This story was originally published in 2014, to read more stories from couples who met because of TFAS, visit our 2016 profile of alumni Darko Blazevski and Anita Popovska and our 2018 story featuring five TFAS couples.
If you Google “love,” some of the first results are sites that give definitions of the word. Scrolling further down, results pertain to scientific experiments, social science perspectives, and even a reference to the Beatles. In February at TFAS, love means a time to celebrate the number of connections people have made through TFAS experiences. TFAS has counted more than 75 couples who met through a program or alumni event. To many alumni, this statistic makes sense.
“The fact that romance, couples and marriages happen via TFAS is not a secret nor a surprise. The programs attract ambitious, thoughtful young people who are curious about the world,” alumnus Paul Glader (IPJ 99, AIPES 00) said.
This year, we caught up with some couples who met through TFAS. These stories circumnavigate the globe, a variety of programs and experiences. Note: After the up-coming wedding-season, there will be 77 TFAS couples and counting.
Eleni (Mavrogeorgis) Glader (IIPES 01) and Paul Glader (IPJ 99, AIPES 00)
When Eleni decided to participate in a treasure hunt at Grand Central Station in New York City, she didn’t know she would find a prize better than gift cards or even bragging rights. She found Paul, who had organized the event as the TFAS alumni chapter president in 2010.
“I liked that the scavenger hunt was a team-building activity that took people out of their comfort zone as it required interaction and cooperation,” Eleni wrote. “The other events Paul organized also aimed to get TFAS alumni to mingle and get involved as well. This is a reflection of Paul. He is thoughtful and when given a role, he gives his best effort.”
By the end of the summer Paul had recruited Eleni to help him plan more TFAS alumni events, and they became a couple. After one year together, they had an opportunity to move to Germany for a fellowship, and they got married and moved to Berlin. While in Berlin, the couple had a daughter and traveled all over Europe. They even traveled to the TFAS AIPES program in Prague to be guest speakers.
“TFAS helped me find a life partner who was up for such an itinerary,” Paul said.
The couple is now living in New York with their daughter, who will be 2-years-old in February. Paul and Eleni think chances are good she too will do a TFAS program one day.
Alex Prokofjev (AIPES 2005) and Helen Ginter (AIPES 2008)
It was minus 20 degrees Celsius when Alex Prokofjev landed in Talinn, Estonia on his way to a TFAS Baltic reunion. Despite the weather, as Prokofjev walked into the reunion, he immediately noticed one “dazzling lady.” It wasn’t until the next night that he actually met Helen Ginter, and realized that she was more than dazzling.
“It felt like what was love at first sight, in hindsight,” Prokofjev said.
After meeting at the reunion, the couple stayed together long-distance for a year-and-a-half, since Prokofjev was working in London, and Ginter was living and working in Estonia. As soon as she expressed an interest in getting a second master’s degree, Prokofjev convinced her to apply to schools in the UK. She did and they got engaged in summer 2013. They are planning to be married in August 2014 in Estonia.
“Helen and I owe, to a very large extent, our relationship to TFAS, specifically AIPES. Even though we attended the program at different times,” Prokofjev said.
Prokofjev said he and Ginter know a number of other alumni living in London.
“For me, TFAS is two things; it’s a great experience but it’s not just one opportunity that you have for three weeks and forget about. It’s important to stay connected,” Prokofjev said. “The individuals who we attended the summer programs with are some of the most vocal, able and intellectual people I’ve met in my life.”
Darko Blazevski (AIPES 97) and Anita Popovska (AIPES 07)
Blazevski and Anita Popovska have more in common than most TFAS alumni. They are both TFAS alumni, both alumni of AIPES, and they are both from Macedonia.
They met while Popovska was attending AIPES in 2007. At the time Blazevski was serving as the TFAS Macedonian chapter alumni president. He traveled to Prague for an alumni reunion.
“I contacted Anita to see if she would be kind enough to show me what was new in Prague since I had not visited the city for 5 years. We met and she gave me a wonderful tour thorough the city,” Blazevski said.
After they toured Prague together, they lost touch when Popovska went to do her postgraduate studies in the UK. But, their paths crossed again when both were working for their respective employers on the national EU accession documents.
