International love. The good, the bad and the ugly

By someone who has failed at it but tells you that it doesn’t mean that you will too


Many people think twice before starting a relationship with someone who lives far away, and by many people, I mean me. Whether they met them through their exchange program or left someone back home, international students seem to be engaging in long distance love quite often in this day and age. One has to wonder how they deal with the hardships and break-ups or lead successful relationships while studying in a different city and/or country.

Potential Issues and Anxieties 

So you have just moved to a different city and have to deal with everything that comes with it. Maybe you are looking for a part-time job to make some extra money. You want to focus on your studies, on meeting new people and making friends to try to make this new country feel like your home. At the same time, you are also trying to keep up with your friends and family back home, but then there's this other person also wanting to share their time with you. The way I see it, dealing with a relationship that involves mid to long distance, although rewarding, can be overwhelming. 

“There’s more planning involved,” says Katarina (21) from Norway. “We have to communicate a lot and schedule our lives so we can spend quality time together.” She describes her relationship as a bit easier than most since her partner, although far from Oslo, is still living in the same country. “We call each other more often and try to keep it consistent, but missing your partner a lot can become an issue,” she explains, “however, we are very open with these feelings, and it has helped a lot.”

On the other hand, Valeria (22), from Russia, explains the potential cultural differences that come with dating someone from a different country. When she met her partner, a Norwegian, she was on an exchange program, and immediately decided to choose Oslo to get her master’s degree. Although in the same country, her partner lives in Bergen, which still adds a degree of difficulty. “There is a lot of compromising involved, culturally speaking – he is way more relaxed, and I am more anxious about our commitment and want to know a lot more about what he’s doing all the time, if he’s safe,” confesses Valeria.

Adrian (24), from Romania, tells me about his experience in a failing long distance relationship in a very relatable way. “At times, I was just more concerned about my future, my financial situation and my studies to even pay attention to the person I was dating,” he says. Sometimes, studying abroad, when it’s not a part of an exchange program that is limited in time, can cause a lot of anxieties and strains in a relationship. After all, you have to prioritize yourself, your studies, and your situation at times. 

Compromising can be really difficult when you are a student. “At first, we would plan trips to visit each other and plan how our futures could look like if she were to move somewhere closer to Norway when she finished her studies in Romania,” Adrian says. However, trips can be expensive for a student. Besides, there are going to be times when you also would like to visit your new friends from other countries or your other friends from home. “Life just simply gets hard sometimes, and it is impossible to keep up,” Adrian admits, explaining that all of the issues with his partner eventually led to a break-up. 

Surviving a Long-Distance Break-Up 

I feel like this is my department of expertise. The reason I started this article was my own curiosity of how international students deal over and over again with relationships with people from different countries and long distance, falling in love and breaking up and continuing their lives without simply giving up; as I definitely did. 

As someone with experience surviving a long-distance break-up, my first order of business would be to dwell on your sadness. In fact, be the saddest you can be, if that is how you feel. Talk to your friends, family, people you trust until they get sick of hearing how sad you are. You see, the moment my long-distance relationship was over, I didn’t allow myself to feel bad or to talk, and I focused on my work and studies so much that I forgot that, sooner or later, those bottled up feelings were going to come out in a much worse way. 

Adrian agrees on the importance of allowing yourself to have and express your feelings, and adds some advice of his own: “Social media is definitely a double edge sword,” he says about his recent break-up. “I would advise not to stalk the other person on social media, even if you believe you can ‘just be friends’.” 

When you are in a new country, it isn’t hard to experience severe homesickness every once in a while. A breakup can involve very intense feelings, and it can aggravate the already present loneliness that comes with being an international. However, not everything is doomed. There are so many things you can focus on, “I picked up writing poetry,” Adrian says, with a laugh, “it has really helped me a lot.”

In my own experience being severely humbled by international love, I chose to embrace my friendships and to pay attention to the people I loved that surrounded me and helped me through that difficult time. In addition, I picked up hobbies and sports like drawing or rollerblading, that I had given up over lack of time and forgot how happy they made me. It is important to remember, no matter the type of break-up, life goes on, and you have the power to piece yourself back together. 

The good thing about living in Norway is the amount of affordable things to do to keep yourself entertained, have fun and meet new people if you are a student. It is hard to get over any breakup, but with the new time that you dispose of, you can still make the most of your experience. “It’s important for yourself, your career and your own mental wellbeing,” says Adrian. Good thing, if needed, SiO offers a free counseling service for students in Oslo. It is also important to know that you are not alone in that situation. 

The Good Thing About Long-Distance Dating 

Many would argue that coming to another country as an exchange student who is already in a relationship removes any pressure to engage in meeting new people and partake in hook-up culture. In the end, there is something beautiful about coming home after a long day of studying, adventures, and discoveries and telling all about it to your person on the other side of the line. 

Valeria would say that the distance has helped her understand the value of her relationship and consider a more permanent future with them. “It makes you realize if you really want to commit to the other person, because you are willing to put in so much effort for it to work,” she admits. 

There is this additional dilemma that people go through as well, which is whether distance makes you spend less time with old friends, people from back home, family and romantic relationships in order to make room for the new people that you will meet. Katarina denies this with ease, explaining, “Seeing my boyfriend less has definitely made our hearts grow fonder. Although it is not the same for everyone.” 

Planning visits to Oslo with your significant other can be very exciting if that’s a possibility in your case. There are infinite possibilities for romantic plans around the city and exciting getaways to the countryside, cabin trips, hiking in the snow… If you are anything like me, you would be dying to see your significant other trying cross-country skiing and ice skating in our very own Songsvann lake. 

Final Thoughts

A long distance relationship definitely has its bad parts, break-ups are ugly, however it can also be a good and rewarding thing. Whether I would give long distance love a try in the near future or not is still unclear. Love and life are very complex things and navigating them being an international student adds an interesting twist to what seems to be an ordinary thing. Nonetheless, it’s nice to know we are not alone.

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