(photo courtesy of www.sodahead.com)
***Disclaimer: This is an editorial piece. The views expressed in this article are solely mine and do not reflect the opinions of guest bloggers or interviewees. My advice may not work for your individual situation. Please read with caution.
You’ve just got accepted into a study abroad program that is going to jump start your career and help you finish core major course requirements- woohoo! But then you remember that you have that special someone to whom you need to break the news that you are going to be in another country for 5 months or more (if going abroad for an academic year). Your first reaction will be to maintain the relationship à la long distance; weekly skyping on a pre-arranged date and time; sending texts and emails throughout the week; running out of class or leaving that social event early because you get that surprise phone call from your sweetie. These are just some of the more common ways that you will try to maintain a long distance romantic relationship with someone in a different time zone. I know this because I did it myself. When I made the decision to study abroad, I had been dating my ex, Peter, for a few years. I, too, had made the decision to embark on a long distance relationship. Looking back, I lost out on so many experiences abroad and also had more severe homesickness because I had a strong emotional anchor (aka Peter) that held me back. If you are going to study abroad for a semester or more, dump him (or her) before going abroad for the following reasons:
1) It’s not going to last: I know that sounds mean but it’s most likely true. The chances of you marrying or becoming the life partner of your 20 year old college sweetie are slim to none. This is completely normal. Over the course of the next few years you will grow and change the qualities that you seek in a mate as you become independent and start to carve out your life. Five to ten months is a long time to not see anyone and when the only thing holding you together is love (or lust) that’s not much to keep a relationship going.
2) Infidelity can be an issue (on either side): When you are away from that special someone for a long time, you will start to miss them and they, you. The missing of that special someone can become a longing for intimacy which may be fulfilled with another person aka cheating. The transition to studying abroad is hard enough without trying to maintain a long distance romance. I found in my study abroad experience that having a boyfriend back home emotionally restricted my involvement in the experience. This romantic connection kept me tied to the phone and email as well as to him instead of freeing up my mind with new experiences and people abroad. I was very committed to maintaining our relationship. When I couldn’t get in contact with Peter and when he expressed physical frustrations, I suspected the worse- and I was right. He was unfaithful; I’m just not sure how long. On your side, you will meet new people in your program and the activities you do (don’t be a hermit like I was- get out and go somewhere!). There is a very good chance that you might charm and be charmed by a native. The natural course of action would be for a relationship of sorts to ensue. If you are still attached, you could find yourself deep in temptation to cheat (and yes it counts).
3) It’s not time or cost effective. Communicating to that special someone back home via text or phone call is not cheap. Even with an international plan upgrade on your American cell phone, there are still additional service fees for every time you use data / send a text while abroad. If you are trying to message your sweetie a few times a day, this can add up quick. But money aside, staying in contact with a love interest in your home country is not time effective. Having to coordinate your schedule with his (and then getting disappointed when he doesn’t make your rendez-vous time) will hinder you from taking on spur of the moment excursions or experiences. And the same is true in reverse. As you spend your time abroad, your sweetie is still in college with his/her buddies. Spontaneous outings and other life events will come up and it’s not fair that either of you should have to miss out just to maintain a relationship that is most likely going to end anyway.
Don’t go abroad with a love anchor. It is not worth hindering this experience for something that is not meant to last. Studying abroad can be tough enough without the added pressure of doubt and frustration from not being able to connect with your sweetie at your scheduled time or have regular disagreements heightened by the gravity of the situation. Open the door to studying abroad by freeing your heart before you go abroad.