I’m Going Abroad! Wait—I’m in a Relationship….

With Valentine’s Day having passed just awhile ago, love has been on my mind—the chill with a cold beer, totally relaxed, let’s-go-eat-good-food-together love. As I celebrated the holiday I couldn’t help but think “I’ll be in China this time next year.” And then I was like, wait, what?! CHINA! Love?

This past summer I began a relationship with an amazing guy, but we both knew each of us would be going abroad for a year. Originally, we thought being in a relationship while abroad had potential. Now, we have both decided to be single abroad; we decided a relationship would hinder our growth as individuals. Besides, I could see myself getting irked about someone being late for a Skype date—being punctual is very important to me! But what if the Internet was down in China? What if some horrific snowstorm resulted in a power outage in Russia? What if transportation from an event was slow?

And then I began thinking about the future. Can I see myself marrying this guy? No—we’ll each be completely different people in ten years, and probably with careers in different countries. Do I want to have my options open? Absolutely! I want the freedom to pursue my career, to enjoy my twenties. I want to travel and be able to seize opportunities without worry of “Oh shoot, how will this person and I work?” While I enjoy relationships and consider this guy one of my best friends, we are each very driven and independent—too much for a year-long-abroad relationship.

Be realistic! Talking to your significant other before going abroad and answering some key questions will help both of you decide what’s right. Some questions to start with are…

What do I want? Do I want the opportunity to date other people I find interesting? Am I fine if we decide to have an open relationship?

Do I have commitment issues? Am I comfortable with what we’ve decided? Will I be second-guessing things? Do we both see ourselves together after studying abroad?

What time commitment are we looking at? A summer? Four to six months? A year? Are you fine with Skyping/emailing your boyfriend or girlfriend for a couple hours a week while other people hang out, shop, travel, or date?

Am I mature enough to decide something and stick to it? Do you know the human brain is not fully developed until 24-26 years of age? We’re still growing! Life is not as figured out as we think it is.

Best advice I’ve gotten:

1)      One of my best friends is going abroad for a year and says it best: Although she loves her boyfriend, she will consider herself single while abroad. Her logic is “If we can grow as individuals and still work, then I know it’s right.” I say you go girl!

2)      My dad: develop relations in college with people who can help you in your future. Work hard, get a stable career and financial independence. Being in a relationship is nice, but there is much more you will be able to accomplish if you don’t have a family. If you find someone who completely blows you away, then pursue it. If not, have relationships and close friends. (Can you see where I get my independence from?)

Consider short-term goals, consider long-term goals. Consider the person you’re with. Take everything into consideration and know what I say for me may not work for you. Be sure to be open to whoever you’re with and decide what is best for YOU and your goals.

Michelle Yeager, OIE Student Worker

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