Before leaving to study abroad, I was advised not to become involved in a relationship. I heard many stories about couples breaking up over long distance, students deciding not to study abroad because they didn’t want to leave their significant other or deciding not to study abroad at the last minute because they entered a new relationship.
On another note, I know some couples here that are studying abroad together, such as a married couple from Latin America and a Belgian couple. I also know many couples that met here from different parts of the world. One couple whose story I am especially fond of first met in Italy one summer, then met again by chance in India while studying abroad and became involved in a relationship there. They both live in different parts of the world but have been together for about three years now.
In my case, I wasn’t involved in a relationship at the time I was applying to study abroad in China; as advised, I planned to stay single. But as life is extremely unpredictable I met someone who changed my mind. That someone’s name is Eric. After talking, Eric and I decided to take our chances on a long distance relationship (LDR), 7,000 miles away from one another.
Eric and I had no idea what to expect out of a LDR. At first, I found it difficult to stay in contact with him on a regular basis due to the different time zones (China is currently 15 hours ahead of California), lack of dependable wifi, and overall adapting to a very different lifestyle compared to my life in San Diego. Before I knew it I wasn’t setting any time aside to talk with Eric, which made me start to feel the thousands of miles between us.
Nevertheless we took action! After I got the basic feeling of life here in China and better wifi, we decided which times were best to talk with one another, setting a goal to reserve at least an hour twice a week to catch up on each others’ lives. We decided to call this time, “Eric & Sara time.” However, we still had to be flexible – sometimes our set times didn’t always work out so we would reschedule it for another day.
We mainly talk through calls or video chats from WeChat or Skype (these apps are not blocked in China) during Eric and Sara time. We always have something new to talk about, whether it’s about how our day was, how our families and friends are doing, how my travels went, etc. I always feel reassured that I can talk to Eric about anything, especially when I’m feeling homesick, and he can always motivate me to do my best and feel a little closer to home.
But I’m not the only one going through a LDR here. There are many people going through the same thing as me so it’s reassuring to know I can always talk to my friends , who are in similar situations, when I am feeling a bit under the weather.
The good thing about an LDR is your partner gets the chance to visit some place new by visiting you! When Eric came to visit me during his winter vacation, there was no better feeling than seeing each other in the flesh again. Together we traveled to Hong Kong and Xi’an. We wandered the streets of Hong Kong, saw the Terracotta Warriors and ate so much delicious food! During that time, he got a better understanding about what my life is like in China and we both learned new things about each other while traveling.
It has been a little more than a year since we have officially been together as a couple, although most of that time was spent apart. Now I’m not saying having a LDR is easy – in fact it takes a lot of effort, communication and time to make it work. Nevertheless, it is possible!
Being apart and meeting people from all over the world made me realize just how much I love and appreciate Eric. There is no doubt in my mind that because of this distance and reoccurring challenges that our relationship keeps on strengthening. There will probably be many more challenges that will approach us in the future but I’m sure we will be able to endure anything together.
Sara Torres-Robles is earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at San Diego State University. She is video blogging from Xiamen, China for the 2015-2016 academic year.