I'm not new to long-distance dating. I'd already done it for three semesters, attending school in Connecticut while my love stayed in Florida. We see each other quite often, once every month normally, and live together over breaks from school. By this time, I figured we'd nailed it and a semester abroad in Chile would be a piece of cake.
But there's something about being away that brings up tumultuous emotions and strikes homesickness in even the most independent of hearts. Interestingly, the majority of the participants in my program are in relationships from back home, ranging from a couple months to 6+ years. We discuss our relationships often and how we wish our significant others were here to watch us grow in this new environment. Frankly, I'm surprised so many of us even got this far in terms of being committed during study abroad — a grave mistake for the average college student.
After all, studying abroad is when you're supposed to open yourself to the world and meet new people, falling in love with an enticingly accented foreigner and dancing under the stars...or more accurately, in the hot sweaty clubs. There are different ways to view your at-home relationship and everyone I've met has dealt with it in different ways. Some of us have yet to begin missing our partners, while others are tethered to text messages as a connection of comfort. Some of us have asked for open relationships, while others remain steadfast in their commitment. Below are some tips I've learned from all of our experiences.
If you are in a relationship and considering studying abroad, here are some recommendations.
1. Be open about your study abroad journey every step of the way. Consider how your partner reacts to your decision, or even contemplation, to study abroad. If you feel that it is the best choice for you and your independent growth, they should always be supportive and react with pride and joy — albeit already beginning to miss you. If their immediate reaction is selfish, consider why they're inhibiting your growth.
2. Plan out any potential visits far ahead of time. It gives you something tangible to look forward to and best of all, you'll have the opportunity to share your new life with them. This is important for making them feel included in your journey. My boyfriend is coming in May and I couldn't be more excited — we're going trekking in Torres del Paine! Moreover, I'm eager to show him my daily life, my favorite park, my yoga studio, my coffee shop of choice. Of course, the cost of an international flight is a privilege that not everyone will get to partake in. Even so, integrate them into your life by sending lots of pictures, packages with postcards and your favorite snacks, and even having your friends meet them through Facetime or Skype.
3. Figure out how you're going to communicate. How's the WiFi situation on both ends? Will you have a local SIM card, or have an international plan? Are you going by the ear, or is a strict phone schedule important to you? Should calls take precedence over last-minute nights out with friends? Before you leave, download WhatsApp or WeChat, or use Facebook Messenger to call your partner. If you're not on WiFi, Facetime uses up international phone minutes while the others use data! There's also a website called Rabbit where you can sync devices through screen-sharing and have a cozy Netflix date from thousands of miles away.
4. Discuss physical and emotional boundaries. Some couples may want to revisit the default rules of their relationship, to better contextualize it for their new dynamic depending on the needs of each partner. Have this conversation openly and respectfully. The only way LDR functions well is constant, truthful and uninhibited communication with all parties.
5. Don't tether yourself to your phone! While communication is important, you ARE in a new country experiencing new things in life. If your partner truly cares about your needs, they'll understand. After all, you're likely to do this once in your life. Make it count.
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<p>Annie Cheng is a sophomore at Yale University studying political science and ethnic studies. She speaks 2.5 languages, listens to jazz and hip hop, and is currently residing in Santiago, Chile. Her passions include journalism, environmentalism, and supporting the arts. By the end of her studies, she hopes to confidently claim trilingualism.</p>