Kensington Love Stories: with Ismael '84 and Petra '85

Students come to Kensington School for an education but often find a family and a lifetime of love. Ismael '84 and Petra '85 not only left Kensington school with their qualifications but also with the love of their life hand-in-hand. They have kindly shared their tales of romance with us.


We are somewhat bound back to the school memories because of us having met there.

What dates did you both attend Kensington School?

Ismael - I was at Kensington from age 6, my family are originally from Barcelona. My parents were migrants in South America and when Franco died they wanted to come back to Spain. My parents were adamant to get us an international education. When democracy came back, we came back. I started in 1974, when I was 6 years old and graduated from Sixth Form when I was 17.

Petra - I was 11 when I joined Kensington in Form 1 and continued on up until Sixth Form where I completed my A Levels and graduated in 1985.

How did you meet & when did you start dating?

Ismael - As you can see we overlapped for a significant amount of time. Obviously we knew of each other, it's a small school. However, we didn’t really have the same group of friends or spend time getting to know one another in or out of school for a while. Petra was very successful and I was a little fellow on the side!!

Petra - We started going out (dating) when we were 17 as our friendship groups came together; it was the last year of school. Interestingly enough we both spent time away and apart. Ismael studied in the UK and I spent time in Antwerp. After our time in separate countries, we went back to Barcelona together and then ended up in the US together - I did my degree there. Since then we haven't been in Spain, we have lived in Shanghai, Singapore, all over but not Spain. We have been in Europe for two years now which is a BIG thing for us, close to our family in Spain.

Petra - I was 4 when we moved to Spain, I went to a different school for Juniors and then moved to Kensington for Senior School. Barcelona is home really, both our families are there.

Ismael - We remember Duncan, who is now the Executive Head at Kensington. He is younger than us, we remember him as a little boy. Maybe my sister Alba, who is still in Barcelona, remembers him more.

Where was your first date?

Ismael - I recall the first date, we would always go out with the same group. We would go to a nightclub called “Up & Down”, I think it's still there. [This is now the DIR Up & Down gym] They had two sessions, an afternoon session for 16 to 18 years olds, which was a big thing for us, and then a later session later in the night.

Petra - It wasn't far from my fathers office, I lived in Castelldefels but my fathers office was in the city, on Av. Diagonal. Ismael would wait for me and walk me there or to the train station after we went out.

Ismael - Petra mentioned about me taking her to the train station, frankly back then that area was a bit seedy. There was a brothel close by! All the homes that are now there were fields so you'd need to walk through fields to get to the Metro. Obviously now it's all gentrified.

What is your lasting memory from your time at the school?

Petra - At lunch time, we had to bring in a packed lunch - Well at least we brought our own; I loved it because we would exchange foods. I'd bring a typical Dutch sandwich with sprinkles and exchange it with Japanese friends for a sushi roll! Back then having a sushi roll was so cool, and vice versa for my friends having a sandwich with chocolate sprinkles; It was unique, it was exchanging culture. Our after school activities were fantastic; I remember we went to amazing facilities, especially for swimming and field hockey.

[Laughter sounds through the computer …. Oh and the kisses!]

Ismael - We are somewhat bound back to the memories of our school life because of us having met there.

Are there any memories you’d like to share with us from your time at Kensington and in Barcelona?

Petra - Barcelona wasn’t what it is now, I think there was only St Peters, St Pauls, the German and French school but the American style schools were very Spanish. To get into British universities, and if you wanted a true British education, Kensington School was the only one. It was demanding and I think, to the credit of Kensington, it really provided us an international perspective. Our friends were from all over the world, it was like the United Nations. I honestly think that if we didn't go there we would not have an appreciation for an international career or speak English for that matter.

Mr Giles had really brought together a great set of teachers; Mr Wise was the Physics teacher and one of the anchors of the school. Mr Livesey who taught Biology was also a key figure in the school. Madame Tersano was our French and we learned a lot of French from her.

Ismael - There were high quality teachers, very special people. Mr Giles was an excellent maths teacher, he set the tone for the rest of the group. I actually only liked math because of him. Miss Rooney was his secretary and she was a sergeant and really protected Mr Giles from all of the students!

Petra was a very organised disciplined student, I was a disaster! I found my way over time.

There is another anecdote that I always remember, I don't think Mr Giles was very fond of me dating Petra. We got caught kissing in the hallway by Mr Giles. Since I wasn't a very responsible student he called me into the office; he held Petra in such a high regard that he asked me if I thought I was doing her any good!

Are you still in touch with friends from KS?

Petra - Yes! Marianne is still a very good friend of mine, she's Danish. She left earlier and didn't do her A Levels but we stayed in touch and I saw her regularly when we were still at school. We kept in touch and we both lived in Brussels for a year and a half. When we were young we did ballet together and when we met again in Brussels we went back to doing adult ballet together in our early 30s. I last saw her 4 years ago in Shanghai, she came for work when we were living there and we met up a few times.

Nils, a former Kensington student also lives here in Switzerland and we see him and his wife sometimes.

Ismael - We've been in touch with a few people, I think most of them are still in Barcelona. It's interesting how this works, you are fairly close to them in school and then you sort of reconnect with them. Nils wasn't a particularly close friend during our school days but now that we are both here we've really clicked and connected. Sometimes you have great friends but the connection isn't the same as with someone you’ve shared a similar life experience with. We have shared a shared common setting over our lifetime and that’s really given us a special connection.

Do you have any children?

Both - We have 3 children, twins Mark and Anna (age 20) who are in ESADE Business School. They wanted to go to Europe. Our eldest boy Alec is in California studying for a Masters degree in engineering.

Petra - In hindsight with the Coronavirus Pandemic in mind, Alec is very lucky that he went to the United States! He is tested once a week to be able to go into the laboratory and work. For the twins it's kind of a hybrid, they have the option to go in or study online. It has been a blessing for the family who had some extra time together which they wouldn't have had (when everyone went into quarantine).

You're married? Tell us about your wedding and please share some photographs!

Both - We married 22 August 1992, during the Barcelona Olympics though we married in the Netherlands. We were together for nine years before we married but for four of those we were in different countries [Petra was in Antwerp and Ismael was in Reading]. We spent all of the holidays together in Barcelona as our families are there!

What are you both doing now?

Petra - Ever since the children were born and were moving almost every 2 years then eventually it slowed down to every 5 to 6 years. I started working at Ernst & Young after graduating in Barcelona and wherever Ismael got posted I continued with them. I worked in their Singapore and New York office. Alec was born in Singapore and the twins didn't come long after then but then I dedicated my time to the children. I now work 2 times a week to Make a Wish Foundation as a volunteer.

Ismael - I am in business, I work for a food company called ADM. I am responsible for Europe. The food company makes a broad range of ingredients. We source things like corn and wheat and produce them into flour etc. When you buy your bread or energy bar, all these have bits and pieces of what we made! We are one of the largest agro food companies in the world, shipping a whole range of ingredients worldwide.

“For those 3 months of quarantine, the children had never had such good grades because they were at home. Ismael was able to help them with their finance and accounting and Petra helped them with their French. The silver lining of this difficult time.”

We want to honour our alumni couples whose experiences will forever be linked to Kensington School.

Did you meet at Kensington School? Did you marry your childhood sweetheart? Get in touch: [email protected]