European Photo Exhibition Celebrating Love, Arrives in Sligo.

A touring photography exhibition celebrating couples who met through the Erasmus study-abroad programme has arrived at IT Sligo.

The show has traveled across the EU and was first installed in the Gare Montparnasse in Paris. It was brought to Sligo with the support of the French Embassy and the Higher Education Authority of Ireland. The exhibition, tells the stories of 17 couples who fell in love while studying abroad during university.

The Erasmus programme has had more than nine million students take part since it was established in 1987.  It is also responsible for an estimated million babies born to couples who met through the college exchange.

One such couple is Pascal Bonnichon who met his now wife Siobhán during his year abroad studying in Sligo IT. The couple began dating 1987 when Pascal moved to Sligo on the Erasmus programme.  Speaking at the exhibition, Siobhan recalled the first time they met;  “Pascal moved next door and I asked him to carry a bag of coal in from the garage for me.  On our first date he cooked me dinner and afterwards he even washed the dishes!, So that was me, smitten!”

Pascal moved back to France in 1988 and Siobhán eventually followed him. The couple remained in France until 2004, where they had two children named Cian and Aoife, but eventually decided to return to Ireland to set up their own wine wholesale business.

Speaking at the event, HEA, Head of International Programmes, Gerry O’Sullivan said:  “The idea came from an idea the French Minister for Foreign Affairs had some time ago.  In 2017 they commissioned a photographer who took thousands of photos of families who say they have met through the Erasmus Programme and now have children on their own.

More than 4,000 Irish students are expected to take part in Erasmus programmes this year at third-level institutions across 33 different countries. France is the most popular European destination for Irish students, with an average of 700 young people travelling there with the programme each year. Over 300 Erasmus students come to IT Sligo to study each year.

PHOTO CAPTION:  Pascal Bonnichon who met his now wife Siobhán during his year abroad studying in Sligo IT back in 1987.

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