“We eyed each other up for three days in the library’s quiet study area”
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. Bart Toorenaar (34) and Joni Koch (34) met in the University Library’s quiet study area. After three days of eye contact and one short chat, they lost sight of each other. Until Joni was pointed to a notice on “Spotted: Tilburg Uni Library.” They have been a couple now for either eight or ten years – the jury is still out on that. In London, they look back on their student days in Tilburg.
Joni studied Finance at Tilburg University, Bart International Management. One day, when they were both studying diligently in the university library, they started stealing glances at each other. This they did for three days. On the third and final day, they met in the aisle between the bookcases. “Bart asked me if I’d be there again tomorrow, but I was on my way to an exam, so I replied ‘no,’ Joni recalls. “The first half of my exam I couldn’t concentrate at all. Our brief encounter kept buzzing in my head.”
That night Joni told a friend about her library flirt and a few days later her friend read a notice on “Spotted: Tilburg Uni Library.” This Facebook page was used to post anonymous messages to people in the library. “They were often funny, but some, like Bart’s, were serious,” Joni explains.
“Who’s the girl that studied in the University Library’s quiet study area both yesterday and on Sunday? You – slender, dark-haired, sporting a black jacket and a red scarf – were sitting at the window on the side of the campus restaurant. We briefly met in the aisle between the bookcases and I asked you whether you’d be there again tomorrow. I wanted to invite you for a cup of coffee but my nerves failed me. Here’s to second chances …”
“It didn’t take long for Bart to text me, asking me if coffee was still on the menu.” Several dates would ensue, at various places, like Café Berlijn, beer bar Kandinsky, and De Spaarbank. “From the very first date, it was a joy, and I felt incredibly at ease around her,” Bart says.
Those sentiments were entirely mutual, but Joni had made plans to go traveling after graduation. That is why a relationship ranked quite low on her list of priorities, but they got along so well they were together for about ten months. Then, as Joni went away for a year, they broke off contact. “I returned home for a number of reasons, and Bart was definitely one of them. After all those months, I was still thinking about him,” Joni confesses. Back in the Netherlands, it took a while for her to land on her feet. Meanwhile, Bart had found a permanent job and was on another level. “We needed to find each other again, but after about nine months of going back and forth we decided to go for it. That was in June 2015.”
The start of our relationship is a clear case of 'agree to disagree'
To Joni, that was when their relationship started. Bart begs to differ. Joni laughs: “A clear case of ‘agree to disagree.’ Bart counts from January 2013, from when we were together in Tilburg. For me, it’s the moment we got back together again and made it official. So in June we celebrated our eighth anniversary and in January we’ll celebrate our eleventh.”
Following graduation, Bart did an internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which took him to Sudan for four months. He subsequently worked at Coolblue, OneRetail, and Wehkamp. After her world trip, Joni worked at Sanoma and then joined the ABN Corporate Banking Graduate Program. “For my work at ABN AMRO I spent four months in Dubai, followed by four months in São Paulo,” Joni relates. “Bart and I had a long-distance relationship at the time. When we had both returned, we agreed we didn’t want to be apart again. We moved in together in Amsterdam, and when an opportunity presented itself to me to work in London, Bart very romantically quit his job and came with me.”
Joni works at Sustainable Development Capital LLP, and Bart is currently doing a project for Philips as a self-employed e-commerce specialist. The couple moved to London in September 2020. Joni: “Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, that was not an easy time and I’m very proud of Bart: at a time of great uncertainty he left everything behind to join me on this adventure.”
Students are a sizeable group of the Tilburg population and that makes them a major factor in the city. When students want something, they can make it happen.
Bart and Joni frequently visit the Netherlands to be with friends and family, and while it has been a long time since they were in Tilburg, they have fond memories of their time there as students. “Students are a sizeable group of the Tilburg population and that makes them a major factor in the city. When students want something, they can make it happen. Amendus Amandus, my Plato sorority, wanted to organize a festival together with members of student association Olof and student rowing club Vidar. The city gave us the room to make that happen. That’s how students can make the most of their time at uni,” Joni believes. Bart also thinks back fondly of those days: “I really liked the compactness of Tilburg. The city is not graced with the ambience of cities like Breda and Den Bosch, which is why everybody who studies here is eager to make the most of it. Every time I’m back, it feels like home.”
Date of publication: 14 December 2023