I'm an American who met my husband while studying at Oxford. We now live in England together and have 4 children.

I'm an American who met my husband while studying at Oxford. We now live in England together and have 4 children.
Jennifer Barton and her husband dancing at oxford
The author and her husband while students at Oxford.Courtesy of Jennifer Barton
  • I met my future husband, Will, while I was studying at Oxford.

  • Our bond deepened when Will supported me through my mother's suicide.

  • I eventually moved to London, married Will, and we now have four children.

I'm a native New Yorker who attended Oxford for my undergraduate studies in the early 2000s. It was the era of Prince William mania when Americans started flocking to St. Andrews in droves.

I didn't seriously expect to meet, date, kiss, or marry Prince William, though I'm confident my mother hoped I might. While I didn't care about titles, I did entertain plenty of thoughts of what it might be like to date a Brit — or several.

But I quickly decided that English men probably weren't for me; they seemed too weedy, too boozy, and not into expressing many emotions. Plus, the mythical "accent" became a source of confusion rather than sex appeal once I realized there were over 30 accents depending on where someone hails from.

But then I met my very own Will.

We became close friends first

We didn't have any classes together since we studied different subjects, but we attended the same college and lived in the same first-year dorms. We were introduced during my first month in England through mutual friends, and I remember our hallway meeting vividly, even though it was over two decades ago. He was wearing a pale blue hoodie that matched his eyes. He was gushing about his obsession with "Seinfeld" and New York.

I felt a strange niggle — but it wasn't butterflies. It was certainty: I somehow knew this person would matter in my life.

Will and I never dated during our college years. I'd started Oxford late — after a few semesters in a liberal arts college in the US — so I was a couple of years older than him when we met. This seems insignificant now, but at the time, I felt far too mature and wise to date someone younger.

Instead, we became the closest of friends, bonding over a love of food, pop culture, and our similar senses of humor. Still, we couldn't be more different on paper: He's from London and a huge, tight-knit family with five brothers and a sister. I grew up an only child with a single mother and no other relatives in Manhattan. But talking to him always felt effortless. Best of all, I never had to police my personality around him. He enjoyed the weirdest, wildest versions of me.

In the rom-com movie montage of my college years in England, Will is everywhere: trekking to the pyramids in Egypt with me and another friend; dressed in a Santa hat, distributing presents one Christmas; standing beside me at fancy-dress bops (college dances); dinners and college balls.

Will was there for me when I needed him most

I was living in Paris during my year abroad, with my mother. She'd experienced a mental health crisis and died by suicide after several months of living there. I didn't have any other parents or family I could contact.

If not for friends like Will, who showed up the day after my mother died and quietly, efficiently, and patiently packed my life up and helped me get back to London, I'm not sure how I would have made it through that period in my life.

I was in a terrible headspace for a long time after my mom died, convinced I was damaged, going through the everyday motions of living while trying to numb any real emotion. I'd moved back to Manhattan, but returning to the city I'd grown up in without the person I loved most didn't feel like healing. It was more like being haunted.

I found myself back in London soon after

Will and I hadn't dated in any traditional sense when I started throwing around the possibility of quitting my job and moving to London. It sounds dramatic to relocate your life on a whim, but I'd stopped trusting in stability after my mother died. I was 25 and had nothing to lose. Will and I moved in together right away for financial reasons — and because I couldn't legally work in the UK in the beginning — so we "hard launched" our relationship.

London provided an ideal backdrop for making new memories instead of chasing ghosts from my past.

It's 16 years later, and I'm still living in London with my now-husband, Will, and I have zero regrets. We now have four children together.

England is where I've grown up: I became a parent, a spouse, and a writer here. It's also where part of me will forever be 20 years old, watching "Seinfeld" reruns, eating supermarket tortellini, and slowly falling in love in some British dude's dorm room.

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