Love stories Tilburg University

“Mum, I must go. I’m in love.”

Love story 4 min Swaans Communicatie

Many loves have their origins on campus, though not all of them last. Some campus couples are still together to this day. Towards the university's 100th anniversary, we collect their love stories. After the summer of 2000, Mark van de Laak (40) and Marieke van der Pol (41) started at Tilburg University as students of Business Communication and Digital Media. In TOP Week, the university’s introduction week, they were in the same group, and they have been inseparable ever since.

When TOP Week (then called TIK Week) started, Marieke and her school friend Suzan found themselves in a group of ten first-year students, Mark and Stefan among them. “Green13. That’s where it all started,” Marieke says. “The four of us clicked immediately, and we hung out together a lot that week. We had a really nice time, and we even skipped part of the TIK program because we kept going to student association Olof: it had the best parties. We even bought yellow Olof polo shirts to get in more easily.”

Let’s have some fun

Marieke wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. “I just thought: this is a new phase in my life, let’s have some fun. But Mark and I were actually having a lot of fun right from the start. And by the end of the week I had to be honest with myself: he’s more fun to be with than just fun.” And Mark felt the same way. His parents even said to him: “Going steady? This soon? Are you sure?”

After having worn the same “filthy polo shirts rank with the smell of beer” – their words – all week, it was time for the End of Week party. Marieke: “Mark is partial to fries, always has been. And at that party, late at night, there was this girl eating fries. And Mark walked up to her. So I’m thinking: hold on a minute. I ended up nearly dragging him away from the girl with the fries. That night we made out for the first time, at the place we were staying that week. It took Mark forever to make the first move. And then we just went to sleep: we both had to go home the next day, by train, still wearing our less than savory clothes.”

We occupied our parents’ phone lines literally for hours on end

Mark en Marieke

Meaningful chats

Mark remembers showing Marieke’s father and brother around Tilburg. “And after that day, Marieke and I kept in touch all the time, through ICQ, a messenger-service like MSN and WhatsApp,” he explains. “We had a whole week on our hands between TIK Week and the start of classes and that felt like a really long time, so back home we effectively monopolized the computer just so we could chat. We occupied our parents’ phone lines literally for hours on end.” That’s how they got to know each other better. “Our chats covered everything, from deep to silly and back again. At one point, Marieke challenged me. When we were chatting about how much we had enjoyed that evening, she replied: ‘Really? Then how come you’re not here yet?’ That’s when I hung up and dashed off to catch the last train to Den Bosch, where Marieke was living. Legend has it that as I was leaving I called out to my mother: ‘I must go. I’m in love!’.”

Switching programs

Marieke’s academic career at Tilburg University wasn’t to last long: she quit after three months. By then, she and Mark had also been together for three months. “I really like the university; it’s lively and a really nice place to be. But the degree program wasn’t a fit for me. And my tonsils were causing me immense trouble at the time and they had to be taken out – a procedure that I would need to recover from for several weeks. It was then that I decided to take that time to recover and to think about what I wanted to do with my life. Mark and I spent a lot of time commuting between Tilburg and Den Bosch, and I eventually completed a Bachelor’s degree in Communication at a university of applied sciences.”

The Business Communication and Digital Media program was new, and it showed. I remember taking Literary Criticism in the 17th Century. That was so not my thing.

BDM teething problems

Mark did finish the program. “The Business Communication and Digital Media (BDM) program was new; we were only the second cohort ever. And it showed. Some things hadn’t been organized properly. For example, and this truly astonished me, was that all first-year Arts students took the same courses. I remember taking Literary Criticism in the 17th Century. That was so not my thing. And it didn’t align with the track I had chosen. Those things were sorted out in later years though.”

He supplemented his communications program with a Marketing minor at TiSEM and eventually found his feet in marketing, in which he now has nearly twenty years of experience. Marieke has moved towards commercial sales. “I have always found the communications side of things useful though. Communication, sales, and marketing are closely connected and do so much better together, I believe. Having affinity with all three comes in handy.” 

Mark en Marieke

We’re living in Den Bosch, in one of those drowsy suburbs we’d vowed never to call home

And now?

Mark and Marieke are now entrepreneurs. And they got married in 2010. “We’re living in Den Bosch, in one of those drowsy suburbs we’d vowed never to call home,” Marieke laughs. “And we just love it here. It agrees with this phase of our lives.” Mark and Marieke added a few more Ms to their own: sons Morris (2010), Mick (2014), and Max (2016). And Moos, their dog. “They’re growing up so fast. We still vividly recall going to school ourselves; it doesn’t feel that long ago, but it actually is, of course. It’s a wonderful time for the boys, and for us.”

They don’t frequent Tilburg these days. “We did recently go to a Krezip concert at the 013 pop center. That brought back memories! When Mark and I met, I Would Stay was racing up the charts. It was very popular in TIK Week, as was Que Sí, Que No by Jody Bernal,” Marieke smiles. “Whenever we’re back in Tilburg, we think back to those days. That’s when and where it all began!”

Do you have a Tilburg University love story too?

Did you meet the love of your life at Tilburg University? Did sparks fly immediately? Or did it take a little longer for your feelings to grow? 

Send an email to: magazine@tilburguniversity.edu

Let us know! 

Date of publication: 6 September 2023