Study abroad: two familiar words that have taken on such new meaning since applying to study in Clermont-Ferrand, France a year ago. As I finish my time here, a new array of emotions comes to mind.
There’s the feeling of affection for this country, this language, and the people I’ve met here. There’s the remembrance of stress as I struggled to learn bus schedules and French customs. Then other feelings come to surface like those of distress and heartache. I refer here to the fact that the country I’ve been living in for five months took me away from my Kamal.
Romantic relationships from abroad rarely work out, I was told. The distance kills you. You find yourself denying how special the relationship was. You develop feelings for someone else. You occupy yourself so fully into your life abroad that it becomes a separate one. Whatever it is, it’s too hard to maintain the same feelings. I was terrified for the fate of our relationship. But now as my time here is coming to an end, I am so happy to conclude that it is indeed possible to maintain a relationship abroad. And I’ve some observations to share.
Firstly, you should not dread feeling heartsick for your partner. It may hurt, but it is, in fact, a good thing to be hurt. If you find yourself missing this person throughout your entire study abroad experience, it means you are invested in that person. It means your feelings are not numbed by time and distance.
And there’s Skype. What a fantastic invention. I thank the creators. We have it easier than generations before us; we can actually see our loved ones faces from thousands of miles away. Yet, after a bit, we start to detest it. We start to detest the computer screen. Inevitably, it is hard to remember there is an actual person on the other side; that is what can be harmful.
If you find it hard to empathize with the image of the other person as, well, another person, you can easily fall into saying words that you don’t mean. You have to catch yourself. You need to breathe and remember the importance of this person in your life.
Though I talked on Skype at least once a day, I was not drawn away from my enjoyment of France or my travels elsewhere. It was my relief to come back and release all of my concerns, amazements and complaints to someone every day. And as long as I spent my time delving into what the country has to offer, I had so much to talk about that conversations never lulled.
My point is, it’s possible. It’s possible to maintain a relationship abroad without it being a detriment to your connection. Rather than distance us, the experience has become an obstacle that we succeeded to surpass.