long-distance relationships

Making Long Distance Relationships Work During Grad School

December, 2010 · By Justin Bengry

Baby, please don’t go

Anyone can find themselves suddenly having to endure the challenge of maintaining a relationship across borders.

Changing schools, going on an international exchange or even starting afirst job can change our lives and relationships dramatically.

By maintaining open communication with your partner, balancing work and romance and prioritizing time for love, however, you can sustain a long distance relationship through the challenges of grad school.

But, more than almost any other group, graduate students are among the most likely to endure that pain of separating from those they love.

Students especially prone to relocation include those in research-intensive programs, those in the humanities where extensive archival work is required, and those who must undertake on-site investigations abroad.

In grad school, you have to plan for change and uncertainty. Research trips sometimes involve months abroad. Fellowships might require solo relocation of up to a year or more.

But even though long distance relationships may seem inevitable for grad students, they aren’t insurmountable!

Whatever issue you’re facing, remember that many couples have been there before and have made it work. We caught up with some far-away couples and took off with their best tips.

Meet Erin and Shane

Erin and Shane* met as undergrads in Canada but eventually went on to different grad schools. Erin went to the U.S. while Shane remained in Canada. Living in different countries for an extended period, they have always had to prioritize communication.

According to Erin, “Technology is the key! We schedule time to talk on webcam for at least an hour every night [using] Skype.” And, when Shane finished his coursework, he was able to spend weeks and even months visiting Erin while completing his degree—something nearly impossible in non-academic long-distance relationships.

Meet Karen and Adam

Karen and Adam are separated by an ocean—the Atlantic, to be precise. Karen studies in Europe while Adam remains in Canada and they prioritize spending time with each other as much as possible. For Karen and Adam, trips to visit each other aren’t seen as a cost to one, but as an investment by both in their relationship.

If one can travel but can’t afford to fly abroad, the other helps pay. This works, according to Karen, “because the visit is a benefit to both of us. We’re not paying to travel but to spend time together.”

Meet Jason and Michael

Jason and Michael met while Jason was on a research trip abroad. Michael, who is not in grad school, had to stay behind when Jason returned home to complete his studies. Since then, they’ve struggled with periods of more than six months without seeing each other. But, like Karen and Adam, Jason and Michael find every chance to be together.

While grad students may be perpetually poor, one perk of higher academia is the necessity to travel extensively—for research purposes, naturally.  “We useconferences, research trips, and other work-related travel to see each otheruntil one of us can finally move abroad.” Jason and Michael also have built-in summers, an extended Christmas and spring break—all of which give grad students extra time to enjoy with loved ones.

No one likes long distance relationships

They’re hard, emotionally draining and difficult to sustain over long periods. Research, readings and papers are all a part of the grad school experience. But, too often, so are the challenges that come with long-distance relationships.

By maintaining open communication with your partner, balancing work and romance and prioritizing time for love, however, you can sustain even a long distance relationship through the challenges of grad school.

This post was originally published at TalentEgg on 1 December 2010.