By Aria Walfrand
Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day season, and for two students here at Union, it seems that love will be around forever. Emilia Strzalkowska and Denly Lettsome, both seniors, got engaged while in Egypt on the college’s mini-term abroad. I sat down with them to talk about their story and how it led up to the romantic night on the Nile Cruise in Egypt.
Lettsome and Strzalkowska met even before they were officially first-years. Both are part of the AOP program on campus, so their first official introduction to each other occurred during the AOP summer program at Union. The two hit it off right away… as friends first. According to Strzalkowska, they were both seeing people at the time, so things did not ‘click’ for them until junior year.
During the winter break of their Junior year, Lettsome ended up having surgery, and, while still on pain medicine, drove from New York City to Union to visit Strzalkowska. He lined the path from the gardens to the large tree with rose petals and led her there, read a poem he wrote for her, and then asked her to be his girlfriend, to which Strzalkowska responded yes.
Lettsome knew a little over two months into their relationship that she was the one. He purchased the ring and wrote her a long letter, and placed the letter in a bottle. He gave her the bottle on Valentine’s Day but told her not to open it until he said so. Lettsome knew he wanted to propose for their one-year anniversary, but did not know that was going to be in Egypt until they both got in to the term abroad.
Once it was certain they were going to Egypt, Lettsome enlisted the help of the mini-term’s adviser, Professor Ashraf Ghaly in the Engineering Department. Lettsome asked him to get the ring and the message in a bottle past the airport security so Strzalkowska wouldn’t see it and be suspicious.
Lettsome brought the ring and the message on the Nile Cruise, where the two were on the top deck during the evening, with the moon illuminating the water and the city.
Lettsome told Strzalkowska that she could finally open the bottle and read the message. She knew he wrote poetry, so she thought it was just another poem he wrote for her, but by the end she was “in shock” and stopped reading, as Lettsome was down on one knee with the ring.
The families and friends of both these individuals were incredibly happy to hear the news. Lettsome admitted that some people thought that it was a huge risk, but he knew it was worth it.
So what does the future hold for these two? While there isn’t a date for the wedding set, both Lettsome and Strzalkowska agree that it is important to take time to plan things out. Lettsome is attending graduate school here at Union for electrical engineering, and Strzalkowska is applying to grad school as well, but is thinking about taking some time off to work. The two are also thinking about moving in together.
This one-year relationship started off as a four-year friendship and blossomed in Egypt. Strzalkowska knew that it clicked for her right away, but was surprised that it did for Lettsome as well. Surprised and very, very glad.