I was actually asked to write this post a while ago by someone who was thinking of doing a year abroad, but it appears that I am a bad person and so it’s taken me several months to actually follow through with it. But better late than never I guess? Well that’s up to you I suppose.
Of course I am no expert on relationships, to be honest, I refuse to believe that anybody is. However, as someone who has been in a long distance relationship over their year abroad, this post is not only something I would have liked to read a year ago myself, but hopefully it can be helpful to anyone in the same situation as the person who asked me to write it.
I had always known that I was going to do a year abroad since I started university. From the get-go, I knew it was a compulsory part of the course, so it became a sort of ticking time bomb. One that I was simultaneously welcoming and dreading. Admittedly, I spent a bit of time googling ‘will my relationship survive my year abroad?‘ and quite frankly, the search results were pretty bleak. Not that I am quite so am quite so invested in technology that I would base my future on a google result, but naturally I was worried. Getting through the first two years at different universities had been testing enough, how were we going to manage living in two separate countries? Nevertheless, it was going to happen whether I liked it or not, so it happened. And here I am on the other side. We survived guys!
It’s taken me a while to consider how to actually go about writing this post without coming across like some pretentious relationship coach. So I thought the most logical, and least patronising way would be to talk about some of the things that I faced, or you can expect to face when studying abroad.
You are going to miss your partner, a lot
This one goes without saying and yet here I am saying it. Because really, it was the main thing for me. I was fairly adjusted to being away from my boyfriend, but there is something distinctly different about being in another country, even if I was just over the pond in France. The fact is, you’re not just seeing each other on weekends, you’re actually not seeing each other for weeks at a time. I think the longest period I went without seeing my boyfriend was six weeks, but most of the time I was lucky and got to see him every month, however I know many people who have had to go much longer. Obviously, the amount you see each other is going to vary massively depending on what country you’re in, and this might even be something you want to take into consideration when choosing your destination, but no matter how close you are on the scale of the earth, it’s never going to feel that close unless you’re actually together.
In this situation the best thing both of you can do is to keep busy. For the person on their year abroad, it’s the time to make the most of exploring a new destination, meeting as many people and doing as many things as possible. For the person at home, they can really invest their time in their friendships, work, university, family, or whatever’s important to them in their life. You both have the time to develop yourselves and your lives outside of your relationship, which of course is a really good thing. Whilst on a year abroad, it’s so important to make the most of it because trust me, it will be over before you know it.
There is likely to be more jealously
You don’t have to be a jealous person to feel a bit put out when you aren’t so involved with your partner’s life as you were before. When you live in different countries, particularly if one of you moves to a country with a vastly different culture to your own, you are both going to be living completely different and very separate lives. This is something that can be pretty hard to get your head around, particularly for the person who is left at home. The reality is that you probably won’t know that much about your partner’s new friends, city and day to day lifestyle, because it’s just not possible to relay every single detail about your life when you aren’t seeing each other all the time. Not only this, but constantly hearing about your partner’s amazing new life and adventures whilst you’re back in your home town can become a little testing, even when you’re happy for them. It’s hard to feel connected when your lives are so far apart from each other.
I feel like the main way to tackle this is simply by giving reassurance. We all like to dig around for a little bit of reassurance now and then, and there’s nothing better than when your partner just gives you a little reminder of what you mean to them. I definitely ramped this up whilst I was away, because I knew how much I would want it if the roles were reversed. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly go on about it, but I think it’s really important to just make it clear to them. To be honest, if you really want it to work in your own mind, then you’ll probably find this comes to you fairly naturally anyway.
Communication won’t be easy
So this one does largely differ depending on where you are on your year abroad. I was in France, so I was only dealing with a one hour time difference and I had all the same technology that I had at home. This isn’t the case if you move to the other side of the world (which many people do), with time differences and lack of internet or technology making things much more difficult. In the age where constant communication is pretty much expected, what are you meant to do when your partner is asleep for the majority of your day? Or simply when you both have really busy lives?
This is where you have to plan. Without wanting to sound like the fun-police, a little bit of scheduling never hurt nobody. You can decide how often you will be able to realistically message, phone or FaceTime, and from there, try to set a time and day to do it. Obviously you don’t want to be compromising your year abroad to stay in on FaceTime all the time, so like I said be realistic. But if you take the time out once or twice a week to have a proper face to face (well, through a computer screen) chat, then that will feel much more meaningful than a few texts here and there, even if they are more frequent. I know, I know, how would we have coped back in the day when there wasn’t any internet? The answer is I honestly have no idea. Why don’t you ask a real expert.
You will need to compromise
Although I said you don’t want to be compromising your year abroad, there probably will be some instances where a bit of compromise is involved. Obviously you’re going to want to be out there doing your thing whilst on you’re away, settling into a new country can be so hectic that it feels like you don’t even have time to sit down, especially at the beginning, and this undoubtedly can put some strain on the relationship. There are most likely going to be times when you have a conflict of interests, I mean, thats normal for anyone even if they live in the same house, never mind different countries. At times, certain things will be more important in your partners head than yours, and vice versa, and being so far away can make it really hard to get someone to understand your point of view.
Compromise (to a normal degree) can be really important when you’re living away from each other. It’s a way of keeping both parties happy and I guess a way of opening up communication more, which is definitely really important in this situation as well. My boyfriend and I used to meet in the middle when it came to visiting each other, with him coming to me a few times and me coming to him a few times (obviously this is all subjective depending on where you are). This meant it wasn’t too one-sided and we met somewhere in the middle. Voilà. Compromise.
You’re going to miss out on things
Technology is very advanced nowadays, but unfortunately not so advanced that you can be in two places at once. So inevitably, you’re going to miss out on things that you usually share with your partner whilst on your year abroad. Birthdays are a big one, I was really sad that I couldn’t come home for my boyfriend’s birthday this year, because it just felt so wrong not being there. This is part and parcel of a year abroad. When you sign up to move to another country, you realise that you can’t just nip home whenever you want, so you and your partner will have to experience a lot of things separately, which can be a pretty big shock to the system.
There’s not really loads you can do about this because like I said, it’s just something that you sign up for when you move away. It’s more about the way you think about it. The main thing that I always thought to myself was that however long we were apart, its wasn’t really that long on the scale of things. And the situation of living away from each other wasn’t really either. I mean, if you plan to stay together, then a year actually isn’t a long time at all in terms of your whole life. The situation you’re in is very temporary, so you will miss out on things, but it won’t be long before it’s all over and you’re back to normal, wondering what all the fuss was about.
So, the question remains, can your relationship really survive a year abroad? Well, the short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes, but it’s dependant on a whole host of different factors. At the end of the day, everyone’s experience is going to be different and it isn’t going to work for everybody, but there are definitely ways that it can work. I did it, and I know plenty of others who have too. Nobody is going to pretend that it won’t be difficult, but hey, nothing worth having comes easy…
Oh come on, you didn’t seriously think I could end a post about relationships without a cliché did you?