During our pre-departure informational sessions, a common theme was ‘your relationship isn’t going to survive this experience,’ which was pretty intimidating. It made me question what I wanted out of my study abroad trip, how a relationship would affect my decisions, and why I was dating my boyfriend in the first place. All the student advisors told us ‘you don’t want a boyfriend when you are there,’ ‘we only lasted a month,’ or ‘after two years of dating we made it through the entire trip and broke up right after I returned home.’
So I want to convey this message to anyone thinking about studying abroad and staying in their relationship: you can do it.
The gift Kristofer sent me all the way in London, for my 23rd birthday.
About Surviving a Relationship Abroad
Once I return home I will be an official UF grad. Though I’ve already completed my degree, I petitioned for additional time to complete a minor, which allowed me to study abroad and receive financial aid. In another semester, Kristofer will be moving someplace to finish his final graduate year on the job. When I asked him, “do you want to date me when I’m studying abroad,” we had a little panic.
In December (you know, next month) I’ll have no school and no job and that’s a little bit of a life crisis for me. As of now, I plan on going home and trying to start my own business. In four more months, Kristofer will be moving to some unknown location. If he follows his current career aspirations, he’ll be as far away as Alaska! What were we doing with our lives? Why were we dating, if our lives seem to be going in completely different directions? It didn’t seem logical to date when I’d be off in London, if only because it didn’t seem logical to be dating in the first place. All seemed lost.
What changed were our outlooks on the situation. Nothing in life comes easy… and sometimes you’ll have to work harder than other times. Really it all stemmed from a conversation he had with his mother, and the inspiration she provided. In the end, we make each other happy. Studying abroad, and being 4,000+ miles away, promised to provide a challenge – but it wasn’t so much about being together while I was in London. It was about wanting to be together after I returned from London.
Got myself a churro because I was out at a market and it just reminded me of Kristofer!
Addressing My Fears
When it comes to studying abroad, I wanted to live in a big city, have an awesome internship, and travel as much as possible. Is the idea of finding some cute British guy fun? Yes, but it’s a romantic, impractical idea that I just had no interest in pursuing. Maybe British boys aren’t as cute as movies and TV portray them, but it’s probably just that when you’re with someone you really love as a person, it’s difficult for anyone else to even compare. Honestly, aware of all the reasons I am with Kristofer, being away from him really just makes me even more appreciative of these qualities as I am surrounded by less mature individuals. Studying abroad isn’t about the boys, it’s about the experiences – and I’m lucky for that, since the boys really are disappointing.
Overall, being in a relationship doesn’t affect my decisions one bit. Kristofer and I don’t schedule Skype dates. If we want to talk, we’ll call the other person and see if they are available. We’ll text each other little thoughts or laughs or pictures throughout the day, when we have time. But we don’t let it get in the way of anything. What’s more important is experiencing everything we have the opportunity to. Relationships are about supporting each other throughout it all and we have to understand that life happens – not everything can be planned out. If I was going to FaceTime with Kristofer and I get invited out to a music show, I go to the show and text Kristofer that I can talk after, if he’s still free. If Kristofer is going to dinner with friends and then a party after, he doesn’t put his plans on hold so we can chat. Maybe he’ll call me from the party and let me say hello with my friends, even!
I’m dating Kristofer because he’s sweet, understanding, funny… and I love him. Study abroad doesn’t affect that, why was I worried?
Traveling together in Nashville last Spring.
Three Months In
The biggest reason it’s so easy to be with Kristofer while I’m abroad is because he is especially understanding and secure in our relationship. When it comes to being in London, Kristofer is 100% supportive of me doing everything with my flatmates. And while this includes going out and being hit on, I just don’t find that I have any desire to be with anyone else. If I’m sad, he’s there for me and the same is true vice versa. There’s no jealousy, even when I tease him, “Well I didn’t find any cute guys to make out with tonight. :(” or tell him that I watched How I Met Your Mother with another guy!
Is it difficult not sleeping next to the person you’ve become accustomed to? Do you just want someone to take you out on a romantic date that is particularly full of chocolate delights? Yes and yes. It’s just a new challenge you have a overcome, something you become used to. The great thing is you have your return home to look forward to, even as you wish you had more time to travel and experience London! If you’re lucky, you even have a visit to look forward to (and hopefully that chocolatey, romantic date).
Silly photo I took (borrowing my friend’s arm) to send to Kristofer when I was in Paris.
It’s Better Than You Think
Long distance relationships remind you that you are an independent person, improve trust within a relationship, and give you both room to grow and self actualize. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, after all!