For this special Valentine's feature, we had the pleasure of interviewing two ESHCC alumni who crossed paths at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Edward Sterenborg and Jenneke Desain share their beautiful story of how their meeting at the university blossomed into a meaningful relationship.
'I remember that moment vividly. You do too, Edward?' Jenneke asked.
‘Absolutely, Jenneke. Yes, yes, yes’ Edward replied with enthusiasm.
‘We both completed a history teacher training before joining Erasmus University Rotterdam, so we followed a modified program. We were allowed to skip some classes but had to take additional ones, like statistics, due to our previous education. When you're on the same academic path, you tend to notice each other eventually. It was during our statistics class that you mustered the courage to invite me to dinner, right, Edward?’
'No, no, you're jumping ahead, Jenneke. As neither of us was particularly skilled in math and statistics, we attended extra lessons alongside other history 'dummies'. It was during one of those Friday afternoon sessions that we first met. Let me think... it was late March or early April of 1986. A few weeks later, our paths crossed again. I remember thinking, 'Wow, she's a fun and interesting woman.' At the time, you were still teaching, and you spoke passionately about it. That's when you left a lasting impression on me.’
‘Ah, yes, Edward, I must admit I was initially interested in your friend. So when you asked me to join you for dinner, I thought, 'Great! This could be an opportunity to get closer to that charming friend of yours.’
More and more enthusiastic
‘But that comes later, Jenneke. The first time we spoke, we walked out of the lecture hall together and had a delightful conversation. I recall you had to rush off to teach, but I found you captivating and genuinely nice.’
‘Yes, it was a pleasant conversation indeed. Funny how certain details stick with you—I remember you were wearing overalls with a red sweater, and I found it quite appealing. And let's not forget about that friend of yours. We did connect on some level, but there were no romantic feelings at that point.’
‘Well, we hadn't known each other long enough for that. However, a few weeks later, I was chatting with a fellow student who was studying teacher training in Delft. I asked him to join us for dinner at our place, and you somehow managed to insert yourself into the conversation. I immediately extended the invitation to you as well. That evening made me realize just how wonderful you were, and I grew more and more enthusiastic about you. It was a delightful night, and being students, we indulged in a fair amount of drinking. As the night grew late, you and that fellow student ended up spending the night in our student house, in an empty room. As far as I know, nothing happened there.'
‘Hahaha. I'm pretty sure about that, Edward.’
Quite a hiccup
‘That was on April 23rd. The next day marked the arrival of the first beautiful day of spring. We met up with some friends and enjoyed a leisurely time on a terrace in the Oude Haven, a bit tired from the previous night's adventures. Naturally, we continued to savour some delightful drinks. Eventually, it was just the two of us left. We roamed from terrace to terrace until we ended up at 't Bolwerk. At one point, you asked, 'Would you like to go to a party in Delft tonight?' At that moment, I would have agreed to anything, so I instantly said yes. Our first kiss occurred while we were making our way from 't Bolwerk to the subway station.’
‘And then you confessed something rather unexpected: 'By the way, I do have a girlfriend,' you said. I thought, 'I really don't want to get involved in this.' Wasn't our first kiss in the subway, though? I distinctly remember it happening there.’
‘No, no, it was on the Geldersekade, while we were heading to the Blaak subway station.’
‘Well, regardless, it was such a wonderful time, and things just unfolded naturally. But that girlfriend of yours did cause quite a hiccup!’
‘I recall you persistently questioning me about whether I had a girlfriend or not while we were at 't Bolwerk.’
‘Of course! I wasn't in the mood for any complications at that time. Haha!’
‘I didn't lie, but I skillfully avoided the topic without revealing that I had a girlfriend.’
‘After that first kiss, everything felt so comfortable... and you had sidestepped the issue so skillfully that I thought, 'What the hell, let's see where this takes us... at least for this evening.' The party became even more enjoyable. In the end, we stayed at the place of one of my friends, who kindly offered us her bed. That became our first night together. It was a lot of fun, although you still had your responsibilities, Edward.’
‘Certainly. The very next day, I went straight to that lady and told her that I had met someone else, someone I had fallen head over heels in love with. I made it clear that it was the end for us. Some things you just know for sure. I was absolutely certain about what I wanted. On Monday, I took the tram to be with you. I got off at your stop and initially walked, but it was just too slow for my excitement. So I ended up running all the way to be by your side.’
‘You were taking big steps in every aspect. You wanted us to move in together almost immediately. However, I still had my statistics exam to pass, and I needed to focus on studying. You offered to help, but truth be told, you didn't quite grasp the material! I had to send you away because passing the exam was essential to me. Plus, I was used to having my personal space, and I needed it. However, we did end up moving in together three or four months later.’
‘No, no, initially, I just moved closer to you. That happened in August. We officially began living together in May 1987, after a year.’
‘By that time, I was completely smitten. We were on the same wavelength, sharing similar perspectives on life, and our conversations flowed effortlessly. When my parents went through a messy divorce, you were there for me. I thought, 'I can build a life with this man; he's reliable.'’
‘I was drawn to your infectious smile and sense of humour. I also admired your strength as a woman. You weren't someone meek or indecisive; you were assertive, which is what I was looking for. Yet, at the same time, you were warm and loving. I had doubts about many things, but not about you. I was certain: this was it.’
Jenneke de Sain and Edward Sterenborg have been together for 37 years and married for 30 years and have two adult children: a 30-year-old daughter and a 29-year-old son. They will become grandparents this March.