Love in Vienna - IES Abroad Alumni John & Valeria

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Jill Kruidenier
February 13, 2014

In this Love in Vienna feature, we learn that studying abroad can also lead to building a life abroad. A shared dream to do just that was ultimately what united this couple who studied on the IES Abroad Vienna Program.

They were from complete opposite coasts of the United States: Valeria Ramos, a New Jersey girl studying History and International Studies at Wake Forest and John Anderson, who grew up in Seattle and studied accounting at Washington State University.

Valeria was studying in Vienna for the entire academic year of 1994-95 and, her first semester, she claims, “I spent just playing and partying and traveling and hadn’t really explored my home base as much.” That all changed when the spring semester began and a new group of students arrived, including John.

A New Outlook
Valeria remembers their German instructor, Monica, asking the class what they had done in their first few days, to which most students rattled off the usual administrative tasks and errands that accompany an arrival in a new country. Not John, though! “He already had this list of things he wanted to see and do and accomplish in Vienna and had started to tick away his list within the first few days,” Valeria recalls. She liked that John was a bit older and she was drawn to his enthusiasm for exploring Vienna to the fullest.

Falling in Love in Europe
From there, it was only a matter of time before Valeria and John were a couple. She says, “We just clicked automatically. Our common link is we both fell in love with Europe in Europe.” They agreed that someday they wanted to live and work in Europe as Europeans, not just as backpacking students.

The program ended and John graduated, while Valeria returned to Wake Forest for her senior year. They didn’t plan, they didn’t stress, they just said, “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.” The following year, they moved to New Jersey and looked for work that might lead to a transfer overseas. They also spent some time in Europe volunteering with Volunteers for Peace.

Living Abroad Permanently
By 1997 they had bought a house in New Jersey, and were married in June 2000. Just three years later, they were itching to get back to Europe, so they sold their house, car, and many of their belongings and moved to the south of France, where they lived and worked for four years. Then, Valeria got an offer within her company to transfer to London, so they moved yet again, and have been there ever since.

Looking back on where it all began, this love for living abroad, Valeria says it’s all thanks to IES Abroad. She says, “I absorbed more from those eight months [studying abroad] than any other year in my student career. You get to live, breathe, touch, feel, put yourself right in front of the action of whatever it is you're studying.”

Valeria’s family is from Ecuador and she is a first generation American. She admits, “I am very staunchly proud to be American and a product of the American dream, [but] in an ironic way, that’s what allows me to leave America quite easily. I see the benefits that my parents enjoyed of taking advantage of another country and opportunities.” Finding a partner who shared that vision from the start was the cherry on top.

Why Study Abroad?
When asked for advice for others planning to study abroad, Valeria asserts, “I will tell anyone and everyone. I will scream from the top of mountains to convince people to send their children or encourage siblings to study abroad. Go explore, open your minds, see the world through a different lens.”

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Jill Kruidenier

IES Abroad News

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