Navigating the Rocky Terrain: Studying Abroad while in a Long-Distance Relationship
Maddie, Paris, Fall 2019
January 16, 2020

Before coming to Paris, my biggest anxiety wasn’t the language barrier I’d surely encounter with my mediocre french-speaking skills nor was it the fact that I was moving 6,000 miles away from my family and friends at my home university. Rather, my biggest apprehension surrounded my relationship– fearful that studying abroad and moving away from my partner inevitably meant breaking up.

Somewhat comforting, however, was discovering that I was not alone in this worry, in fact it’s one of the most googled questions about studying abroad! “Studying abroad in a relationship” I would type into the search bar, and I’d continue to press the enter key. I clicked on the first article and that sense of comfort morphed into a perturbing sadness! I’d scroll through article after article: each one reiterating how difficult long-distance relationships are, and how, often, many people studying abroad should not be “tied down” to their partner at home. The thing that upset me most was that these articles weren’t written by adults or people who worked for some study abroad company, but past college students who wrote from their own personal experience.

I’d cry to my boyfriend, telling him how it felt like I had to choose between staying with him and pursuing my dream of living in Paris. He, being a bit older and wiser, would always reassure me that it’d be fine, but I didn’t believe him. I was convinced by the numerous articles that we, no matter how happy we are, were doomed to break up after I moved!

Now, I’m in Paris. The semester is halfway over and *spoiler alert* . . . we’re still together! Despite the ocean between us, we continually prove those articles wrong everyday by staying committed to our relationship. So, here are my recommendations for those of you, future study-abroad students, having the same relationship worries I did:

Make time for each other . . . despite the time difference

My boyfriend and I are dealing with a seven hour time difference right now, and I’m not going to lie, it does suck. It’s hard because when you are available to talk, he might be asleep! Or, when he is at home ready to tell you about his day, you might be out exploring your new city, or in french class. Anyways, the point is, yes, the time difference will be hard and can tear you apart, but only if you let it. The key to making it work is finding a consistent schedule that works for the both of you. This might mean a quick 15 minute phone call when he is driving to work and you’re at a cafe, or you waking up a bit earlier to sneak in a conversation before he goes to bed. It’s crucial that you keep communicating and be willing to make compromises. If there are days where you know you’ll not be able to talk, be considerate and let them know! This goes both ways; there will be times where you have free time (rare when studying abroad), and you’ll call and find out that he already has plans. Respect your partner’s time too, and realize that their life can’t revolve around your study abroad schedule.

Take pictures of things that you think your partner would love! My boyfriend rides a sports bike, so I thought he’d find this pink one interesting!

Be spontaneous!

In the age of facetime, snapchat, instagram, etc. Long-distance couples are lucky to have various modes of communication available to keep things interesting! Send pictures of the new pastry you had for breakfast! Send videos of yourself being silly at the bar with friends. Tag them in your favorite memes on IG. Whatever it is, there’s more to long-distance communication than the regular phone call or good morning text. You could also try out writing (yes, writing) letters and mailing them. While admittedly it’s cheesy and may seem archaic to some, there’s something so romantic about receiving a physical letter from your partner unexpectedly! Also, try to share experiences with your partner despite the distance. Recently I visited Ireland and went to the Cliffs of Moher. They were stunningly gorgeous and so so surreal! I decided to facetime my boyfriend, right then and there, on top of the cliffs, to show him the view and experience it with him. Although he wasn’t physically there, it meant a lot to be able to share the excitement and emotions of an experience with the person I love.

Cliffs of Moher

Take this time to grow independently

Yes, being apart from your partner will absolutely be difficult, you will miss them immensely, and will find yourself lonely at times . . . but realize that this is a learning journey not only for the both of you, but for your relationship. Reframe your perspective; instead of the distance pulling the two of you apart, imagine that through this experience, your relationship will grow stronger. Being 6,000 miles away from someone and still wanting to put in the effort to keep them in your life means something, so push through and with some effort and a positive mindset, you’ll find that you and your love for each other will grow.

My boyfriend sent me a care package including my favorite snacks, jewelry, and other goodies! It was so sweet!

Maddie was a fall 2019 student from the University of Missouri.

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