When Bernd Debusmann Jr. and Sarakshi Rai (MA International Journalism 2014) enrolled at City in 2013, they had no idea that within a week they would meet the person they were going to marry! Here they tell us how they went from City students to lifelong lovebirds.
At what point did you meet first?
Bernd: We first met about a week into the MA course – I was actually organising and collecting money for a massive class get-together to celebrate Oktoberfest at a nearby German pub near Old Street. It was a very short and rather terse initial encounter with Sarakshi walking away thinking I was quite cold and unfriendly – she later realised that I was just being shy at the time.
Where was your first official date?
Bernd: While we had a couple of ‘unofficial’ dates walking around Islington, Angel and Shoreditch on the weekends, our first proper date was spent sitting by Regent’s Canal with wine after a classmate’s party, just talking for several hours without realising how late it had gotten. A few months later I surprised her with a trip to the Shard at sunset with champagne, which I suppose would be when we were ‘officially’ together.
Did you do coursework together?
Sarakshi: We worked together on some class assignments, and then together as two of four class representatives for our MA programme. It was at City that we first realised that we had quite a good working team and we’ve collaborated on several published works since. We actually still work at the same company in Dubai, the second job in a row where that has been the case.
How many fellow City people were at your wedding?
Sarakshi: We had 11 classmates at our wedding, coming from all over the world. They travelled from the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Venezuela, the US and Cyprus.
Did your families meet at Graduation and how awkward was that?
Sarakshi: No – we both had new international jobs at the time so we weren’t able to fly back to London for graduation. But, funnily enough, one of our closest friends from the MA course FaceTimed us throughout the ceremony so that we would feel like we were a part of it. Our parents met for the first time without us in Washington DC, and had a great time. They clearly didn’t need us to make formal introductions. They’d also already been chatting and planning the wedding through social media for months before they met.
How have your lives changed since graduating?
Bernd: We’re married! And have a lovely apartment in Dubai, and we get to travel quite a bit through our jobs, which is always exciting. We’ve also expanded our understanding of different cultures and make it a point to see as much of the real Middle East as we can to understand the geopolitical situation in the region better.
Tell us about the proposal
Bernd: It was six months after Sarakshi arrived in Dubai (I came a year earlier than her while she was working in India). I had made a secret trip to the US to buy the ring, unknown to Sarakshi, and while she was spending the day at the beach with her friends, I decided to cook dinner (only the second time I’ve cooked since we’ve been together).
Sarakshi: At this time his apartment overlooked Dubai Marina and the Dubai skyline, where he set out candles and a bottle of wine. After a lovely dinner, he got down on one knee and asked.
Where was your honeymoon?
Sarakshi: We went on a ‘mini-moon’ to the Maldives right after the wedding in India. But we’re planning a more extended honeymoon in Mexico and Cuba later this year. Bernd’s German-Mexican and has lived in Mexico for years, and I’ve never been there. So it seems apt.
What would you like to tell yourselves as freshers?
Sarakshi: If we’d known we would be in the Middle East, we’d have started learning Arabic a long time ago. Also, don’t worry about finding a job.
Did you have a City ring as your engagement ring?
Anything else from your story that you would like to share?
Bernd: We’ve made some great friends along the way at City who we sometimes meet once a year and who we love very much, and who we wish we got to see more of! Luckily for us there are a lot of City weddings coming up around the corner.
Sarakshi: Even before we started dating, we’d explore secret corners of London on foot and discover a new spot every weekend. That set the tone of the rest of our relationship and now we spend our free time exploring different corners of the world albeit by planes now!