With nearly 90 couples meeting and marrying because of their connection to TFAS, Cupid has become a frequent visitor to TFAS programs! What makes people likely to start their love story through TFAS? We caught up with five TFAS couples to ask about meeting their future spouses during their programs and what it is about TFAS that sets the stage for people to find their life partner.
Christy (Cortright) Mawdsley (ICPES 03, IIPES 04) and Andrew Mawdsley (IIPES 04)
Christy and Andrew met during the International Institute for Political and Economic Studies (IIPES) program in Crete, Greece. It was the summer of 2004 and Andrew sat in the last seat available on a bus full of TFAS students, next to a curly-haired woman with a gorgeous smile. They fell to talking and have not stopped since. A shared interest in international relations and politics drew them together – as well as an intangible spark. They discovered more and more things they shared – a love of animals, art, nature, family and music. After the IIPES program, Christy moved to D.C. and they were able to continue their relationship while Andrew finished his final year at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. They married in 2006 and now have three children, Eden, age eight; Paxton, age seven; and Shepherd, who turns five today, Valentine’s Day.
Q: Tell us about the first time you met your spouse during your TFAS program.
Christy: Andrew and I met when we were on a bus leaving the monastery we had visited with our IIPES cohort. I was seated on the bus and Andrew walked by looking for a seat, so I offered the one next to me. Of course, I was just trying to be polite, but I may have also thought he was a bit cute! We talked the whole bus ride, talked through the amazing Greek meal we ate and I knew pretty much by the next day that we would get married someday. In fact, I even wrote it down, so I have proof of this!
Andrew: I was one of the last people to board the bus. I looked around and saw an open seat next to a cute girl with lots of curly hair and sat down next to her. We talked the whole bus ride and tour and stuck together for the next three weeks, sometimes in groups and sometimes just with each other. We were certainly attracted to each other, but at the beginning we had such a comfort with each other, like really close friends.
Amanda (DeGroff) Munger (IPJ 10, PPF 17) and Kris Munger (IBGA 10)
Amanda and Kris still cannot agree on the moment of their first meeting. Amanda thinks it was on the stairs while moving into the TFAS dormitory; Kris remembers meeting her a few days later, when he and his new roommate opened their room to all the students for a meet-your-neighbors gathering. Despite the difference in their memories, and many other diverging tastes and opinions, they immediately hit it off during their time studying and interning in D.C. Amanda said, “Right away, I realized I wanted to learn everything about him.” The couple married in 2017 at Amanda’s family home, a converted 300-year-old tavern in Connecticut, and have since settled in D.C. Amanda is currently a 2017–18 Public Policy Fellow (PPF) with TFAS.
Q: Why do you think so many TFAS alumni end up together?
Amanda: There’s a lot you can learn about someone when they are put in a high-stress environment. As part of the TFAS program, students are constantly moving, constantly learning and constantly asking questions to grow in their careers. I think that drive helps bring people together and gives a good sense of who the person is when things get a little tough! Also, TFAS was where I was able to have a dialogue on important issues with people I don’t see eye-to-eye with, and it taught me how to do so in a respectful and meaningful way. It is all a matter of listening, and being open to the idea that your idea might not always be the best one out there. TFAS teaches you to have a dialogue in a respectful way – a cornerstone of a relationship.
Kris: I think TFAS alumni end up together because of similar interests and being committed to a career path. As students, they are building futures that mirrors one another’s.
Jessica (Eggan) Ray (IPJ 07) and David Ray (ICPES 07)
David and Jessica met in 2007 when a group of TFAS students gathered to chat outside their dormitory one night during the program. The two of them began talking and started discovering things they had in common. For the rest of the summer, they were inseparable. Four and a half years later, David proposed to Jessica at the same place they had sat and talked for hours that first night. They married in 2012. In August of 2017, they welcomed their first child, Charlotte Ruth Ray, and celebrated their fifth anniversary, all in the same month. David said of baby Charlotte, “She’s an incredible blessing, and none of it would have ever been possible if it weren’t for TFAS!”
Q: What drew the two of you together during your TFAS summer?
Jessica: I had never met anyone like David. First, we connected over baseball – our first “date” was to a Washington Nationals game when they played my team, the Cleveland Indians. The more we got to know each other during the summer, the more we realized how much we had in common. We were both raised in small towns, albeit one was in Ohio and the other in Tennessee, and were both experiencing D.C. together. To this day, he challenges me intellectually and makes me laugh every single day. After just the eight weeks of the program, I knew he was the one I wanted to spend my life with.
David: Jessica was – and still is – very beautiful, but we also had a lot in common. Even though we grew up about 650 miles apart and went to college in different states, we were both from small towns, had similar values and were both adventurous and ambitious. It also didn’t hurt that she liked baseball. We started hanging out because we enjoyed each other’s company, but we fell in love at some point, because we kept dating for five years after our summer at TFAS and we’ve been married for five years since then!
Feifan (Chen) Drouyor (CSS 12) and Jason Drouyor (CSS 12)
Fei and Jason met at the very beginning of their time in the 2012 TFAS Capital Semester Spring program and knew within days they wanted to be together. They spent the semester dating, then had a visit in Jason’s home state, California, over the summer. While Fei finished her final year at Penn State University, Jason proved his commitment by studying abroad in China to learn more about the language and culture of her homeland. When Jason returned to the States, he suggested they meet up in D.C. – and proposed at the very spot they met at the beginning of their TFAS journey. They married in 2013 and are both finishing their third year of law school this year. Jason is also clerking for the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. They hope to have an opportunity to come back to D.C. after graduation.
Q: Aside from meeting your partner, what was the best part of TFAS?
Fei: The best part of TFAS was the opportunity provided for us with the amazing internships. We got to experience living in D.C. and working on Capitol Hill.
Jason: The best part was the ability to have a unique D.C. experience. A lot of people can work or study in D.C., but it’s rare to be able to do both. I would never have seen the trade organization world without TFAS and I’m using the knowledge I gained in my job now. Also, at TFAS, Fei and I had a Constitutional interpretation class that showed us how policy and law stick together and make what we call Constitutional law. We now look forward to our Constitutional law class in law school because we had that TFAS class. We have found little nuggets of TFAS knowledge and experience in our jobs and in classes to this day.
Ani (Janina) Mercincavage (IIPES 11) and Chris Mercincavage (AIPES 10, IIPES 11)
Even before Ani and Chris met as new students in the 2011 IIPES program in Crete, Greece, they and the other students had already corresponded. Ani knew the area and offered to help anyone who needed directions to the Athens ferry terminal, where the students would catch the boat to the island. Chris was impressed with how sweet and thoughtful she seemed and took her up on the offer, calling when he landed in Athens to ask for guidance. When they met in person, Chris thought she was so beautiful that he worried he would be nervous and tongue-tied around her, but was surprised to find it was easy to talk with her. They became close during the program and kept in touch afterward. When Ani came to the U.S. to pursue her Master’s degree, they met again and realized their love was meant to be. The couple celebrates their fifth wedding anniversary this year.
Q: Why do you think so many TFAS alumni end up together?
Ani: TFAS gives the unique opportunity to interact with people from all around the world – people who have similar backgrounds and interests. Sometimes the universe works its magic and you can you find the right person, even if they were born 5,680 miles away! TFAS definitely helps to make that happen.
Chris: I think shared values and a mutual desire to accomplish similar goals helps a lot. I find TFAS students have a certain drive about them and an energy to make a difference with their lives. It is important for spouses to share those values.