Sometimes love can be found in the most unexpected of places. Such was the case of Aida Zhankabayeva, 23, and her fiancée Pedro Vianna, 24.
Zhankabayeva is currently at Cumberland University and works in president Harvill Eaton’s office. She has been at Cumberland since the beginning of the fall semester last year. She calls it “a great experience so far.”
Zhankabayeva is originally from Kazakhstan, and moved to the U.S. when she was 12 years old when her father attended seminary in Texas. The family moved back to Kazakhstan following his completion of seminary, and then Zhankabayeva was encouraged to come back to the U.S. by a family in her hometown.
“There was a missionary family back in my hometown who talked about this Bible college in Nashville,” she said. “It’s called Welch College now.”
She came to Nashville to attend Welch College, and soon she would meet her future husband.
Vianna is originally from Brazil, and he was attending Vanderbilt University at the same time Zhankabayeva was at Welch.
“We met at the Indian Festival of Lights in Nashville in November 2010,” she said.
However, they didn’t start dating for another nine months. Zhankabayeva said she “will never forget” the couple’s first “official” date.
“He cooked salmon for me in his suite [at Vanderbilt], and it was great,” she said. “And he made rice as a side dish, and the rice was terrible.”
Vianna and his family moved to the U.S. when he about 5 years old, Zhankabayeva said. She said he is still fluent in Portuguese, as well as having learned English.
“We have a lot of different cultures in our lives,” Zhankabayeva said.
“His first year of school was at NYU as a photography major. Then he transferred to Vanderbilt as a pre-med major.”
She said he is currently in his first year of medical school at the University of Central Florida.
“I usually visit him, but this time he is coming to visit me. He’ll be here this weekend,” she said.
Vianna proposed to her June 8 on a visit to her family in Kazakhstan. Zhankabayeva said he wanted to propose in her parents’ presence since the family doesn’t see each other often.
“When you are so far away from your family, it’s difficult to share a lot of the bigger moments. We wanted to share this moment with them,” she said.
Zhankabayeva confessed she “never imagined in my entire life I’d marry a Brazilian.” But she also said the two cultures share many similarities.
“My family used to watch Brazilian soap operas when I was growing up. I had always admired the culture,” she said, adding the similarities “make our life easier because we don’t argue over a lot of things.”
The couple plans to exchange vows in December, but no exact date is set. Zhankabayeva said she loves the Christmas season, and that played a part in the decision.
“I love Christmas,” she said. “Back home we don’t really celebrate it, but I love it.”
She hopes to incorporate a few traditions from her home country into the wedding festivities, including a suggestion from her mother.
“She suggested an old Kazak tradition where the groom comes the night before the wedding and brings the bride’s parents presents,” Zhankabayeva said.
Her husband-to-be only made two requests.
“He requested good music and a dance floor, even though he isn’t a very good dancer.”
After the wedding, Zhankabayeva said the newlyweds would probably be in Florida while Vianna finishes medical school, and then “we will move to wherever he does his residency.”