Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foreign Exchange Leads to Friendship & Fireworks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foreign Exchange Leads to Friendship & Fireworks

Article excerpt

Byline: Robyn Brody

It wasn't exactly fireworks when Maria Stamatogiannakis and Andrew Daw were together as teenagers in a student interchange group traveling from Jacksonville to Austria.

"I wasn't a huge fan of his when we first met," Maria recalls. Andrew said jokingly that the feeling was mutual. "Neither of us were into each other. It took us a little to warm up to each other."

However, once they got to Austria, they became good friends, and then dated briefly when they returned home. But after a month, they decided to call it off and just remain friends. Still, they talked on the phone every single day. Those phone calls brought them so close that they eventually started dating again. They dated all through high school. Andrew was a year ahead of Maria at Episcopal High School and she was at Ponte Vedra High.

When it was time for college they were determined to stay together, even though they ended up at rival schools - Andrew went to the University of Florida and Maria was at Florida State. They made the drive often back and forth between Gainesville and Tallahassee, taking part in each other's college experiences. Andrew was very impressed that Maria was winning awards at FSU and very involved in leadership activities. "She sets the bar very high."

While Maria was studying abroad in London, Andrew planned a trip to visit. Andrew had the engagement ring with him and he knew Maria was getting suspicious. He hid the ring in a bag and safety-pinned it to the bottom of his pants pocket. "I had a highly expensive object, and it was my great-grandmother's ring. It was not the type of thing I could lose."

Maria admitted rummaging through his belongings, but she never saw it. On March 5, 2015, they went on a hiking trip up a mountain near Barcelona. He planned to propose on the summit and, of course, wanted it to just be the two of them. A hiker struck up a conversation with them and wouldn't leave. Andrew was panicking that they would miss the last train and he would lose the opportunity to pop the question in the beautiful spot. …

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