When moving abroad to study, students face the challenge of leaving behind their family, friends, and sometimes, their significant others. While for some the distance is too much, others decide to give their relationship a try, seeing the distance as a challenge that can make them stronger. With the technology of the 21st century, it’s easier to keep in touch, but is that enough? Three students share their stories, the struggles, the rewards and what it takes to make it work.
Alexandra Joon, 24, The Netherlands
Alexandra’s boyfriend, Ben, is 28 and is from England. They have been together for a year and seven months.
˝We met through Tinder when I was studying in Oxford, before I left to do my internship in Cape Town. At first we didn’t talk about me leaving, but then we decided that what we have is valuable and that we shouldn’t let it go, and now we’ve been together for a year and seven months. He’s from Britain. We knew it was going to be difficult because we come from different cultures and we don’t live in the same country. We had to get used to talking on the phone or Skype and we’ve come to the habit of calling each other every evening.
“Sometimes we even watch movies together through Skype. The other day, for example, we were watching Mr. Robot, each on their own laptop with a little icon of the other person in the corner. What I like is that we both have our dreams and don’t limit each other in fulfilling them. You learn to appreciate each other more because of the distance and you try to spend every moment together when you can. I also learned that it’s not easy to love someone and to always feel loved when you are not together. But I do see distance as an opportunity to keep reinventing yourself, and it’s always nice to look forward to seeing each other again.˝
Giacomo Alpiani, 19, Italy
Giacomo’s girlfriend, Silvia, is 19 and is from Italy. They have been together for a year and two months.
˝We’ve known each other since we were little because we went to an international school together in Frankfurt. When we started dating, I moved here and she moved to Italy, so we have been in a long distance relationship from the beginning. Although I think my international background has prepared me for this, I’m still trying to find a balance between my life here and being there with her.
“It’s hard to have arguments over long distance because you often can’t explain your thoughts in the same way, and when you are texting it’s difficult to perceive the other person behind the phone. But when we see each other, we do everything together and try to make every moment precious. For example, the next time we see each other, she is going to come to Frankfurt a few days before her parents, so that we can spend more time together, since we only have the weekend.
“However, we don’t make our life decisions based on the other person, we both think about our individual careers and we’ll see where it goes. At the moment, we make each other happy and that’s all that matters. My parents and friends are also very supportive of this, they want me to be happy and they know I am happy with her.˝
Vera Lanskaya, 21, Russia
Vera’s boyfriend, Dario, is 24 and is from Italy. They have been together for three years.
˝We met on vacation on Malta three years ago, he’s from Italy and I am from Russia. It started as nothing serious, but when we were apart we realized we wanted to see each other again. I went to visit him for the first time when he was studying abroad in Poland, and at that time I thought it was crazy.
“We don’t get to see each other as often as we would like to because I need a visa to go to Europe and he needs a visa for Russia. A lot of people wouldn’t agree to have a long distance relationship, especially from the beginning. For those who consider being in such relationship, I would say it is hard, but it is possible.
“It can be a bit lonely though, especially when you see other couples happy together. Then I wonder why I can’t have that and it makes me text a lot. We are somehow always in the middle of a conversation, so I often reach for my phone to answer a text. I think people should understand this, and not take it personally when I do take out my phone. At the same time, this kind of relationship gives you a lot of freedom and you don’t depend on the person, you are free to do what you want, and still have someone close to you. The most important thing is that we are happy together and that’s the reason we are still together.˝