PhD students combined study and marriage
A scholarship brought them to Wageningen, learning how to cycle brought them together: Airidas Dapkevicius from Lithuania and Maria Enes Dapkevicius from the Portuguese Azores. He worked on natural antioxidants in aromatic herbs at the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, she on the biological ensilage of fish at Food Hygiene and Microbiology. Both will receive their PhD degree on 29 January.
"We both came to Wageningen in 1993. The co-ordinator of the European Union Studies Program introduced us to each other. I found it very hard to cycle and Airidas accompanied me when I cycled to the university. At that time we often hung around with other international students," says Maria. From best friends they became lovers. Airidas: "After five months we both had to go home. We kept in touch through e-mail, letters and cassettes." "He played guitar for me and I tried some karaoke," Maria adds laughingly.
Six months later they returned to Wageningen to do a PhD; Maria with a full-time grant from the European Union and Aridias on a sandwich scholarship. "After the first six months I travelled back and forth to Lithuania by car for two years. I stayed regularly in Wageningen for two to three weeks, not only to be with Maria but also because I had to work in the university here. In Lithuania I couldn't get hold of all the literature I needed nor could I do all the required experiments," Airidas explains.
They got married in January 1996 on the Azores and two years later their daughter Ieva Isabel was born in Wageningen. "I had a very experienced midwife and I would have been happy to give birth at home, although in the end I had to deliver in the hospital. We also enjoyed the 'kraamzorg' (maternity care). Without family around someone has to tell you how to change nappies," Maria says. When their daughter was 8 months old they returned to the Azores. "My university needed me back. For two years I was too busy with teaching and our daughter to focus on my thesis," continues Maria. Aridias went back to Wageningen once in 1999 for four months to collect more experimental data.
Aridias: "In the spring of 2001 we both started writing, a chapter a month. We e-mailed a lot with our supervisors." Two weeks ago they returned to Wageningen to finish things up. They are also discussing future research projects. "We are trying to bring together university departments and research centres from America, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Portugal to look at honey as an alternative medicine," Aridias explains. Their graduation party will be in the cafe where they went for their first date.
Yvonne de Hilster
Photo: Guy Ackermans