Going Abroad? But what about your significant other!

By Alicja Banasiak, University of California Santa Cruz, US

Can a long-distance relationship work? Well, I’d say yes. Before coming to the US, I was dating my boyfriend for a couple of months. We entered the relationship knowing that I was going to study abroad the following year.

Tip number one: don’t keep the fact that you want to or are going to study abroad a secret. It may be tough to bring it up at first, but your partner should be accepting and supportive of your decision to study abroad. So after you tell your partner, you may not speak about it until it actually happens. But closer to the time of your departure, you will likely both feel it creeping up, and that’s when it’s good to talk about how you will manage a long-distance relationship.

Tip number two: have a plan in place! There are probably still a lot of unknowns at this point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan out dates. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Watch movies and series together.
  • Cook together.
  • Build Lego sets together.
  • Go on walks and talks.
  • Engage in drawing.
  • Read books together.

So, you have a plan or at least ideas of what you and your partner can do. But what if there’s a significant time difference? Well, unfortunately, I can only speak for the American to UK time difference of 8+ hours. It is definitely a little awkward to work with. So, tip number three: compromise for maximum calling time. For example, I get up early (7 am) to call my boyfriend, and he stays up late (until midnight) to call me.

Tip number four: exchange going-away gifts for each other. This can include pieces of clothing, photo albums, and playlists. My boyfriend was very upset about my leaving, so I gave him a jar with little notes, each one stating a reason why I love him, and he has one for every day I am gone. Another good idea is to write letters (digital or paper) for different feelings your partner may experience while you’re away. For example, a letter for when they are missing you, feeling sad, or stressed. Your partner will be able to open them and read them for comfort whenever you may not be available.

Finally, you may not be able to visit each other much while studying abroad. I was only able to go home for Christmas during my entire year abroad. Despite that, there’s just a little over two months left of my study abroad, and I feel like our relationship hasn’t faltered at all. The physical distance is definitely hard, and it’s really sad sometimes, but knowing you can speak to them frequently and having ideas of what to do while you call keeps the relationship alive. Your relationship will be indestructible after this period abroad; surviving long distance is one of the toughest challenges in a relationship. It takes a lot of comforting words, effort, and trust between you and your partner to keep the love alive, but if there’s a will, there’s a way!

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