Today’s feature involves a love affair that began not between two IES Abroad students, but an IES Abroad student and a native of Madrid, Spain. ¡Qué romantico!
It was 1989 when Hope College alumna, Shelli (Bumford) Segura, traveled to Spain to spend the academic year studying with IES Abroad in Madrid. She and her roommate lived on Vallehermosa Street and had gotten to know many of their neighbors in the area. On her walk to and from class, Shelli caught the eye of one neighbor, in particular: Francisco (Paco) Segura.
An Unexpected Romance
Shelli explains, “He set up a group date to the Parque de Attraciones. This was a great idea as I had no interest in having anything but fun at that time in my life and would probably have never gone on a date if I thought it was anything serious!” But Shelli and Paco kept gravitating towards each other that night, and they continued seeing each other, going on dates to places like the Prado, Parque de Retiro, Plaza de Espana, and tapas bars. On their third date, Paco said, “I know I will marry you one day.” Shelli knew it was serious when he took her home to meet his family for Christmas and New Year’s.
When the program ended, Paco accompanied Shelli to her home in Ohio for the summer before she began her last year of college and he returned to Spain. They dated long distance for five years, during which they wrote letters to each other every day and made long distance phone calls once every two weeks or once a month.
The Year That Sealed the Deal
Although they hated being apart, they hadn't quite figured out how it would all work, until Paco visited in 1994. They married in an intimate ceremony at Shelli’s parents' house and had a big church wedding in May 1995 after securing Paco’s residency.
Bringing Spanish Customs Home
Today, Shelli and Paco live in Cleveland, Ohio close to Shelli’s family, their church, and friends. They return to Spain every other year and still enjoy traveling. They have one son, Jordan, who is 16 years old, and Shelli refers to their home as “completely bilingual.” She and Paco speak exclusively in Spanish and their home is filled with Spanish pottery she has acquired over the years. She also admits, “I cook completely different than the way I was raised. Every meal uses olive oil, garlic, and Mediterranean herbs and spices. Lots of tortilla, pinchos, patatas, flan, jamon serrano and afternoon tapas.”
In addition to raising their son, Shelli works as a freelance translator and Paco creates specialized gold parts. They own a store where they resell items. Shelli says, “We live in a pretty [culturally] diverse area of town and it is so much fun to see our neighbor's faces when they realize we speak Spanish fluently. We get lots of repeat customers who want to talk and visit!”
Love is About the Little Things
The Seguras plan to spend a low-key Valentine's Day caring for their son, who recently had a major surgery, a challenge she says their true love can weather. She recommends, "Don't put so much pressure on a holiday. Love is all the little things you do for one another all year long. I still reread the letters we wrote to each other all those years ago, and we continue to write each other notes instead of giving gifts. Be open. To new opportunities, places, new people, and love. This time in your life will never come around again and you may even find love when you least expect it."
Read more stories like theirs all week long in our "Love In..." alumni series!