Stephan and Salonie celebrate their graduation and betrothal in July.
Love story: The international language
Meeting as Master of International Relations students, Stephan Modest (who is German) and Salonie Dua (who is Indian) ensured their Bell School graduation ceremony will forever be doubly special thanks to a surprise proposal.
Stephan down on one knee with the ring at the ready.
I met Salonie during our very first class at ANU. We were both international students who had just moved to Canberra for postgraduate studies and this was a really exciting time. Our program, the Master of International Relations has an intense two-week workshop for all commencing students and we spent a lot of time together during these two weeks. I felt a very strong connection toward Salonie and felt she was very special, so I tried to organise after-class activities with our friends where I could be around her without being too obvious about my feelings.
We started dating shortly after our first teaching break. We had both received a Coral Bell sponsorship to attend the annual AIIA conference, and at an after-dinner party
I had asked her to go out with me. The next two years were some of the most exhilarating periods of my life and I still remember many of the incredible moments and experiences with Salonie as if they happened just yesterday.
One of my personal highlights was an intercontinental surprise birthday visit. Both of her parents were working and living in Hong Kong at the time and we had spontaneously decided to visit them for her mum’s 50th birthday. When we showed up on the doorstep of their apartment on the morning of her birthday unannounced, the surprise could not have been any better. Salonie also visited Germany for Christmas last year and met all my family and friends while we explored the local Christmas markets and sang German Christmas carols.
I proposed to Salonie on graduation day. Since our relationship had started and developed in a university context, I wanted this special moment to be reflective of our time at ANU and have our close friends and classmates, who had accompanied us throughout our journey, be present for this moment – and what better moment is there then our graduation ceremony?
I came to Australia on 15 July 2017 to start my Master program in International Relations – little did I know then, that the very next week I would meet the love of my life.
I met Stephan on the first day of classes and our attraction was instant. We were studying all the same subjects which gave us ample opportunity to get to know one another – which we utilised in full. A couple of our friends would go with us to every free food event on campus in the first month. For Stephan and me, it was partly to have a good time and mostly to find an excuse to spend more time with each other. Our first few weeks at university were magical – with us hoping to find seats next to each other in class every day, dancing in parties together and him walking me to my bus stop every night.
Shortly after the first mid-semester break, we decided to officially start our relationship. We hosted a Diwali party – the Indian Festival of Lights – where we announced our relationship to all our friends. The next two years are a blur of countless road trips, parties, exam periods, and meeting each other’s families.
The proposal on our graduation day came as an absolute surprise to me – the best one ever. We had talked about marriage, both of us knew we had found “the one” in each other, still, when it happened, I was in complete shock! We are now planning our big Indian wedding that will take place in New Delhi in November 2020. All the Germans have been given ample notice and everyone is very excited – I’m mostly stressed (ha-ha).
Currently, we are starting a new life together in Melbourne where I’ve found my dream job – working as a campaigner for Change.org. I can’t wait to spend my everyday with Stephan. ANU has given me more than just a Master degree.