Love in the laboratory: Northampton students who met on public health course tie the knot
John and Johnette were both in other relationships when they met, but soon became friends
It was a case of love in the laboratory for two Northampton students who have recently tied the knot.
Johnette Brownell (now Brownell-Akobi) and John Akobi met at the University of Northampton on their public health (MSc) degree in 2018.
The pair were both in other relationships at the time, but they became friends and eventually found their way to each other, romantically.
Johnette, who also studied for an undergraduate degree in early childhood at the university, said: “John is an international student and I was the one who set eyes on him first.
“Straight off the bat I thought he was a very handsome gentleman.
“There was a mutual attraction but if this is all starting to sound a bit Mills & Boon, romance did not follow.
“We were already in relationships and neither of us were initially interested in pursuing anything else.
“Little did we know that both of us shared something, because we were unhappy in those relationships.
“We weren’t close enough to talk about such things at this point, and anyway we had our studies to focus on.
“We worked on assignments with other students and very quickly got into the course.
“Things broke down with my boyfriend but even though John and I had grown closer, I wasn’t interested in starting another relationship.
“Aside from my studies and trying – unsuccessfully! – to run a charity I started during my undergraduate degree, I also manage having Crohn’s disease.
“This is an inflammatory bowel condition that can cause serious pain and tiredness and which can be triggered by stress.
“I was very serious about my public health studies so needless to say, with the Master’s and my health in mind, I pushed John away for a while.
“Sometime down the line his relationship also ended and, gradually, we started talking again. “The feelings were still there, and we started seeing each other to see how things worked out.
“I guess that is where you can say the Mills & Boon bit started!”
After seven months as a couple they started discussing the possibility of getting married.
Then the nuptials were held on June 23 this year after a super-rapid period of planning. Johnette added: “Our friends kick-started the plans and their help was heaven sent because we gave ourselves a ridiculously tight deadline for the big day – just six weeks.
“Of course, everyone on both sides of the family wanted to come but we explained about the Covid restrictions such as quarantine and that the marriage would be in (probably rainy) Scotland.
“It was a slimmed down reception with mostly close relatives but a few others very happily beamed in as we live streamed the event – it was so worth it.
“John and I are very much a team – he really is my rock – so, with everyone’s help, it worked out perfectly on the day.”
The wedding plans occurred at the same time both were handing in their dissertations for their public health degrees.
But Johnette feels that starting the degree when she did, like her relationship with John, happened at the right time.
She continued: “The pandemic worked a bit in our favour because it gave us a timely, real-world example of a pressing public health issue to bolster our studies.
“It also showed the need for more public health professionals to help communities and policy-makers in situations like this.
“I found the course rewarding in so many ways and the lecturing team were incredibly supportive, making allowances for the fatigue that can follow a Crohn’s flare-up.
“John and I feel glad to have each other and are both looking forward to putting into practice what we learned at the University to help where help is needed.”