Long distance relationships (LDRs) are always tricky. I was in one during all 4 years of college. I’m dating my best friend, Andrew, whom I met during my junior year of high school, and after graduation we both realized “hey, I think I like you more than a friend.” Which led us to the bright idea of thinking we could handle a LDR while I was at school in Portland, OR and he was at school in Terre Haute, IN. Hah! Great decision.
Through visits back home to Hawaii, to meeting up in Portland, Terre Haute, San Diego, LA, and San Antonio; countless late night phone calls, millions of text messages, attempted weekly Skype dates, etc., we somehow made it. So when I got accepted to study abroad in Italy, I thought, “We’re already in a LDR, what difference does it make?” Boy, was I wrong. Studying abroad while being in an already LDR put a huge strain on our relationship which we are only now, 2 years later, getting over.
Instead of being 3 hours behind Andrew, I was now 6 hours ahead of him. We went from texting all day long, to 1 or 2 texts per day because of international fees, lack of internet, and the fact that we were both so busy. My routine changed entirely, going from being in class all day, working, and playing softball, to being in Siena, exploring the city top to bottom, eating endless amounts of delicious foods, drinking all the wine at my disposal, etc. Andrew’s routine hadn’t changed at all, except for the fact that school got harder, baseball got more stressful, and he ended up spending more time with his friends because he didn’t have me to talk to as much (also a good thing). Being in Siena brought both the best and worst out of the both us individually and as a couple.
Most college couples “take a break” if one person goes abroad for a semester. Usually, the person leaving says something like “I want to use this time to find myself and not be tied down, etc.” Sure, I had my doubts and felt like this too, but I couldn’t bear the thought of no longer being a part of Andrew’s life. If you’re a brave soul trying to survive this equally amazing and horrible time in your life, here’s some advice:
Snail mail works best. I wish Andrew and I had done more of this. The few times that we did write to each other, I enjoyed just sitting down and telling him all about my life through pen and paper. This allowed for no interruptions and for me to just reflect on my time abroad while simultaneously showing him that I missed him.
Understand that the person abroad is going through some huge life changes, and be supportive. Also, be supportive of the changes the person back home is going through. Although I’m guilty of this, I hate it when couples break up and say it’s because “They’ve changed,” of course we’ve changed. We change everyday, if I was the same person I was in high school, I would not want to date me. Overall, it is important to let your significant other know that you’re there for them and that you miss them, no matter how busy you both are.
Make time for Skype. Even if you hardly have any internet, if the person means enough to you, you can spend an hour per week talking face-to-face over Skype. I hardly had internet so this was very hard for us to deal with. On Valentine’s Day, Andrew was thoughtful and sweet enough to send me a USB with videos on it: one saying good morning, one saying good night, one telling me he misses me, and one explaining what we’d do if he had the chance to take me on a date that evening. Corny yes, but so so adorable!
Let them know you care. While I was abroad, one of the biggest issues Andrew had was thinking that I was having all this fun without him. Time and time again, I tried so hard to let him know how much I wished he was there with me. This is true because I can recall having the best days of my life, and suddenly getting incredibly sad because I just wanted to share that experience with Andrew. For example, the first time I stepped foot on the Roman Ruins, I actually teared up standing in front of something so immensely incredible, then I cried more wishing Andrew could be there. Or when I was getting lost in Venice, finding all these narrow streets and admiring the people on gondolas, I immediately said to myself, that I needed to come back with Andrew. Essentially, I felt all of these emotions, but I never bothered to let Andrew know how I felt, so it’s important to share these feelings with your significant other and just let them know that they are loved and missed.
I’m happy to report that we made it and are now living together in our cozy apartment in downtown Indianapolis, IN with our golden retriever puppy named Chipper. Andrew is happy for me and knows that I had the time of my life while in Siena, and I appreciate his support more than words can say. As similar as we are – both stubborn as hell; lovers of baseball, puppies, pizza, and ice cream; etc. – we have some major differences, too. For example, he has roots while I have wings and we somehow manage to grow a liking to these differences and accept them. Looking back now, I realize that I did in fact find myself while I was abroad, even if I was “tied down,” I found my passion for travel and different cultures, so it’s definitely possible to travel abroad and maintain a LDR.