The Study Abroad Experience: Full of Goodbyes

By Emma Buchman
Foreign Correspondent
It’s obvious that saying goodbye to those that you have become close to at home and abroad is difficult. I made that very clear in my article last semester about saying goodbye to Washington College. This sentiment has a unique meaning when it comes to studying abroad.
There are a lot of emotions going on, and it can be difficult to process them, especially if you get into the wrong mindset. Processing your feelings for someone is a necessary evil for getting the most out of your relationships.
I’d like to begin by saying that none of this is set in stone and that it is based solely on my experience.
There are two categories of relationships that can be made abroad: friendship and romance. Friendship is usually easier to handle than a romance, though it can still take a toll on you.
When I was in London, I made some of the best friends and couldn’t help but wish that I could just live my life with those awesome friendships.
Everything seemed like it had fallen into place, but that is not the way life works, and sometimes the only thing you can do is accept that.
Sometimes you have to accept that even though your life seems perfect in this set-up, it may just be a set-up that’s meant to work in the short term. I know that that doesn’t sound like an answer, but it’s true for me.
If you can, make an effort to stay in contact with them, acknowledge their birthday, grab a coffee when you get the chance, even it’s once every five years.
Next, we move on to romantic relationships. Long-distance relationships are always said to be doomed to fail, so a lot of times you’ll just try to avoid getting in that relationship in the first place.
Really though, isn’t getting into a relationship the same as getting into a friendship except that there may be sex? True, sex complicates things, but that just makes coming to terms with your leaving even more important.
I have seen a lot of people start romantic relationships while abroad. In some cases, it’s just a friends with benefits type of scenario, and in other cases it’s a steady, committed relationship.
From my observations, it actually seems like the friends-with-benefits structure was more stable than the steady relationship.
The couple that I knew last semester weren’t exclusive, and while I could tell that they cared about each other and would miss each other when they left, they also established what they were and who they would be when they returned home. They live so far away from each other I think it was impossible for them to avoid the topic.
Committed relationships, on the other hand, are more complicated. In a committed relationship, you are essentially saying that this person, and no other person, is who you want to be romantically involved with. That generally means that you want to continue this exclusive relationship after you leave, and while this is not impossible, it takes a lot of communication and a lot of times ends up in heartbreak.
This may seem like an article that would be better suited for the end of the year, but that is my whole point: you shouldn’t wait until the end of the year to think about leaving.
In a study abroad situation, feelings of friendship or even romance can grow so quickly that it becomes that much more difficult to say goodbye later.
You get yourself set in the idea that only knowing someone for a semester is going to make it easy to leave, so you don’t live in the moment as much. It isn’t a bad thing to make friends or start relationships abroad. In fact it’s exactly what you want to do.
But you have to remember that it’s going to be tough to part ways at the end no matter how you spin it. Live in the moment with whomever, and don’t take your time with them for granted.
All in all, don’t avoid thinking about leaving. It may be less painful in the moment, but it will only leave you less prepared when you actually do leave.
I’m not saying to dwell on it, but take some time to think about how you will handle your friendship when it’s over. If it’s a romance, it might be a good idea to establish what you are during the semester or year.

Buchman is currently studying abroad in France and reporting to The Elm about her experience.

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