“We hit on each other in class”: Marieke and Rens fell in love on campus
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. Marieke (33) and Rens (34) both studied Econometrics at Tilburg University. They met in 2006 during their very first proper introduction to the university: TIK Week. It took a while for Cupid’s arrow to strike; Marieke and Rens only started dating towards the end of their first year. They share how they became a couple and where they are now, 17 years later.
Neither Marieke nor Rens went to MAK Camp, a special introduction camp for new TiSEM students, but they did take part in TIK Week, as TOP Week was then called. “Everyone who hadn’t gone to camp, ended up in a TIK group together,” Marieke explains.
Although they can both clearly remember the moment they first met, they’re a bit fuzzy on the details. Marieke: “We assembled in the large lecture hall in building C, while two seasoned TIK mentors were waiting for us downstairs. They weren’t all that keen at first to hang out with us, because Econometrics students don’t have a reputation for being party animals.” Marieke thinks that’s when she might first have shaken hands with Rens, but she is absolutely sure it is when she shook hands with Jasper, today one of Rens’s best friends. “Rens is a bit shy, while Jasper is a real extrovert, just like me. Shaking hands with him is not something you’re likely to forget.”
We certainly showed our TIK mentors that econometricians know how to party
Marieke van der Ven
Friends for life
The 2006 edition of TIK Week was one for the books. “We certainly showed our TIK mentors that econometricians know how to party,” Marieke laughs. “And it’s really nice to look back on that moment in time and to know that a marriage and some really close friendships have sprung from it.” Marieke and Rens also have only good memories of their student days. Marieke grew up in nearby Oisterwijk and was already familiar with Tilburg. She commuted in year one and moved to Tilburg later. Rens moved to Tilburg straightaway. He’s from Montfort, near Roermond. Rens: “Tilburg feels like home. I didn’t know anyone at first and I hung a lot with our introduction group; in our first year, we had dinner together almost every day.”
Rens remembers having had bucketloads of freedom as a student. “That’s why in my first year I also took a tennis instructor course in Veldhoven. For me as a student it was a brilliant side job, because it was fun to do and I made good money doing it.” He also taught math at university, as did Marieke. And they were both student members of the University Council, albeit in different years. “That’s where we made friends for life,” Marieke says. “Even though we’ve scattered across the country, we all stay in touch.”
On the Hill
Marieke and Rens only started dating after their first year at university. Everyone saw that coming, Rens believes. “Back then, econometrics didn’t attract all that many students. There were 50 of us initially, but by the end of first year only half of us were left. So we all knew each other well.” Marieke: “Things began to happen for us in the Analytics seminars in building W; that’s where we hit on each other and fell in love.” After making out on the Hill, the news spread like wildfire. “A fellow student had spotted us and even without the benefit of WhatsApp everyone knew in no time.”
Didn’t it feel odd to continue in class as before? “Not to us,” Rens says. “We had met at university and we had already been sitting next to each other in class anyway.” And it was pretty convenient, too, they relate. In exam time, they would study together. And if one of them had paid more attention in a particular class, they could fill in the other.
The lucky ones
When the couple were at university, a global financial crisis struck. Rens: “The opening line of my thesis was ‘Lehman Brothers has just collapsed.’ As students we didn’t feel the impact directly, but the crisis and the financial system did relate to our field of study. We were among the lucky ones, just: there was talk of raising tuition fees for long-term students and it became more expensive to do a second Master’s, but that didn’t affect us. We did go to a protest rally on the Malieveld in The Hague though.”
Today, Marieke is Hospitality Services Manager with Heineken, and Rens is Director of General Financial and Economic Politics at the Ministry of Finance. Rens: “What we learned at university still stands us in good stead, but we have also broadened our scope, and our degree program proved a perfect analytical basis for doing so.”
And for wedlock: the couple married in 2017. But the traditional venue – the Palace, Tilburg’s City Hall – didn’t’ appeal to them. “We thought it would be nice to get married on campus, because that’s where we had met,” Rens says. “That’s why I sent a message to the Secretary to the Executive Board. He was prepared to help, but as the university is not an official wedding venue, we first had to take care of that ourselves. And so I made bold and sent an email to the mayor.” Soon after, Rens was called by then-Mayor Peter Noordanus himself to inform him that he would make it happen. “That’s how the university came to be registered as a one-time wedding venue, and we were married in the beautiful Portrait Room.”
Even though Marieke and Rens have built a life together in The Hague – in 2022 their son was born – they have not abandoned the idea of going back to Brabant. Marieke: “It was never our plan to stay in The Hague for long, but it’s already been 11 years.” When they retire, they’ll return to Tilburg, no matter what. “We fell in love with each other and with Tilburg.”
Date of publication: 31 May 2023