When Anita and Jonathon Watson, both 31, think back today to Erasmus - i.e. the well-known exchange programme set up by the European Union in 1987 to enable students to spend time at universities abroad - it has now acquired a completely new dimension for them. After all, it was the time that Jonny - as Anita calls her British husband - spent at Münster University that laid the foundations for their family with their first child.
The weeks spent sharing student accommodation, studying (teacher training in history and RI in her case, law in his) and getting to know each other better were followed by a long-distance relationship across Europe. The fact that the relationship survived is something special, because "a lot of Erasmus love affairs come to an end when people have to live apart", say Anita and Jonathon, who have seen it happen to many couples they have known.
One of the reasons why this couple managed to live with, and in the end overcome, the 730 kilometres separating Liverpool and Münster, is Jonathon’s definite affection for Germany and his German-language skills. Years ago at school he developed a liking for German and later, after a pupil exchange trip to the Palatinate, for the whole country. Today he is back at Münster University, working on a doctoral dissertation on the european consumer protection law.
The new addition to the Watson family, Bennett Louis, who was born on 25. September, will also be treading European paths. To begin with, he will be growing up bilingually. "That’ll be nicer for you too", says Anita to her husband. "Well, not necessarily for that reason", he counters. "But especially so that he’ll be able to understand his grandparents in England."