Brazil to Nebraska: an unlikely place to meet a future valentine

  • Gabe and Raissa proposal announcement
  • Gabe and Raissa proposal announcement

Valentine’s Day marks a time to celebrate the loved ones in our lives. A Nebraska Wesleyan classroom may seem an unlikely place to meet your future valentine, but for some, the hallways of our university have sparked life-long relationships.

For one such pair, it took a 5,465-mile journey from Brazil to become valentines. Adjunct instructor Raissa Zuim Dantas de Souza (’19) met her now husband, Gabe (’19), at Nebraska Wesleyan, and their story is nothing short of magic.  

Although Raissa and Gabe lived in different cities while in Brazil, the pair went to high school in the same city, played soccer across the street from each other, had lunch in similar spots, and ran the same streets. And yet, they never met.

Raissa and Gabe's first meeting at orientation
Raissa and Gabe's first meeting at orientation

“I wish we knew how many times we crossed paths with each other when we were in Brazil,” said Raissa. “Imagine how crazy it is that the person I’d marry was right there, only for me to know after we’d made our journeys to Nebraska.”

The pair were recruited to play soccer at Nebraska Wesleyan but first met during International Student Orientation in the fall of 2015. Raissa states that her first impression of Gabe was not immediate love—that took time. “I joke that he was quite annoying when we first met. He was highly organized, while I was not. I am just a more spontaneous person.”

During their first year on campus, both Gabe and Raissa lived in Centennial Hall. The co-ed hall, which is open year-round, makes for a welcome environment for international students who are not able to travel home over breaks. “We would get together during meals to catch up about our life living abroad and about our new responsibilities. We became very good friends, and we would do everything together.” Gabe would help Raissa edit her papers, and Raissa assisted Gabe with math.

Raissa and Gabe at haunted house

Living in the same residence hall and having common experiences to discuss drew them together. “Gabe was the person I shared ice cream with when we wanted to celebrate. He was the person I explored Lincoln with and was always there when I was sick, when I didn’t do well on a test, or if I just needed someone.”

“The simplest things are magical when you are with the right person,” said Raissa.

The distance to Brazil made it hard for the pair to see their families on a regular basis, but Raissa’s dad visited during her first semester. “My dad was not a fan of my past boyfriends, but with Gabe it was instantly different. I told Gabe, ‘My dad must really like you’ after he invited Gabe to spend the holidays with my family in Brazil.”

Their families instantly connected, often visiting with each other when Raissa and Gabe were back in Nebraska. 

Raissa and Gabe at graduation
Raissa and Gabe at graduation

When asked what relationship advice Raissa would give to others, she stated, “There are two people in the relationship. Those two people are different, and they have their own commitments, schedules, and goals. No one is a mind reader. Clearly communicating is the best thing you can do.”

This year, Gabe and Raissa will celebrate their first wedding anniversary and eighth year together. “We have been each other’s family since undergrad. Now, I get to look back and see how much we’ve accomplished together.”


From all of us at Nebraska Wesleyan, Happy Valentine’s Day!