Around that time they attended a mutual friend’s wedding separately, but when Blazevski offered Popovska a ride home they discovered they were neighbors, and they began to see each other frequently. During summer 2013 Blazevski proposed to her in Hvar, Croatia at a TFAS friend’s summerhouse.
The couple is now living in Kisela Voda, Skopje. Their wedding is scheduled for April 26, 2014.
Milena (Apostolova) McConchie (AIPES 95) and Dan McConchie (IPJ 93, AIPES 95)
During the first week of AIPES 1995, Dan McConchie sat with his new classmates in a pub in Prague, and talked about the Chicago Bulls. His night changed when more TFAS students joined the table, and he found himself in a conversation with fellow student Milena Apostolova that captivated him more than Michael Jordan.
“We got so deep in conversation that when we looked up everyone at that table was gone. They had gotten up, paid their bills and left. I’m somebody who tends to notice everything going on around me, except for that night,” Dan said.
For the rest of the program, the pair attended TFAS events together and took in everything they could in Prague. Afterward, Dan and Milena worked out an across-the-world courtship from the U.S. and Bulgaria, respectively, in a time when email was a rare and new service.
The following winter Milena came to the U.S. to interview for master’s programs, and Dan took her to the top of the Sears Tower at night and proposed.
The couple was married in Bulgaria, near Varna on the Black Sea Coast, not far from Milena’s childhood home.
“I’m not sure I would have found a more ideal spouse outside of TFAS. Being a part of TFAS provided me the opportunity to connect with like-minded people,” Dan said.
Since their AIPES summer, Dan and Milena have been actively involved in the TFAS community. Dan served on the Alumni Council and now serves on the Board of Regents. Milena served as the TFAS alumni chapter President in Chicago. The couple now lives in Illinois with their two daughters, 11 and 14 years old.
“Had I not participated in TFAS, I wouldn’t be in the career I’m in, I wouldn’t be married to Milena or have the kids we have,” Dan said. “TFAS fundamentally revolutionized my life.”
Amber (Parcher) Phillips (IPJ 07) and Jeffrey Phillips (IPJ 07)
Jeff and Amber Phillips met in a place all too familiar to many TFAS alumni: the Henle Village “fishbowl.” The “fishbowl” is the open courtyard area between the apartments on the Georgetown campus, where summer students previously lived. Even though Jeff and Amber met during the first week of their IPJ program, they didn’t become official until there was only about a month left in the program. They remained a couple while Amber studied abroad in Spain and Jeff studied abroad in Thailand. Since then, the couple has continued to crisscross the globe.
Following college graduation, they both moved to D.C., and Amber got a journalism job, and Jeff worked on Capitol Hill.
“TFAS gave us the foundation for how to navigate D.C., how to hold ourselves in D.C., how to make connections,” Amber said. “So many of our friends we connected with when we moved to D.C. were from TFAS, and are still some of our best friends.”
The couple spent a several years developing professionally and enjoying life in D.C. Then, they decided to take a leap and go abroad when Jeff was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Taiwan.
While in Taiwan, Jeff helped develop English language curricula for students in cooperation with the American Institute in Taiwan. Amber became a stringer for the Washington Post, and free-lanced articles for Monocle Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor and Taiwanese newspapers.
After almost a year, the couple returned to the States and had a wedding at Jeff’s childhood home near Boston on June 1, 2013.
“Everyone says your wedding day will be the best day of your life, and then it happens and it’s even better than you thought it would be,” Jeff said. “You have everyone you love in the same place celebrating you and your favorite person in the world.”
The couple stays connected with TFAS friends and events now that they are back in Washington. Jeff is in a graduate program at Johns Hopkins’ SAIS on International Economics with an emphasis on Chinese relations. Amber is a National Politics Reporter for Digital First Media. The couple has stayed in close contact with U.S. Programs Director Joe Starrs.
“Joe Starrs is amazing,” Amber said. “Throughout every step of our careers, Joe has been there to support us, give us advice and connect us to people. I can’t say enough about him.”
Years later, the couple is grateful they both found TFAS when they googled “DC Internships” as undergraduate students.
“TFAS has been a big part of our lives since we met,” Jeff said. “It’s never far from our hearts.”
If you have a TFAS love story to share, contact alumni@TFAS.org.