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Finding love in international education: four stories

In the international education sector, we are constantly meeting people – at conferences, institutions and agencies, and it’s a constant rollercoaster. For some, they’ve even found love.

The PIE interviewed four couples from across the sector. Photo: Pexels

Despite both being US natives, they met quite far away from home - in Qatar, on a field trip at the end of a university course

The PIE chats to four couples who met in the industry – and the rest is history.

Love in Providence

“We met in Rhode Island in 2016.

“Maureen was working in advertising and was interested in changing roles – Jerry had been in the international admissions field for quite some time at Johnson & Wales in Providence,” the couple recount.

When Maureen Czub, now at GenNext, moved into the industry and she and Jerry worked at different institutions, they were colleagues and friends for several years – but when Maureen later went to the private sector at IDP, the realisation dawned on them that their relationship was just as strong on a personal level.

Now that they’re together, and have both been in the sector a while – Jerry is now at Grok Global Services – it’s even better, they say, to “share with our mutual friends in the industry”.

“We’re really lucky to be able to come to each other, and our friends, for advice and different perspectives when we might need it. Having similar event schedules throughout the year is definitely convenient too!”

Jerry and Maureen Czub with their little one. Photo: Maureen Czub

Despite being so intertwined with schedules and subject matter, they try not to talk about work too much.

“We dedicate time to spend with each other doing so many of the other things we enjoy together – going out on our boat, playing games together, cooking, travelling, etc.

“[But] our experiences have shaped how we think about both everyday and bigger picture things, including how we intend to raise our daughter – with an emphasis on exploration, openness and respect for other cultures, and a love for international education and learning.”

The entrepreneurial power couple

While Jerry and Maureen work for different companies, Manisha and Abhijit Zaveri made the conscious decision to do the opposite – after getting married, they began to work together on Career Mosaic, the agency based in India.

“I had an IT business which I had started before we met, and Abhijit had already started Career Mosaic at that time,” Manisha tells The PIE.

Their commitment to their business at Career Mosaic is something even their children get to experience first hand, having business guests for dinner in their home and getting “constant international exposure” when their parents are on Zoom calls.

“We dedicate time to spend with each other doing so many of the other things we enjoy”

“It’s extremely important for them to understand that international cultural exposure is vital to a person’s life – planning for better education and identifying all the different areas of study and passions that one can pursue.”

Abhijit remembers one time at NAFSA in Denver, the kids were able to go into the conference and even meet people.

When you’re working in the same business, though, “you have to fill in for each other” in some cases – and Manisha says that as the relationship, and the business, has developed, things are very different.

“Back in the day, there were smaller challenges. Now, because they’re bigger decisions, the challenges are bigger. The disagreements are more critical. We have to agree on the bigger decisions now,” Manisha relents.

“To be able to be friends with each other is really the biggest stress buster. So, the fact that we can be friends and just hang out also helps. It helps ease any rough edges that there might be.”

“We were e-pals”

Kristal Sawatzke and Evan Witt met, despite both being US natives, quite far away from home – in Qatar, during a field trip at the end of a joint course on ‘Student Affairs in the Middle East’ they both partook in at their universities.

“I attended Colorado State University and my now-partner was at the University of Maryland – College Park.

“On the final night, we were on a dhow (traditional fishing) boat. At the end of our ride, Maryland was getting in one bus and CSU was getting in another. We were about to say goodbye, so Evan took his shot and said all sorts of kind things… to the side of my face,” Kristal recounted.

“He was the direct guy from New York and I was the awkward Minnesotan, unsure of what to do with all of these compliments. We agreed to meet up at NASPA six weeks later in Phoenix.”

But that next meeting wasn’t to be – Evan tore his achilles playing basketball and couldn’t attend the conference – and it was there that Kristal got a job with the Campus Life team in Auckland.

“Evan went on to accept a student leadership position in Qatar – we became e-pals.

“We emailed and Skyped more with each other than our family back home, so we figured it was time to meet back up.

“We call it our ‘Eight-Day First Date’ because you either know you want to be together or you know you don’t. A bold move, given that we were travelling around in a campervan in some of New Zealand’s remotest locations. Luckily, we still liked each other in the end and decided to try dating.”

“Our adventures look a little different these days, but we could not be more grateful”

Kristal moved to Doha a year later, getting a job at Northwestern’s branch campus supporting international students. Evan proposed on a boat just like the one they’d been on four years before.

They’re now both back in the US, having moved to the Twin Cities – Evan now works as the director of the Global Executive MBA program and Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

Kristal’s path is a bit more winding, she says, and has landed at International Volunteer HQ, a company she led student trips with to Zambia and Vietnam during her time in New Zealand.

“Our family has expanded – and we now have two pups and a three-year-old, one-year-old, and one on the way!

“Our adventures look a little different these days, but we could not be more grateful.”

Different cultures, same core values

Youssef Wahib and Brittany Wright met at the EducationUSA Regional forum in Casablanca, Morocco, in March 2019.

“Youssie was working at Stony Brook University at the time and I was working for the George Washington University, where I’m in my current role.”

“It is great to have a common group of friends and as we all know, this field is small”

However, they didn’t start dating until 2022 – after years of “flowing conversation” and discovery of mutual friends in common. Youssie had moved to work for Northeastern’s campus in Doha, and the couple were even long distance for over a year.

“It is also great to have a common group of friends and as we all know, this field is small! We often see each other’s friends at work events and conferences and we’ve both met some amazing people through each other’s existing friendships in the field.”

Youssef Wahib and Brittany Wright. Photo: Brittany Wright

Youssie relocated to Washington, DC for a position at IIE in May 2023 – and before they knew it, the couple was engaged that November.

“Due to the work that we do, we are both are very globally oriented people and have global mindsets. Even though we grew up in different countries and we are from different cultures, we have the same core values, and those are something we wish to instil in our own children someday.”

Brittany expresses the couple’s desire for the kids to be “at least bilingual” so they can immerse themselves in different parts of the world.

The children, of course, will also be highly encouraged to partake in a study abroad experience – something Brittany says was “transformational for her own personal and professional development”.

“Hopefully we will be able to provide our children with as many international experiences so they will they hopefully grow into global citizens!”

One thing all four of these couples say is how great it is to have someone by their side to be able to bounce ideas off of, and get advice from – collaboration on multiple fronts.

Isn’t that something we could all use a little more of?

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