I think it’s been pretty clear that I managed to fit in a boyfriend amidst travel and study (well, let’s not lie, it was mostly travel) whilst on exchange in England. But as this budding romance was progressing I was being repeatedly asked whether I thought the pain of leaving was going to be worth it. I was also being told left, right and centre that I shouldn’t even bother – I was leaving when the term was over and long-distance isn’t realistic blah blah blah…
I did it anyway. I went with my heart not my head, and I don’t regret it in the slightest.
But before I get ahead of myself, let me be perfectly clear – it absolutely SUCKS to leave him after spending nearly every day for 7 months together. It’s heartbreaking to walk through security at the airport with him waving behind you, knowing that it could well be the last time you see him. And you’ll be crying all the way home on your long haul flight as you remember every little detail through rose-coloured glasses.
You’ll both have sworn that you won’t text each other – after all, you’d agreed not to do long-distance – but immediately after you land there’ll be a “let me know when you’re home safe” message sitting there in your phone. And those messages will probably go on for a long time, maybe months, and sometimes you’ll both even dare to call each other and hear their voice. For a while, they’ll probably be the first person you talk to in the morning and the last person you talk to at night. And it’ll be comforting and familiar and also heartbreaking at the same time, because realistically you know that these messages and these calls can only go on for so long and eventually one of you will move on first with someone else who lives in your country.
I’ll be honest, I’m stuck right now in the familiar but heartbreaking stage, and I’m quite scared about what’s going to happen in the future between us, because right now it seems too good to be true and although I wish it with all my heart, I can’t help being a little rational so as to protect myself, and admit that this probably won’t last forever.
With all this in mind, would I recommend a relationship while on exchange if you happen to meet someone awesome who you really connect with? Absolutely!
Nothing beats the feeling of having someone there you’re close to when all your other friends and family are at home far away. There’s nothing better than making memories with someone who means the world to you at that exact moment, and then being able to relive the memories over and over again. Not caring if you haven’t spent any time that day together because you knew that every night you’d crawl into bed and talk, talk, talk for hours about everything and anything.
If I hadn’t met him, I would’ve left England to come home in May, but instead I stayed until July (with a cheeky Spain, Greece, Italy trip in between). I saw so much more of the UK than I would’ve alone, I was able to go places that we couldn’t have gone without his car and his British knowledge, I was able to gain true friendships and connections with his friends and family back in London, and together we had so many more adventures than I could’ve ever imagined.
So yes, it’s so incredibly heartbreakingly sad to leave once exchange is over, knowing that your heart, for that moment at least, definitely belongs in your exchange country. But it’s so much more than that goodbye – it’s the months of adventures, the long nights talking about the universe, it’s the binge-watching of a TV show together (we liked Scrubs) and the fact that that person is forever an important part of your life, no matter where life takes you in the future. I miss him more than I could’ve imagined that first time we kissed under the stars at midnight, and even now, knowing the horrible feeling it is to leave, I’d still do it over again any day.