Going on exchange has in turn shattered my faith in long-distance relationships and strengthened my conviction that love will conquer all… But before we get into that, what exchange has first and foremost changed is my perception of what constitutes a “long distance”. Before, when my university experience was limited to the borders of my own country, I thought something like London to Manchester was a long distance. Pah! That’s less than 200 miles. Today, I scoff at any distance within a country as small as England.
I now know of couples who are separated by many, many more miles. Try Europe to America, China, or even that isolated, godforsaken, middle-of-nowhere (our former penal colony) continent…Australia (!). Whether it was a temporary separation for the duration of exchange or, much more challengingly, the distance interposed after meeting on exchange, these epic, literally globe-spanning expanses rather jolted my notion of long-distance.
But here I am not concerning myself with the “long distance” of a couple who are from the same place but parted ways for a short time for exchange. If you can’t even survive that, deary me… For this kind of couple there’s a whole tangle of other issues that will be at play: the excitement of leaving one’s home and country possibly for the first time; temptation in the form of countless exotic foreigners; “I’ve been with him since I was fourteen, is he really the right one, or is it just habit?” “I want to enjoy myself, I need to be single” etc. Please, all that just means you needed a change and exchange was the catalyst. In fact, it was normally this kind of couple that rather broke my confidence in long-distance, though I do also know of couples that survived without a scratch.
What I want to talk about, however, are the relationships that form, often at an exponential pace, while in a strange land and what happens when we have to go home. The big question: can it work? My answer: …it depends. It depends on so many things; each individual couple is different, and personalities, life circumstances, not to mention the actual distance we are looking at, all come into play.
However, the one factor that is absolutely essential for any long-distance relationship to work is having the solid certainty, or at the very least the easily attainable option, of an end to the period of separation. Whether for two years or ten (it is up to the couple to decide how long they can endure) if there is not the promise of actually being together properly sometime in the future to look forward to; in other words, if there is no hope, it probably won’t work…
Some people won’t even drag themselves to the other side of town to maintain a romance, so if you’re willing to traverse borders, that person is someone special. And, as I mentioned before, 1 in 10 people meet their life partners on ERASMUS, so it’s far from doomed if you really want to make it work! That’s not to say it’s going to be easy, but when is love ever? These days, armed with the internet, our computers, smart phones, and whatever else, it’s not as hard as it could be. I swear I owe so much to Skype, I ought to leave them a hefty bequest in my will.
Any relationship is a commitment not to be entered into lightly, and if you slap on a great long distance, it will naturally make you think twice. I suppose you just have to ask yourself one question: is it worth it? Or rather, is he/she worth it? Once you have your answer, that’s all you need to know. Have courage, you’ll work out the rest.