Perhaps you are currently planning your Year Abroad that you’re embarking on this summer. Perhaps you’re already doing it and are fast approaching the halfway mark. Perhaps you have friend setting off soon who keeps pestering you for advice. Regardless, if you are in a committed relationship (or know someone who is!) then this guide is for you.
Everybody knows that long-distance relationships are difficult – there is no questioning that fact. There will undoubtedly be people around you that think you’re deluded for even attempting to maintain a relationship while on your Year Abroad (YA). Well, these top tips are here to help you prove those people wrong.
Lay down some ground rules
It is always a good idea to do this before you move away. Be clear on what you expect from each other during these next few months. How often will you Skype? How will you communicate otherwise? Are there times when you might be difficult to reach? Knowing each other’s schedules can be useful in this regard and avoid confusion and frustration later down the line.
Ensure that you don’t rely totally on your partner
It is not healthy to rely heavily on just one person as you embark on this exciting yet challenging adventure. Whether you keep in regular contact with your friends, your family or even tutors at the university, try to avoid always depending on your partner for support. It can put a lot of pressure on that person and result in a strained one-sided relationship. Balance is key here.
Something that I’ve found to be a big help is planning things to look forward to in the future. If you are based in Europe on your YA, it might be organising visits to each other or trips you are going to take. If you are living further afield, in South America for example, you might like to plan what you are going to do together upon your return in the summer. Whether you plan a big holiday or a small activity to do, having things to look forward to together and a goal to aim towards can really help during those difficult times.
Be honest about how you’re feeling
It is counter-productive to keep your emotions bottled up at a time like this. It’s best to share all your feelings, both the good and the bad, with your partner. Unless you speak up about your uncertainties, your other half cannot be there to reassure you. Remember it’s okay not to feel completely happy and secure in your relationship while you’re apart, but keeping quiet about it will amplify the issue.
Try and keep things interesting. Send each other letters and postcards from time to time (I mean, who doesn’t love to receive post?!). Talk about completely random or mundane, everyday things to draw away from how much you miss each other. Surprise him/her with a small gift or a last-minute visit. Organise long-distance dates – watch the same movie at the same time or each go for a walk while having a video call.
Keep each other in the loop
You don’t have to inform your partner of your every move, but trying to keep each other in the loop about what you’re up to will avoid unnecessary worry and suspicion. This also helps you to still feel part of each other’s lives.
Always keep in mind that this is not forever – you have an end goal to aim for and you can get there. It is important that you both try not to dwell on the bad bits too much (being apart, missing each other, feeling lonely etc.) and focus on all the great things that are happening in your lives. Look forward to the amazing future you are going to share and try to make the best of this time apart. This is a great opportunity to focus on yourself and gain some valuable life experience.
Wessex Scene has been able to catch up with a few students who are currently on their Years Abroad to see how they’ve been managing their long-distance relationships.
Kirsten Robinson, a third-year French and Spanish student told us that ‘Skype has been a massive life saver’ and that when her fiancé came to visit, ‘we made a big deal out of it and tried to do something every day rather than just chill around the house; it meant we got to make some lovely memories and made the week feel longer‘. According to Kirsten, sending Conner photos of what she is up to, be that sightseeing or just a meal out with friends, as opposed to just telling him about it, makes it easier for him to feel part of what is going on in her life.
After having to spend three months away from her boyfriend at the beginning of her Year Abroad, third-year Modern Languages student Chelsea Spillane says planning the next time you see each other is super important, ‘because not knowing, that uncertainty, sucks’.
For third-year Spanish and Portuguese student Joãozinho Da Silva, it is surprise visits that can work wonders in a long-distance relationship, for ‘nothing will make the other person smile more than you unexpectedly being at their door with a suitcase at 8am looking like a zombie due to the exhausting what felt like an eternity on a plane and various coach journeys’. He also highlights the importance of being open about issues that you might have and not bottling up your feelings, because it will only lead to arguments, that are difficult to resolve when you’re apart.
Well, there you have it. It is important to bear in mind that if your relationship can survive distance, there is very little it can’t survive! You will learn to appreciate each other so much more and this experience will make you truly cherish the time you do spend together. Plus, think of the satisfaction you will feel being able to say ‘I told you so’ to all those doubters!