For the Love of Study Abroad

By: Isaac Smoler Schatz

A big part of what makes studying abroad a bit intimidating is the prospect of not knowing anyone and being physically distant from friends, family, and other folks who you care about and who care about you. If you’re in a relationship and you’re anything like me, the thought of leaving your partner for the summer to study abroad pulls at your heart strings.

And I get that.

But…

Fear of not being able to maintain your relationship with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner shouldn’t stop you from studying abroad.

I love love as much as the next guy, but being half a world away from your babe, even for a semester, doesn’t mean you necessarily have to take the infamous ‘break’. I’ve been on both sides of the study abroad dating experience. So, whether you find yourself in Philly, Panama City, Paris, Pretoria, Pyeongchang, or Perth, here’s some reassurance that you and your partner can maintain your relationship.

“When will I see you again?”

One of the things my partner and I did before one of us left for a study abroad program was talk about when we would see the other again. Communicating those travel plans gets you both excited about your reunion, rather than missing them without a clear end in sight. Whether it’s a pick up from the airport back in the US or meeting up to travel together afterward, there will be plenty to catch up on.

“How will we stay in touch while abroad?”

Try to find some time when you can talk in real time. Especially after the last few semesters, there’s no excuse for not knowing how to use a video platform like Zoom, FaceTime, or WhatsApp. You could get a little movie night going using Netflix Party, or just do a countdown while on a call together and try to click play at the same time. We can be thankful for those platforms, but it is important to be mindful of any time zone differences. It might mean one of you has plans later or needs to go to sleep. It can also be fun to send a handwritten letter or postcard (remember to address it properly for international mail) and see how long it takes for it to arrive.

“How do I plan a long range date?”

If your partner is the one abroad, find a way to celebrate their birthday or anniversary with a virtual date. It can be expensive to send a present in the mail so you can get sleuthy and reach out to someone on their program via social media to assist. Based on my experience, the people you reach out to will probably be happy to help you out and you can figure out the details for a surprise gift.

A note on being THAT person who studies abroad.

I’m sure your partner will be excited to hear all about what you’ve been up to abroad, but as tempting as it might be to just gush about all that awesome stuff, be conscious of what they’ve been up to back home during the dog days of summer or biting winter cold. This seems like pretty common sense, but I figured I would include it because I think it’s valuable to keep in mind while you’re together and apart.