In August 2013, Corinne was living with her family in north London and working in a dull admin job. “I was playing a lot of video games as an escape,” she says. One day, she was recruited by friends to try a new game with a group of others online. She wasn’t told how it worked and quickly became lost, but got talking to Luke, an American who was struggling with the same game. “While everyone else was slaying dragons, we started talking on voice chat,” he says. They couldn’t see each other’s faces, but Luke liked her accent.
They continued to talk during online gaming sessions and spoke regularly about Luke’s love for British comedy panel shows. “I was living in New York with my family and I was curious about what life was like in the UK. I had a lot of questions,” says Luke, laughing. They built an online friendship, but it wasn’t until the following March that they began to speak on other platforms.
“I went to Hong Kong to visit my grandparents and gave him my email address, so we could talk on Google chat,” she says. In August 2014, exactly a year after they met online, Luke decided to visit London for a two-week holiday. “I couldn’t believe he was really coming, but we agreed to meet up while he was here,” says Corinne. “It felt so familiar straight away,” says Luke. “I hadn’t expected it to be like that, but we’d actually built a certain level of intimacy by chatting online all that time.” A week later, he told Corinne how much he liked her. “I said I had strong feelings and thought it was a shame we were going to be thousands of miles apart.”
They spent the next year talking online; he visited London again and she took a trip to New York. Although they knew they had made an emotional commitment to each other, it felt as though red tape would always keep them apart. “It’s so difficult for British people to work in the US and vice versa. We didn’t know each other well enough to get married, so we felt a bit stuck,” says Corinne.
When Luke was considering applying for master’s degree programmes, Corinne suggested he come to the UK. “It hadn’t crossed my mind, but it seemed like a great idea. At the last minute, I applied to Kingston University to study computer game design.” He moved to London in 2015 and their relationship grew stronger. When his course came to an end, he applied for an entrepreneur visa scheme, which sponsors people to set up a business. “I was making virtual reality video games,” he says. “I worked at the university, too, to make extra money on the side of my startup project.” Meanwhile, Corinne pursued a career in HR. In January 2017, they moved into a shared house, followed by their own place in Surbiton, Kingston upon Thames, a year later.
“Luke’s visa lasted two years, then I was able to sponsor him,” says Corinne. “Immigration has been a big part of our relationship.” In August this year the couple got married, which meant they could travel to the US for the first time in two years. “There was a travel ban for non-US nationals due to the pandemic,” says Corinne. “We’d been planning a big wedding, but in the end we decided to do something quickly so we could travel.” They hopped on a plane to Gibraltar, which was the easiest place to marry. “In the UK, you can have to wait up to 70 days [after giving notice of marriage] to marry a foreign national,” says Luke. “I really wanted to go back and see my family so we sped things up.”
Luke loves his partner’s ambition and the fact she has supported their relationship every step of the way. “I can be scatterbrained, but she had these amazing constructive ideas to keep us together,” he says. “She’s superorganised and found out what visas I could be applying for. Now she inspires me to be my best every day.” Corinne appreciates Luke’s optimism. “He’s so enthusiastic about everything, no matter what it is. He loves nature and is so curious about the world. He makes me strive to be more like that.”