Being in a relationship while studying abroad – Delphine Martineau

About a month after my friends and I left France to go to different countries for our year abroad, my two non-single girlfriends announced back-to-back that they had broken up with their boyfriends. Living in a foreign country, making new friends, discovering a different university, speaking another language than your mother-tongue every day, all of these changes are going to impact your life greatly. After such an experience, most people feel they have grown a lot and have a completely different outlook on life. No surprise then to realise once abroad that the relationship you were in does not suit you anymore.

Being in a relationship myself and having gone through rocky times since being abroad I can assure you that it is not fun at all. That being said, becoming an exchange student is an incredible opportunity to re-discover yourself and open your eyes to what you really want. This is the reason why some friends of friends have actually taken the decision to break up before going abroad so that they would not be an obstacle to each other’s personal growth while in that new life experience. If such a choice seemed foolish at first, I slowly started to understand. Studying in a foreign country is a unique moment in your life, you can decide to live it the way you want, setting different goals for yourself or just taking things as they go. Therefore you might feel torn between your new environment and the life you had back home. Break-ups are never an easy situation to find yourself in but when they happen in such circumstances it is hard not to see how positive it truly is. My friends surely struggled at times with their new singleness but they know that they both, for different reasons, made the right decision.

That being said, going abroad does not automatically means your relationship will come to an end. I can consider myself as living proof of this. It can help your relationship grow and become what you want it to be. Having never lived in the same city as my boyfriend, I thought this situation would not really affect us but in the end I wonder to what extent the distance is the real troublemaker here… Indeed you evolve and experience so much in a semester or a year abroad that it can really create a discrepancy between your partner and yourself. It takes a lot of patience, understanding and love to overcome certain obstacles but as very often in human relationships, communication is key. That implies finding, or rather making, time to call each other or even Skype to share what you are up to while keeping in mind that even if their life has not changed as much as yours, they surely have interesting things, stories and anecdotes to share with you. Including them into your new life is definitely a challenge but not impossible. You might even be happily surprised by how they integrate with your new friends if they come and visit.

In the end, seeing the person you love finding themselves and blossom in a new environment is probably the best feeling in the world. Then it is just a matter of finding a balance for the relationship to keep evolving alongside.

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