Tuesday 16 July 2019

Studying abroad and falling in love

Love does blossom at college! Frenchman, Pascal Bonnichon was on a year's study in Sligo when he fell in love.

That was over 30 years ago. A marriage and two children later the happy couple are celebrating the fact they met while at college.

Pascal met his now wife Siobhán during his year abroad studying in IT Sligo in 1987 on the Erasmus programme.

Siobhan recalled the first time they met; "Pascal moved next door and I asked him to carry a bag of coal in from the garage for me.

"On our first date he cooked me dinner and afterwards he even washed the dishes!

"So that was me, smitten!" says Siobhán.

Pascal moved back to France in 1988 and Siobhán eventually followed him.

The couple remained in France until 2004, where they had two children named Cian and Aoife, but eventually decided to return to Ireland to set up their own wine wholesale business.

As part of a celebration of couples who met and fell in love through the Erasmus study-abroad programme a photography exhibition which features Pascal and Siobhan has arrived at IT Sligo.

The show has travelled across the EU and was first installed in the Gare Montparnasse in Paris.

It was brought to Sligo with the support of the French Embassy and the Higher Education Authority of Ireland.

The exhibition, tells the stories of 17 couples who fell in love while studying abroad during university.

The Erasmus programme has had more than nine million students take part since it was established in 1987.

It is also responsible for an estimated million babies born to couples who met through the college exchange.

Speaking at the event, HEA, Head of International Programmes, Gerry O'Sullivan said: "The idea came from an idea the French Minister for Foreign Affairs had some time ago.

In 2017 they commissioned a photographer who took thousands of photos of families who say they have met through the Erasmus Programme and now have children on their own."

More than 4,000 Irish students are expected to take part in Erasmus programmes this year at third-level institutions across 33 different countries.

France is the most popular European destination for Irish students, with an average of 700 young people travelling there with the programme each year.

Over 300 Erasmus students come to IT Sligo to study each year.

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