By: Joe Urbano
Campus Sherpa Blog Contributor, RIT
In my last post, we discussed one of the many factors in choosing the best school for you: relationships. In this post, we’re moving past the decision making process and moving into the nitty-gritty. A decision has been made, and now the two of you are going to live with it: the transition to a long distance relationship.
The above paragraph makes the prospect of entering a long distance relationship sound really gloomy, but in reality, it isn’t. By no means is it an easy decision or an easy lifestyle, but it isn’t the end of the world, I promise. You’re now off to school for the first time, and there are some things you should do, and there are some that you shouldn’t. Here are a few tips to make both your college experience and your relationship the best they can be as you begin the next part of your life:
Don’t: Over Communicate. You and your partner are going to talk, text, and use Snapchat. This is obviously expected and it is good! But you shouldn’t let the familiar comfort of your partner stop you from doing other things or making new friends. Orientation, meeting your floormates, and your first classes are pivotal in the start of making new friends and learning new things. Don’t neglect them!
One of my friends didn’t bother to assimilate to her school during orientation or classes because she leaned on her boyfriend 24/7 as a source of entertainment and emotional support. When the relationship ended, she loathed everything about the school she had so vehemently wanted to attend in high school. Your partner should be a wonderful part of your life, but not the focus of it.
Do: Schedule Time Together. Texting and snapchatting are good, but one of the best ways to keep things organized and your time properly budgeted is to find a time that works for the two of you to “hang out.” Schedule a time weekly or biweekly for a phone or video call. It might be during your hour lunch break; it might be every other Friday night. Keeping time for the two of you reserved weekly helps communicate dedication to the relationship without letting it control the pace of your life.
This also helps with budgeting your time as a college student, something so pivotal to your success. Time management skills are the most important skills you will need to have mastered by your first year. Well, if you’re an engineer at least. I can’t speak to the rest of the disciplines.
Do: Research visitation options. This isn’t possible for everyone, but making the effort to visit your partner at home or at your partner’s campus can be a really nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of your daily life. Financially and logistically there are hurdles here, and depending on the actual distance it may or may not be possible. But don’t rule out options! It’s joyous to see your partner after a long period of separation. Plus, you get to learn about other campus cultures and open yourself up to new perspectives. Everything can be a learning experience if you’re willing to make it one!
Don’t: Fixate on distance. Yes, you’re apart. Yes, that sucks. But if all you do is complain about it to each other, the times you spend together will be bittersweet because of how short they are, and the time you don’t will be about wishing life isn’t the way it is. That will build resentment in your school and it can get directed at your partner. Make the conversation constructive instead of destructive. Easier said than done, yes, but it’s very crucial.
Don’t: Make unnecessary sacrifices. You’re in school to get a degree and advance your career, and you and your partner should both understand that. Yes, the college experience is also about social experiences, experimenting, and fun, but you’re likely paying a grotesque amount of money to be prepared for your career. Keep that in mind. Don’t sacrifice your career for your partner. Learn, grow, discuss, build your foundations. This is somewhat vague on purpose – each relationship is unique, so to get any more particular is unlikely to actually be pertinent to your situation. Yet understand the fundamental principle: college is about maturity and growth, both intellectually and emotionally. Your partner can play a key role in this, but don’t stunt your own growth.
Relationships aren’t easy, but, at least in my experience, they are incredibly rewarding and totally worth the challenge. Best of luck!