Advice For Maintaining A Serious Relationship While Abroad

Making the decision to study abroad forces you to ask TONS of questions, from where to go, what to pack, and how on earth do I fill out this visa application!? I want to address one question that I, and tons of other couples, asked before studying abroad: how do I maintain my serious relationship? A lot of people recommend being single or in a no-strings attached kind of relationship while you are gone. But during my semester at sea, I worked to maintain a serious relationship with my boyfriend of three years. It definitely was not easy to be so far from my boyfriend for so long, but it was not impossible. Maintaining a long-distance relationship while studying abroad can be incredibly rewarding.

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The first, and probably most important thing to remember is, it will not be easy. Going an extended period of time with no physical contact with your significant other can be so difficult for a lot of couples. Inconveniences like international calling fees, different time zones, limited internet access, and some days, keeping your relationship going might feel impossible.

The hardest part is the adjustment period. When you first arrive in a new country, you will feel a lot of mixed emotions, which are only complicated by your long-distance relationship. One thing I wish I had done to make adjusting a little easier for me was to bring photos and small mementos from your significant other. Little things will be the first things you start to miss in your new home country, so bringing a small stuffed animal, jewelry, or other reminders of your S.O. can help to ease the longing.

Remember that their life is going on too. It can be so hard to separate yourself from all the new things you are experiencing, all the excitement, stress, and culture shock, that it can be easy to forget that while you are strolling down La Rambla or hiking up mountains in Ecuador, your significant other is still on the other side of the world in Calculus class or reading Gilgamesh. Make sure to ask about their day and the adventures that they are having too. They may not seem as fun or meaningful as yours, but they have to do what they can to find excitement while seeing pictures of yours.

Being open with your significant other about your fears and expectations while you are gone is key if you want to successfully maintain your relationship with as little stress as possible. Stress in this kind of situation is inevitable, but not unmanageable. Discuss every detail, from how you will maintain communication to worries to how you might handle supporting one another in the event of an emergency. Just like at home, communication is key.

Take it easy and stay true to yourself. To be honest, a long distance relationship does not work for every couple, and that is totally okay. For some couples, it may be best to take a break while you are studying abroad. For others, an open relationship works perfectly well. It all depends on what your significant other and you want. You shouldn’t feel obligated to make a relationship work, or take a break, especially if you feel that it is making you miss out on some aspect of your experience.

My boyfriend and I have been together for three years now, and spending four months overseas and away from him was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. Through all the hardship though, came many great rewards. This experience reminded us of the importance of being independent and making sure we know who we are independently before finding ourselves as a collective unit. The experience also proved to us that we are able to handle being apart for extended periods of time, which to us, is very important.

Most people say to be single while traveling so you can “find yourself”. I say, if you have a meaningful relationship in your life, and know that you want to make it work, then put in the effort to maintain it. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Nothing feels better than that moment you see your boyfriend or girlfriend after several long months and wrap your arms around them. Maintaining a serious, long-distance relationship is a lot of work and it isn’t for the faint-hearted (no pun intended), but doing so successfully can be so rewarding and make your relationship that much more meaningful.

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Allyson is a junior at the University of Akron in Ohio, USA. She is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in media production with a minor in anthropology. Allyson kicked off her dream of traveling around the world with Semester at Sea during the Fall 2016 Voyage. She visited 11 countries throughout Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Some of her life goals include road-tripping the entire length of the Pan-American Highway and living on a kibbutz in Israel. Her dream career is to travel around the world making documentaries. To her, the best parts of traveling are learning new things from other people, and constantly hunting for the best cup of coffee in the entire world.

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