Love blossoms on campus

6 February 2018
Meet five couples whose love stories all share a common, magical thread
From Jacaranda tree proposals, weddings in the quad, and couples who first locked eyes at OWeek, the following stories will have your hearts blooming with love this Valentine's Day, so settle in for a long read.

Chris met her husband and former hippy, Leigh, over a Bunsen burner in a science class in their second year of university. The couple, now aged in their 60s, still call Sydney home and have two grown up daughters, both of whom studied here.

How did you first meet?

Chris: We met over the Bunsen burner but I had previously noticed him on campus because of his hippy appearance.

Leigh: Can't remember our actual first meeting, but from early on I noticed this stunning girl in Science classes. The bad news was that she already had a steady boyfriend and she always wore his friendship ring, so I assumed it was quite serious. I figured she'd never go out with me, and I didn't want to spoil our nice friendship by asking!

Were you in any of the same classes? 

Leigh: We shared all the same classes in second year, and that's when we became good friends. In third year we studied Microbiology together, and the small class size meant we had a lot of contact then, and good mutual friends.

What’s your favourite memory on campus involving your spouse?

Chris: I always noticed Leigh because of his long hair, scruffy beard and sparkling eyes. I remember writing flat out in an exam one time and briefly looking up to see this scruffy fellow sitting back in his chair, looking very relaxed and barely putting pen to paper. I thought to myself "Looks like he won't be here next year". My ongoing interest in Leigh led me to find out his name and then look up his results. Well, I still don't know how you can get HDs when you barely put pen to paper!

Leigh: Chris was always so trendy, as well as being smart and gorgeous: how could I ever aspire to such heights? But somehow I managed to get her interested in the Conservation Society, which I'd been very active in, and that led to us spending a bit more time together. I just kept biding my time: who knows what might happen down the track?

How did you finally get together?

Chris: Leigh finally asked me out on our very last day at university. Despite my attraction to his long hair and beard I had to tell him that my father wouldn't let me go out with anyone with such long hair. Can you believe that Leigh actually suggested that I give him a haircut? I cut his hair; his eyes then looked even more sparkly than before and we've been together ever since.

Leigh: Finally, after our very last day of lectures at the end of our final year, a group of us went up to the White Horse in Newtown for a farewell drink. After admiring this lovely lady from the wings for the previous couple of years I figured this was my last chance, or I'd never see her again. Finally, I summoned up the courage to ask her out (you can't rush these things you know). I was pretty excited when she said yes! That was 45 years ago.

Newlyweds Sarah and Donherra have just returned from a whirlwind year abroad in rural France where they tied the knot in front of family and friends. After meeting 10 years ago at University, this relationship was the definition of “slow-burn”.

How did you first meet?

Sarah: We first met during OWeek in 2008. I was the Queer Convenor at the University of Sydney Union and was running a stall promoting services and social activities for LGBT students. Donherra was a first year who stopped by the stall to get some info!

What’s your favourite memory on campus (involving your spouse)?

Donherra: After seeing Sarah at the OWeek stall and developing an instant crush, I went along to a movie night being run by the society. I was super nervous, and I remember she was up the back of the room, helping to set up the pizzas, excitedly showing off her new SASS t-shirt (which happened to be both the acronym for the Sydney Arts Students Society and her nickname, Sass) to a friend. I thought her enthusiasm was adorable, and to this day one of the things I love most about her is how much joy she gets from the small things in life.

Do you have any advice for couples that you’d like to share?

Sarah: Have fun at university, and don’t forget to maintain your friendships because you’re in a relationship. We both made fantastic lifelong friends at university, some of whom celebrated our wedding with us in France in 2017.

What’s something special about your relationship?

Donherra: We have really similar communication styles, so we’re good at working issues out without having a fight (most of the time!). We even managed to move to a small village in France where we barely spent any time apart and run a small business together for a year without getting sick of each other - it's true love!

Edward and Jess met at St Andrews College in their first year of university. They didn’t start dating for 7 years though (Ed says he ‘came in off a long run up’), and by that time had established a strong friendship. The couple are now happily married and living in Orange, NSW where Jess is a doctor and Edward works for the NSW Government.

What were your favourite places on campus?

Jess: We used to have “study dates” at Fisher Library, overlooking the city. Apologies to the people we interrupted with our giggling!

Ed: Post-lecture coffee at Ralph’s coffee shop, and of course you can’t go past the beauty of the Quad. 

Take us through the proposal 

Ed: I decided to propose straight after my final exam. Jess has always been under the impression that I can’t multitask, so I thought it would be an excellent way to surprise her. And it worked! She was completely unsuspecting. I will say that sitting through a final exam with a ring in your pocket is mildly terrifying.

Do you have any advice for couples that you’d like to share?

Jess: Enjoy it and use it as a time to challenge yourself! It’s such a privilege to be able to study, especially somewhere like the University of Sydney, and the flexibility and time makes it a really special time in a relationship.

Ed: Make sure you invest in your other friendships too; university gave us both some of the best friends we have.

What’s something special about your relationship?

Jess: We are a country girl and an inner-city boy (who now has chickens, an akubra, and a love of living in Orange, NSW!). We have so many differences but they work together. Our relationship was built on a long friendship which is a lovely way to start off; although it does still surprise us a little bit that we ended up together!

On a drizzly June morning in 2012 whilst huddled under the original jacaranda tree in the quadrangle, Dave proposed to Laura. The couple met in 2005 at the Engineering Undergraduate Association’s Beer and Bangers party and are now married with two kids.

What is your favourite memory on campus (involving your spouse)?

Dave: For my PhD graduation, Laura had already received her arts degree, so she joined the academic procession. I did the same for her in my PhD robes when she graduated from her social work degree. It was an absolutely amazing way for both of us to be part of each other's special days.

Laura: Dave had grown a ponytail during his PhD and after he’d finished he decided to shave his head to raise money for epilepsy services. This was a special thing for us to share because I have epilepsy. I helped Dave braid his hair to be sold, and in the end, we raised over $2500.

Do you have any advice for couples that you’d like to share?

Laura: Celebrate your differences. One of the keys to our relationship is that we both come from completely different backgrounds and skillsets. Especially now, as we are raising children together, the diversity of perspectives is absolutely invaluable when times get tough.

What’s something special about your relationship?

Laura: Despite all of our differences, we also have common interests. We’ve bonded a lot over rugby union! I believe the way we were introduced by our mutual friend was "Loz, this is Dave, he likes rugby too."

The University holds a very special place in the hearts of our next couple, Echo and Will. They met, fell in love, graduated, and got married here.

How did you first meet?

Echo: We were classmates since our first year, but we really got to know each other during the Mid-Autumn Festival party held by SUCSA (Sydney University Chinese Student Association) at the Seymour Centre during our second year.

What’s your favourite memory on campus?

Echo: The most memorable moment would have to be our wedding in the Great Hall. The University holds a special place in our hearts: we met, fell in love, graduated together, and got married here.

Do you have any advice for couples that you’d like to share?

Echo: Finding love during such a formative time in your youth is an amazing experience. We’ve shared so much together, we have the same friends and many shared experiences which has been incredibly special for us. Your time together at university is irreplaceable. Savour it!

Share your own love story

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