Long-distance Longing

by Helen Armstrong on November 20, 2016

Ah, college. A time of gorging at the dining hall, studying at the library until 1 a.m. and grabbing midnight milkshakes at the diner, Snapchatting your friends back home to show them how great a time you’re having at college…

And, often, navigating long-distance relationships. This isn’t a unique problem to have—there’s so much technology that bridges gaps between us that maintaining a relationship over distance is a lot easier these days. Plus, lots of people stay together with their high school sweethearts into college.

But at Arcadia, it’s not unusual for us to have longer distance relationships. With so many students studying abroad, there’s a greater chance that the distance between a couple is greater than a few county or state lines. I know people who have done long distance between Australia and the U.S., which is almost as far away from each other as you can possibly get without involving NASA.

This happens in a few ways – maybe you’re both Americans and one of you is studying abroad while the other sticks around on campus. Maybe you’re both studying abroad in different locations. Maybe, and this is the kicker, you met your significant other while you were studying abroad and had to leave them behind when you returned home.

It’s the downside to having an exotic romance where you get to enjoy wine by the Italian coast, or skydive in New Zealand together, or summit Table Mountain for a romantic sunset. Eventually, no matter how hard you squeeze your eyes closed and will it not to be so, your program will end and you will have to come home.

It happened to me. It might happen to you.

I met my girlfriend studying in Italy this past spring. I’m luckier than some – she’s not Italian; she was on the same program as me, studying through Arcadia from the University of Colorado. Geographically speaking, Colorado is closer to Pennsylvania than Italy is, and we don’t have to grapple with time zones nearly as much (although the two-hour difference can be especially frustrating when I have exciting news and she hasn’t woken up yet). However, I also did long distance when I was studying abroad in London, with an ex who was back home in the States.

While I’ve never signed up willingly to do long distance, in college you get presented a lot of opportunities. Saying yes to them, which is something you should absolutely do, might involve you ending up doing long distance for a few months or years.

Fear not, though! It isn’t the end of the world. And during my long-distance stints, I’ve learned some valuable things that help when the going gets tough.

First, remember that lots of people are in the same boat as you, especially here at Arcadia. While it would be annoying to moan and groan too often, talking out your frustration with however many miles are between you and your sweetheart with someone who understands can be a good thing.

I know people who have done long distance between Australia and the U.S., which is almost as far away from each other as you can possibly get without involving NASA.

Second, however much you may want to, don’t just sit in your room and Skype and call them all the time. This is especially true if you’re abroad, where you should be seizing every opportunity and carpe diem and all that jazz. But even if you’re on campus, it’s important to set up a general schedule and decide when you’re going to talk to your loved one. Every few days is fine, but if you’re spending over an hour on the phone every night with them, you’re missing out on your well-deserved quintessential college experience (of aforementioned late-night study sessions and milkshakes).

Third, sending and receiving packages is always nice. I’ll go to the $1 section in Target, choose a theme (for example, Halloween), and buy a bunch of little items to send in a package. This can become a little expensive, so free yourself from always having to send them a package. Sometimes a simple card or handwritten letter can mean just as much. You can stick all sorts of little things in an envelope – a hand-made bookmark, a sticky note poem, a pressed flower… Simple things that don’t cost much can still mean a lot.

Fourth, social media is your best friend. It’s probably already your best friend, let’s be real, but especially now, it offers so many different ways to connect. Snapchatting your s.o. is a way to show your day, or your lunch, or your cute hairdo. DMing funny tweets you see, messaging weird tumblr posts, making your #mcm or #wcw or #tbt on Instagram… There are lots of little things to show that you’re thinking of them.

Fifth, sending photos of campus or your new city or weekend trips or your weird hostel room can help them to feel connected to you, so they can picture what you’re doing throughout your day. Ask them to do the same, too. This can bridge the gap between you two quite a bit – after all, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Finally, remember: It is harder to be in a long-distance relationship, but it can be rewarding in a lot of ways. The distance gives you a greater appreciation for that person, and you’re free to make friends and spend your time doing what you want (especially important if you’re abroad). Don’t focus on a countdown; focus on how lucky you are to have that person in your life at all. The time will go by faster than you think, and take it one day at a time.