Going Long Distance

17 April 2020

"So you’re all set to go abroad, you know where you’re going to study, you’ve done all the admin bits... but something is holding back your excitement" Libby is spending her year at the University of Granada. Read on to find out more about her experience.


So you’re all set to go abroad, you know where you’re going to study, you’ve done all the admin bits, maybe you even have accommodation sorted… but something is holding back your excitement, and rather than being impatient about the adventure ahead, all you can think about is what you’re leaving behind. Going abroad is especially difficult when you’re in a committed relationship and must deal with the implications of going long-distance. Will my relationship survive? Will I be able to enjoy myself knowing I’m so far from my partner? What if this is the wrong decision? These questions were buzzing through my head as I kissed my boyfriend goodbye and packed my bags for Granada. Now nearing the end of my year abroad, and well and truly trapped away from him during the current pandemic, I would like to offer my advice and reflexions. Although I struggled at first, I learnt how to deal with the distance better as time went on.

First of all, before you even set off, take a while to think about it and discuss it together, because it won’t be easy. Communication is extremely important in a long-distance relationship, once you’re in different countries your words are the only resource you have to show them your love and affection so get used to talking in depth about your feelings from the get-go. Don’t neglect discussing the specifics: how often will you call, for how long, voice or video chat, will you organise Skype dates or just have casual conversations, how often will you see each other, who will travel, etc. The answers may seem obvious to you, but don’t just assume your partner is on the same page. Once you’re in different countries you may find that you need different amounts of communication to stay happy and sane, and small disagreements can blow up into big arguments, so make sure you’re prepared.

Seeing each other in person will become a rare occasion (even rarer if you find yourself on different continents). If you’re both in Europe you will likely have some cheap and quick options to travel to see each other, and you can take advantage of discounts (with an ESN card you get discounts on Ryanair and some buses). However, you probably have other travel plans for your year abroad and I would suggest you don’t let aiming to see them every other weekend get in the way of those. Go see your friends, travel somewhere you’ve never been before, explore. In my first semester abroad, I too often forgot to enjoy myself, caught up in worries about my relationship surviving and my desire to fly back to the comfort of London. I decided to turn this around in the second semester and really do all the things I had pictured myself doing while abroad (i.e. skipping classes to take a flight to Morocco, cuddling goats, catching buses around Spain, you get the gist). Relying on your partner to get through all the ups and downs of being abroad won’t help. Instead make sure your social circle is wide, that you have friends to call or to hang out with. Use the time alone to develop new hobbies, travel, focus on yourself.

There’s no doubt going long-distance took a toll on my mental health, especially at first, and it’s important to recognise this. However, it has also provided me with the opportunity to put my relationship into perspective and given me what I consider a healthier balance in it. I’ve learnt to be happy on my own again, and I’ve made the most of the freedom being abroad provides, yet always with my boyfriend’s support, which I’m so grateful for.


By: Libby Davies