Lauder Love: The Journey of Married Couples Through the Dual Degree

Over the years, the Lauder Institute has been the birthplace of 68 marriages giving the phrase #LauderLove an even deeper meaning. But what about the couples that arrive at Lauder already married? What are the advantages and challenges of doing a 2-year dual degree program with your significant other? We sit down with two couples from the Class of 2024 to find out.

Pictured left: Alonso Torres Llosa, Rafaela Tord / Pictured right: Ignacio Osorio, Mariana Traipe

Just two weeks before Rafaela Tord and Alonso Torres Llosa were scheduled to move from Peru to the US to start their graduate degrees at Penn, they got married. Both born and raised in Lima, they had met 8 years prior as undergraduate economics students. “We had all our classes together because it was a small school, and our last names start with the same first three letters: Tord and Torres Llosa,” recalls Rafaela. Alonso, she says, was social and friendly, and his many talents, including sailing and playing the guitar, won her over. Alonso loved Rafaela’s positive energy. “She is the happy and relaxed one in the relationship,” he says, “she balances me out.”

Their decision many years later to relocate and pursue a dual Wharton MBA and Lauder Institute Masters in International Studies was a carefully considered one. “Initially, Wharton was my idea,” explains Alonso, “because I was working in private equity in Peru with some people who had gone to Wharton, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but Rafaela wasn’t convinced.” Rafaela explains she was looking for something “less finance-focused, and more international, more cultural.” She stumbled upon the Lauder Institute MA degree program without realizing it was inextricably linked to Alonso’s first choice – Wharton. After connecting with many receptive Lauder alumni for advice, they made a mutual decision to apply for the dual degree and were successful. Alonso smiles and acknowledges they were lucky, “we did not have an alternate plan.”

While this was unfolding, another couple from Santiago, Chile, Ignacio Osorio and Mariana Traipe, were applying to MBA programs throughout the US. They had also met as undergraduates, majoring in business, and were preparing to get married in spring of 2022. Says Ignacio, “We applied to a lot of business schools, especially those that were in the same city,” with the hope that they could remain close geographically if they were not jointly admitted into Penn. Fortunately, they were. Despite ending up in the same place, however, the couple had decided on different Lauder programs. Ignacio, who is in Lauder’s Latin America (Portuguese) program, recalls his wife’s reasoning for applying to Lauder’s Global program: “Mariana wasn’t that interested in learning Portuguese. She was more interested in having discussions about global issues, politics, economics, and development. Whereas, I had worked in Brazil before and knew the culture. I knew that in the future, I would love to do business in the region. So, for me, it made a lot of sense. We followed our own hearts if you will.”

Both couples arrived in Philadelphia in May 2022. Ignacio and Mariana would soon become friends with both Alonso, a student in the Europe (German) program, and his wife Rafaela, in the Latin America (Portuguese) program. Alonso recalls that first summer at Lauder, which began with four weeks of on-campus instruction in Philadelphia followed by a 5-week summer immersion. “Rafaela went to Brazil and I went to Germany,” says Alonso, joking that as newlyweds separated across continents, “our classmates in Philadelphia knew us better than we knew each other.” Despite this period of separation, both couples agree there were distinctive benefits to doing different programs. According to Mariana, “If you’re together in everything, then you get too comfortable because you always have your sidekick with you, but when you are by yourself, that kind of forces you to meet people, to put yourself out there. We ended up having our own group of friends in our different programs, but we were able to introduce those friends to our partner. For me, that made it a richer experience overall.”

And there were still many opportunities for the spouses to travel together. The couples recall that shared Lauder immersions such as Culture Quest and Lauder Intercultural Ventures enriched their journey, fostering academic and relationship growth. Mariana says, “I think one of the things I’ve learned about Ignacio since we’ve been in the program is how approachable he is. He can talk to anyone. He’s the kind of person that you want to open up to. I hadn’t actually realized he was like that until we shared so many mutual friends and acquaintances. It’s one of the things I like most about him.”

While Alonso and Rafaela went on LIVs together to Kenya and Georgia, Ignacio and Mariana traveled to Thailand and Switzerland. Ignacio says that shared academic experiences like the LIVs brought out a healthy competition between him and his wife. “Mariana likes having better grades than me,” he says, smiling, “but in a more general sense, she’s always seen the best in me, so she pushes me to be the best I can. That’s something I really appreciate.”

As for the challenges of being a couple in a grueling two-year program, both couples agree that the congested social calendar of a Wharton/Lauder student can create some pressure. “Our calendars get really packed because we’re organizing events on both sides, whereas when you’re by yourself, you have more control over what you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to,” says Mariana. They laugh about how many times their significant other dropped a social appointment into their inbox “out of nowhere.” Rafaela notes that the culture of partying among some students was generally “not a problem.” She continues, “Alonso and I could manage it well because we were on the same page. We also had a lot of friends in the class who were dating and interested in more low-key activities.”

Another important consideration for couples in the two-year program, Ignacio notes, is the location of summer internships and jobs. “Mariana and I were apart for the summer. I was in New York for two months doing banking, and she was in Seattle working for Microsoft. That made sense for us because we were both excited about our internships, but for full-time jobs after Wharton/Lauder, it was a little more challenging. We had to be very strategic about where to apply so that we could land in the same city,” he says.

Fortunately, both couples, now on the cusp of graduation, are headed to New York. Having been strangers just two years ago they are now looking forward to continuing their journey together after successfully recruiting into various sectors including investment banking, consulting, and product marketing. Just as Lauder alumni helped them make the decision to apply back in 2021, they say they want to be a resource for future applicants and students.

Although they agree that the program helped enhance their critical thinking, language skills, and international interests, they credit the Lauder community for being the best part of the experience. “I am not very extroverted,” says Ignacio, “I consider myself more introverted. But this experience pushes you to meet so many people with different life stories, and it makes you a more empathetic person. I feel like more of a global citizen now. That’s something very special about Lauder. We can have difficult discussions, often about global issues, in a very respectful manner.” Alonso adds that he gained much more as a dual degree student than he would have from just enrolling in the MBA, “The people at Lauder come from such different backgrounds. Just talking to them, learning about their stories, and what they think about issues abroad has made me a more complete person in general. It’s a very special program.” ■

Story and photo by Lauren Treutler