“Everything was new to me, but he felt really familiar”
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. When Laurens Valk (34) shook hands with German student Julia Kannengiesser (32) at a welcoming drink in 2011, he was into her straightaway. She, on the other hand, had already forgotten him by the next day. As luck would have it, their paths soon crossed again, and their love of traveling and Korean cuisine brought them closer. Today, Laurens and Julia are married and living in Germany.
Julia, a first-year student of International Business Administration, hurriedly cycled through the streets of Tilburg at the end of the 2011 edition of TIK Week (as TOP Week was then called). She was on her way to what was once Café Philip for the welcoming drink hosted by student association Asset, and she was well on her way to being very late. Laurens, a fourth-year Economics student and actively involved in Asset, had organized the event together with a few other members. “Perhaps our new members were feeling the effects of the imbibing they partook of in TIK Week, because very few of them showed up,” he laughs. “When Julia came in, we were so excited we made a beeline for her as soon as we laid eyes on her. I was immediately attracted to her, but we didn’t have a one-to-one that evening.”
Luckily for Laurens, he got another shot at the Asset Cycling Dinner, an event that required the members to cook and eat a variety of courses at various student houses. For the main course, Julia knocked on Laurens’s door on St Joseph Street. “When I wanted to introduce myself, Laurens said we’d already met at the welcoming drink. I was so embarrassed, I quickly changed the topic to the food he’d prepared, because he’d gone all out! Quite the change from what I’d normally bung together.”
We had so much in common and so much fun
“And it was Asian,” Laurens adds. “That gave us a lot to talk about: it turned out that Julia had attended secondary school in the US and had had a South Korean roommate there. And I had been on exchange for a year to South Korea and had really taken to cooking and eating Asian food. We had so much in common and so much fun.” Julia: “There must have been many other members, but I only had eyes for Laurens. That evening I unexpectedly clicked with a guy with wanderlust and a talent for cooking; him I wanted to see more of. So before I had to move on to the next place for dessert, we exchanged contact details.”
Their first date wasn’t long in coming and Laurens once again performed his cooking magic. “Julia had exams and didn’t really have time to meet, but I just couldn’t wait that long: I had to see her. ‘She has to eat at some point,’ I remember thinking. And that’s how a few hours later I found myself in her kitchen brewing a pot of paella. Studying was off the menu that evening.”
After a few dates there was no denying it: love was giving off sparks. “I liked being with him,” Julia relates. “In the Netherlands, literally everything – from language to culture – was new and unknown to me, but because Laurens and I had so much in common, he felt really familiar. I felt grounded. I had a wonderful time in the Netherlands, and Laurens accounts for much of it.”
We still see the friends we made at Asset’s members’ weekend in 2011 quite often and they even came to our wedding!
German work with a Dutch flavor
Following graduation and eager to travel, the couple lived in several places, including Bonn, Brussels, and Niederkassel – the place where they live and work to this day. Julia is key account manager in sales for a Dutch optical fiber company, and Laurens managing director with – as it so happens – another optical fiber company. He also has his own consultancy firm. “My work aligns perfectly with my degree program,” Laurens says. “Even at university, I wanted to start my own business. And my international network keeps my job and my business connected with the Netherlands. For example, I am currently involved in a start-up project with Eindhoven University of Technology.”
Friends for life
When Julia and Laurens recall Tilburg and their student days there, they do so with big smiles. Julia points out that the activities organized by their student association forged friendships for life. “We still see the friends we made at Asset’s members’ weekend in 2011 quite often and they even came to our wedding! One of our friends is still living in Tilburg and when we visited him, I had that old student vibe all over again. This city has meant so much to my life today, it’s incredible. Tilburg will forever hold a special place in my heart.”
Date of publication: 30 November 2023