"That first term was the hardest. I watched other people’s relationships crumble and it terrified me."Maria Constantine

I wouldn’t say that I envy the couples gliding down King’s Parade, hand in hand, eating ice cream, clearly intoxicated with one another. I don’t envy them because I am lucky enough to have that in my life — just not here. It does make me feel something though — it makes me miss him. So the question is: is long-distance worth it? You will certainly both meet new people. It is therefore important that you trust each other and make plans for visits to help deal with the shock of not having ‘your person’ by your side. I apologise if I’m not selling it to you; that is not my intention. I have discovered recently that being in a long-distance relationship is tough. There will be tears, and some won’t even make it — that much is inevitable. Others will emerge unscathed on the other side and will go on to thrive, having strengthened their relationship over the time spent apart. If couples could survive this in a world without social media and mobile phones, then surely it is possible now. My advice, for what it’s worth, is that you both need to want it to work.

My mum told me that she would never have recommended that I start university already in a relationship. In fact, we used to laugh together at the very idea. Eighteen is so young: we thought that being plunged into the unknown was only good for character development if you didn’t exist as ‘one half of a couple’. On reflection, I have never been the kind of person whose happiness depends solely on another. However, when I met someone who I didn’t want to say goodbye to when I moved to Cambridge, my plan was scuppered. The world turned on its head as I joined a university three hours away from the person I wanted to be with the most.

“That first term was the hardest"

In the first term we made no plans to see each other as COVID-19 was rife and travel was uncertain. Talking became a challenge as our timetables were different. We didn’t want to hold each other back, so we went in blind, which was somewhat painful. That first term was the hardest. I watched other people’s relationships crumble and it terrified me. ‘What makes us different?’ I wondered. I struggled with the fact that as we both met new people, even talking became difficult. We didn’t even seem to be awake at the same time anymore. Cambridge was overwhelming and intense in all the best ways possible, and I was busy. It was Christmas before I saw my partner again.

The seasons collapsed into one another and suddenly summer arrived. After a year of long-distance, I now have some advice to share. A perhaps subconscious but helpful move was bringing some of my partner’s things to university with me — a sweatshirt, pictures of us, and presents he’d given me. I loved being busy and spent a lot of time running to supos, working in the library, getting coffee on King's Parade, and getting to know the best places to go in Cambridge. Hence, not much time was spent in my room apart from sleeping, so when I was there it became a haven of home comforts. Pictures of your friends and family might make you sad at times, but not having them at all can add to feeling homesick. So let me give you a free pass to steal your partner’s hoodie before second year — for your own wellbeing!

“Text them when you miss them. Distance doesn’t mean silence”

Looking back, I spent more time worrying and creating scenarios in my head than was really necessary. I considered everything. Will they decide it’s not worth it and give up? Will they find someone better? Because of Cambridge's later start I was sat at home while my partner enjoyed his freshers' week, and I wondered for the first time whether moving away meant moving on. I tried to distract myself and give him space — without considering that he missed me and wanted to hear from me too. I can see this now, in hindsight.

The important thing to remember is that communication is key: text them when you miss them, reassure them when you think they might need it, and especially even if you think they don’t. Distance doesn’t mean silence. We are lucky enough to be able to contact people we love when we’re not with them at the touch of a button. If you have a spare hour to talk, fill your partner in on the best and worst bits of your week, who you spent time with, the new places you discovered, and ask for them to tell you the same. Don’t leave them out. Being involved in each other’s university lives in this way is more binding than you might think.


Mountain View

Normal People and me

All in all, I have learned that if the relationship was good for both of you before university, you must trust that it will work when you are apart too. I have also discovered that there is little value in worrying about my partner and his loyalty to me. After all, we can only take responsibility for our own actions, so I’ve decided to focus only on mine. We still make one another happy and that’s the most important aspect of a relationship. As to whether absence makes the heart grow fonder, I feel the same as I did when we first met. I have changed: I’m probably more confident on my own than I ever have been. Despite this, going forward, I know I can call him if I need someone to talk to. The distance is surmountable, I promise.