his friend. We hit it off while being serenaded in the pub.
From then we started seeing each other almost every weekend and spent a weekend in Liverpool (photo) together with his friend. It was a great twelve weeks, but then I had to return to the states. We continued talking every day and he came to visit me in Chicago in October for a week. It’s my turn next to fly back over in the spring.
Graciel Obena | USAC Lüneburg
The journey of my life started in 2016. I had just sent in all my paperwork to study abroad in Germany for Fall 2016 and I was beyond excited. There was only a small problem. I didn’t speak German whatsoever.
I did my best to study what I could with tools online and Duolingo, but everywhere I looked said a language partner would be my best bet. Not only that, I would be traveling without knowing anyone to a place I’ve never been. I wanted to talk to someone who could tell me about the place I’d be living for four months.
This is how we first became friends. We met online through a language exchange website and texted nearly every day. We face-timed at least once a week. I was definitely scared of the dangers of meeting people online but that diminished as I got to know him. He was a student just like me, just German and looking to improve his English.
As the days approached and months went by we grew to know each other more and more. Suddenly my departure date was only two weeks away when on a whim I decided to go to Lollapalooza Berlin the weekend of my arrival. I was scared to go alone so he offered to go with me and we met in Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
When we met I was relieved to see he was exactly as I thought he‘d be. He was just as sweet and nice as he was when we facetimed. And, like most Germans, he was straightforward in revealing that he had grown to like me once we had arrived at our AirBnB. From then on, my study abroad suddenly grew a romantic aspect.
He and I are still together to this day. He travels from Germany to visit me in Las Vegas and I fly to visit him in Stuttgart. We‘ve traveled the west coast together, Paris, all of Germany, and Tenerife, Spain. We have even more plans to travel the world and want to close our distance after my graduation date in 2019.
I didn‘t only get to experience the chance of a lifetime to study abroad in another country, but thanks to USAC I found the love of my life. I knew that this opportunity would change my life and my future, but I never knew it would change like this. And I‘ve never been more grateful.
Sarah Bibbey | USAC San Ramón
2016 had been a year marked by loss and self-discovery. A host sibling from a prior study abroad experience had passed away. I had come out to friends and family. Events in the world were intensifying these experiences for me. Though things were chaotic, I chose to dedicate a few months to practice Spanish, a language I had studied since eighth grade and admired my whole life.
Under these circumstances, I arrived in San Ramón, Costa Rica. And I cannot imagine a better place to live, grow, and heal. Costa Rica enveloped me with warmth. The phrase, “Pura Vida”, which literally means “Pure Life”, to me, came to mean “Real Life.” “Full Life.”
Most surprising of all, I fell in love in Costa Rica. Kelly, another student on the program, accepted me with compassion, understanding, and a sense of humor. Kelly is from Lamont, Washington, and I am from Laporte, Colorado. Together, we made friends, took trips, and appreciated the beauty of Costa Rica’s land and people. The USAC staff cheered our relationship on in various ways, to our delight and occasional embarrassment.
Our love began in Costa Rica, but it did not end in Costa Rica. Our relationship since has been full of long car rides, plane trips, and a cross-country move. More importantly, it has been full of hikes, birthday celebrations, graduations, meeting the family, and developing our cooking skills. Kelly and I look forward to discovering our place in the world together in the coming years.
I don’t know how I got so lucky, but it must be because USAC is a matchmaker! Pura Vida, todos!
Sarah Funnel | USAC Reggio Emilia
Simone and I met during my first Semester of the 2016/2017 academic year. We spent almost every day together after that. In the beginning, we had no idea what we were doing as we were from entirely different backgrounds, not to mention the language difference. All we knew to be true was that we had come across something very special. Before coming to Italy I always felt homesick, usually, most people experience the feelings of homesickness during their abroad experience. However, I have come to find that my home is in the small town of Reggio Emilia. My heart lies there along with the love of my life. As we wait for our Fiancé visa to be approved I count the days until I can see him again. After over a year of being together and traveling back and forth between countries, I never grow tired of waiting for the moments with mio amore. My study abroad experience will always be my greatest treasure. Italy gave to me Simone -tesoro mio- it gave to me the big family I’ve always dreamed of and it gave me true happiness.
Katelyn Spivey | USAC Torino
I studied abroad in Torino, Italy in the spring of 2017. My second night in Turin and our first night out, I and a few of the other USAC students found ourselves at a pizza kebab shop. Here we met some Italian guys our age from Turin! They invited us to meet them in Piazza Castello the next evening to give us a tour of the city.
He and I saw each other frequently during the five months in Turin. We traveled to Rome, Nice, and took a trip to the sea together. I even extended my study abroad trip for 10 days to stay with him and do a little traveling in and outside of Turin. Unsure of what would happen when I left, we were enjoying all of the time together that we could.
Fast forward after seven months of being apart and staying in constant contact (thank you, WhatsApp & video calls), and not a thing has changed. I am currently back in Turin visiting him! I am here for a whole month and my heart is oh so happy. The distance was well worth it. He is coming to the US to visit me in June, and hopefully come permanently within the next few years. 🙂
Kelsey Keefe | USAC Lyon
I met my boyfriend about a month before the end of my term abroad in Lyon, France. In the beginning, we both thought it would just be a fling, and neither of us were looking for a relationship. Then one day, the thought of breaking up with him upon leaving crushed me. I knew I had found someone special, and he had quickly become one of my best friends. I had already met his family and I loved them. Everything just…worked. So I talked to him and we decided to do long distance. By no means was it easy, but we got a couple of visits in with him coming over to California for a couple weeks and then me going back to France for a couple weeks. I found out that I could finish my courses abroad, so I get to spend this next semester in Lyon with my guy. We’ve been together now for over a year and it’s been a dream. We plan on moving to Montréal as it’s pretty much the perfect place for us: French-speaking, (basically) equidistant from California and France, and rich in culture. All in all, I’m really happy, and I feel so lucky to have found what I’ve always
Blaire Scott | USAC Alicante
I found love while I was abroad — with 10 different people. The intensity of the connection we all shared was as if we had been a part of each other’s lives for decades. The summer I spent in Alicante, Spain will forever be the best summer of my life and these people will forever be the ones that got away. Te amo mis amores!