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Portuguese student gains agricultural experience – and his life partner – in North Dakota

The following story appeared in the Grand Forks Herald's Winter Wedding Guide, published in the Dec. 18 edition of the Herald.

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Cristiano Costa and Abby Lund posed for a photo at the spot in Turtle River State Park where he proposed to her Jan. 1, 2021. Cristiano, who is from Portugal, and Abby, who grew up on Grand Forks, are planning an April 2, 2022 wedding at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in East Grand Forks. (Photo courtesy of MJW Photography)

When Cristiano Costa decided to surprise Abby Lund with a marriage proposal last winter, he knew the perfect spot to pop the big question.

For years, when Abby was a girl, her grandfather Duane Cariveau would take her and her two younger siblings hiking at Turtle River State Park every Sunday. It was a ritual Abby loved.

“On the way out of town, we’d stop at a gas station on DeMers and buy Little Debbies or whatever candy we could get,” Abby recalled.

They made the trip weekly, year-round without fail, “whenever it wasn’t below zero,” said the daughter of John and Kathy Lund of Grand Forks.

It was a natural setting that Abby grew to cherish, and even more so after her grandfather died when she was 8.

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When she began dating Cristiano Costa, about three years ago, she told him about those special times.

So, on Jan. 1 of this year, Cristiano suggested a hike at Turtle River State Park and arranged for Abby’s parents and siblings to join them. Her family – but not Abby – knew what to expect.

The park “is a very special place for her family,” he said. There, near a small waterfall, Cristiano knelt and proposed.

“We were both crying. I could barely talk,” he said. He isn’t completely sure what he said, but “I think I said something like she was the person that I would want to have next to me for the rest of my life – and, yup, she said yes.”

Abby is less sure of what she said at the time, but “I think I just started nodding my head, I was so overwhelmed.”

In his plans to marry, Cristiano had honored the timeworn tradition of asking her parents first. As nervous as he was about proposing to Abby, “it took me awhile to build up enough courage to ask her parents. ... And I have to confess, I was more nervous to ask her parents than I was to ask Abby, because I knew that Abby was going to say yes, but I was not sure about her parents,” he said with a laugh.

From Portugal

Cristiano came to North Dakota a few years ago after finishing his undergraduate degree in agricultural engineering in Portugal, as part of a nine-month internship program. He worked for a farmer near Lakota and went on to earn a master’s degree in precision agriculture at NDSU.

Cristiano, who “had always wanted to be a pilot,” he said, earned his private and commercial pilot licenses, which opened the door to precision agricultural engineering. He works with Brekke Aviation, based in Edmore, N.D.

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After they met online about three years ago, it didn’t take long for Cristiano, 25, and Abby, 22, to get pretty serious.

At first, Cristiano was impressed because “Abby is blond, very pretty, very smart,” he said. By the time their first date was over, “I was pretty committed at that point. ... I knew right away. She didn’t,” he said with a chuckle.

“She’s so smart and very honest, too. She’s a lot better person than I am. She really makes me grow up.”

Abby said: “I just thought he was very sweet. He always would pay attention to any details that I told him. So, I had told him that my favorite candy was Milky Ways and on our first date he brought a bunch of those, and he knew my favorite flower was roses, so he brought me a bunch of roses. He was really sweet.”

A drive to serve others

Abby, a 2017 graduate of Red River High School and a December 2021 UND graduate with a double-major in biology and Spanish, is heading for a career in medicine. She will begin studies at the UND medical school in July.

She credits her grandmother, Mary Cariveau, a retired psychiatric nurse in Grand Forks, for influencing her interest in psychology and psychiatry. Abby is interested in psychiatry but is also open to pulmonology and geriatrics. For the past several years, she’s worked with elderly populations in Grand Forks as a certified nurse assistant and a certified medication aide.

“(Geriatrics) is a field that’s often overlooked,” she said, “and I think that caring for people who’ve been caring for us for all their lives is a really important thing to do.”

With UND professors, she has conducted research on the lungs, colon and Alzheimer’s disease.

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“One thing that I was also raised with was the drive to serve others. My grandpa used to say we are here to serve; so servitude is one big thing that I love about medicine,” Abby said. “(Also) I’ve always loved science. I’ve always been a very curious person. As a doctor, you always have to keep up to date on knowledge, and you learn every day in multiple different ways.”

Abby and Cristiano are planning an April 2, 2022, wedding at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where Abby’s great-grandparents, John and Millie Cariveau, were married.

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