When an international student tells you that their college “struggle is real,” I advise you to listen to them. From culture shock and extreme climatic differences, to the sudden inflow of long-distance relationships, there is a lot that changes for internationals. How do you travel down these roads riddled with potholes in a Ferrari? Believe me, there’s a way to navigate this road of patchy Internet service and large time zone gaps without damaging the car.
They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. As someone in a long distance relationship this couldn’t be truer, but it’s not as easy as missing someone and realizing all the reasons you love them. When you can’t see the person you love regularly, the first challenge besides the inevitable one of communication is trust. How do you trust a person who you can’t see as often as you’d like? While that may be an aspect of every relationship, it is exaggerated with added distance. It’s very easy to become paranoid and over analyze every word of a text, to get to a point where for every minute “he” takes to reply you is a different “female” he is cheating with.
While I am no expert, the truth is while distance makes the heart grow fonder there are growing pains too. You’ll have to learn to fight through Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, or whatever your mode of communication is. You will both make sacrifices just to keep the relationship alive, whether that is sacrificing sleep because of large time zone gaps or food because the one hour you had for dinner is also the only time that your partner is free to talk. The worst part will be watching other happy couples walking around campus; while deep down you are happy for them, you are very bitter. Holidays and birthdays will be the worst. Trying to find gifts online is not as easy as it seems especially if your partner is very picky! Valentines Day will be the day you dread and all you’ll want to do is sleep through it all to avoid all the roses, kisses, cute surprises and gifts that could have been yours.
As depressing as all of this seems, there are ways around everything. Go out, make friends go have fun. Go to a party or two, laugh and enjoy your time apart knowing you’ll channel all the “I miss him/her” and the “If only we were together” into the time you will have when you are together again.
Enough about the mushy love stuff. All the struggles of a romantic relationship seem to pale when you think of the fact that you have to go through it all also with your friends and family. How do you get your mum who barely touches her phone except to answer the phone, to reply to your messages on WhatsApp or Viber because as the broke college kid that you are you simply cannot just call her? How do you politely tell her not to call you at 7am on a weekend just because it’s 5pm back home and she feels she’s waited long enough for you to wake up? In addition to all this, depending on where home is, the few times you get to Skype or WhatsApp call, the local Internet decides to make life difficult and become patchy, leading to lots of repetition and frustration.
Now, it really isn’t all doom and gloom, there is always the excitement of hearing your native language if you, like me, are the only Clarkie who speaks that language. That energy that bubbles over when you and your best friend are catching up on Skype, and you have so much to tell each other that you’re literally jumping with excitement. The love you feel when your mother notices that you’re sick, again, and she starts listing all the different home remedies and concoctions she would be making you if you were home. Endlessly planning all the things you and your friends are going to do when you are together again, all the food your mother is going to make you when you come home, all the shenanigans you and your siblings will get up to over the summer. All of those small moments make it all worth it.
Something I think we all do, some of us openly and others privately, is we plan trips we know we will never take. Trips to visit boyfriends, friends and family. We scout the Internet for the best flights, hotels and even down to the perfect dates to travel, knowing that we either don’t have the money to make that trip or that the timing is simply off. Spending hours describing to your friend this perfect trip of yours, knowing deep down it’s not going to happen but simply enjoying the ability to, for those few hours imagining being there, getting lost in our own imagination until you unfortunately have to come back to reality.
Loving through the distance is not in any way, shape or form easy. No matter the relationship whether it be romantic, familial or friendly, all the struggles you go through to keep the relationship alive make you first and foremost a very creative person and second, make the reunion all the more exciting. So as you battle through all your personal challenges, remember, these challenges are going to help you grow and will only make you stronger.
(Cover photo by artist Peniel Enchill, source: http://www.penielenchill.com/romance/)
Note from the editor: Ashleigh is a first year Clarkie and this was her first article as a blogger for The Things That Matter. Welcome to the crew, Ashleigh! 🙂