Derck and Stephanie met in 2016 when they were both PhD students at the RSM. Their hearts first skipped a beat during a night of salsa dancing. In 2019, they got engaged and were due to get married in September of the following year. “We had everything planned. We wanted to hold a ceremony in Yosemite National Park in the United States, because we both love travel and nature”, says Derck. “And we also visited Yosemite during our first long-distance holiday together in California”, adds Stephanie. Unfortunately, coronavirus messed up their plans. “We got tired of waiting and finally decided to say ‘I do’ to each other in Rotterdam on 31 March 2021”, says Stephanie.

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Eight months later, they still left for Yosemite to go through with their original plan. Before that, they went on a two-week honeymoon travelling through Mexico. “We had to change our plans several times because of the strict coronavirus rules, but in the end an extra honeymoon through Mexico allowed us to comply with all the rules”, says Derck. “So we packed the wedding dress and suit in our luggage”, adds Stephanie. “We covered more than 5,000 kilometres in Mexico and the suitcase regularly ended up on the roofs of cars or buses, which is not without risk in Mexico!”, says Derck. “Once, it rained very hard and we had to quickly move the suitcase from the roof of the car to the boot.”

Derck Koolen en Stephanie Maas trouwfoto 2022_eigen foto
They finally made it to Yosemite. Image credit: Personal collection

A family

When they returned from their trip, they discovered that Stephanie was pregnant. Little Victor is now six months old and can already babble away happily. Has Victor’s arrival changed much? “Of course! But most importantly, we’re still crazy about each other and our love for each other has only grown now that Victor has come along”, says Stephanie. “And we continue to travel, at just six months old Victor is already a world traveller and has come with us on trips to the United States, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia”, laughs Derck.

In the 2019 interview, the couple said they had never had an argument. Is that still true? “It certainly is”, laughs Stephanie. “Everything is going well, and we still have no reason to argue. Even with the intense sleep deprivation caused by a baby.”

And now?

Derck no longer works at the EUR. He is a team leader at the European Commission and an assistant professor at Utrecht University. Stephanie will soon also be leaving the RSM and transferring to VU University Amsterdam. The family have bought a new-build home and will be moving to Alkmaar at the end of this year. Stephanie: “I don’t know Alkmaar at all, but I don’t mind, as long as we have each other it will soon feel like home.”