Jake and Emily Stevens walk through campus at WSU Pullman. WSU Photo Services

Cougs Find Love While Studying Abroad

By Scott Jackson

Jake and Emily Stevens hoist a Cougar flag after their wedding on the island of Santorini, Greece. Photo Courtesy: Emily Popchock.

When Jake (’17 Intl. Busi., ‘19 MS) and Emily Stevens (’17 Intl. Busi., ’19 MBA) signed up to study abroad in Greece in 2016, they certainly expected the experience to be life-changing, but they couldn’t have known they were about to meet their future spouse.

Emily says a faculty member recommended she meet Jake earlier that year after hearing she wanted to study abroad in Greece, noting he wanted to study there as well.

“That summer rolls around, and we go to study abroad in Greece, and the first person I see in the airport is Jake,” Emily says. “From there, we became good friends.”

Emily says their Cougar cohort in Greece quickly formed a tight bond and did everything together—a camaraderie that persisted when they returned to Pullman. While Emily sat next to Jake every day of the six weeks they spent in Greece, she says they didn’t initially realize the romantic potential of their connection. However, after Jake fell ill during a day trip to the Greek island of Malia, Emily volunteered to accompany him back to where they were staying.

“We went back to our Airbnb and literally, for hours, played ‘Would You Rather,’” Emily says. “I think that was the first moment that I was like, ‘Wait a second. We have fun—just us,’—and we just kind of grew from there.”

The couple returned to the country in 2023 to marry on the island of Santorini in front of a small gathering of family and friends, many of whom were Cougs themselves.

More Than a Meet-Cute

While their trip culminated in a love story, Emily says international travel opportunities offer numerous advantages to students. The experience was an essential part of both Jake and Emily’s professional growth. She says spending time studying outside of the US allowed them to see how business is conducted in other places around the world, broadening their professional perspective.

She says an additional benefit of the faculty-led program meant forming closer bonds with fellow students, her professors, and with WSU itself.

“It gave us this way deeper connection with the university as a whole,” Emily says. “I always tell students, ‘If you can do it, you must study abroad,’ just because it can just open your eyes to so much around you.”

The Next Step

The Stevenses finished their degrees a couple of years later. Self-described “Cougs through and through,” they stayed with WSU for their graduate work—she earned an MBA through the Carson College’s online program, and he earned his master’s degree in applied economics.

Emily says their experience with the Carson College and the study abroad program was a direct positive influence on their careers.

Emily says Pullman will always be a special place for her and her husband. Both come from families of WSU graduates, and Jake was raised in the town. The couple now work in marketing in Austin, Texas, but hope to return to Pullman someday, potentially to teach.

Drawing on her experience running social media for Pullman businesses while she attended WSU, Emily says she would like to help a new generation of marketing students form relationships with local organizations through similar experiential learning opportunities.

“That international business degree, in a sense, opened my eyes to so many things in the world,” Emily says. “But it also made me appreciate Pullman so much just because of that close-knit community that it offers, and I want to find my space in that.”