Hot Potatoes

“We don’t say goodbye” – Long Distance Friendships: Can They Work?

Packing every semester, leaving everything behind and starting the process all over again is something that you love or you just get tired of. How long can you keep going? For some MA Euroculture fellows, the period of the Master programme is already too much. For others, it is just the start of a long-lasting expatriate life.

Mayra Lopes │mayralopes@uol.com.br

They met during the weekend before the classes started. She had come all the way from another continent, carrying a heavy bag and trying to cope with the jet-lag that kept her awake all night. The first time they spoke was on Facebook. He was already living in the city, so kindly offered his ‘classmate-to-be’ a hand to settle. They bonded instantly and became very good friends. But, as we all know, they had to say goodbye when the semester came to an end. They promised to keep in touch. Deep down, they knew it was never going to be the same.

We live between hi and bye

That could be the story of anyone who decided to move abroad, for whatever reason. But, the truth is, meeting new people is exciting. It is the easiest way to learn about a different country, culture and even some key sentences in a different language. When you are an exchange student, you meet a huge number of people, coming from the four corners of the globe. When you are away from home and no longer have a ‘comfort zone’, you see that making new friends is easy – and necessary. You become easily attached to these new people, you get used to having them around. They do become your best friends! Plus, we all run the risk of falling in love with that one that lives the farthest away.

mayra long distance love

How to deal with all that varies a lot from person to person; some look behind with nostalgia, others prefer to look ahead and move on. However, having someone you care about abroad forces you to become creative in finding ways to keep in touch. In some cases, distance can even make a relationship grow stronger. That is what happened to the Brazilian couple, Juliana and Marcelo. When Marcelo was accepted to a Master programme in Germany, Juliana decided that it was time to study abroad too, something that she had had in her ‘to do list’ for a long time. She was accepted to the Erasmus Mundus Master programme in Journalism, Media and Globalisation and, even if they were in the same continent, they lived apart from each other for two years. “In the end, missing each other was good for our relationship; we learned to be less attached. We made a deal to see each other every two weeks”, says Juliana. “Low cost airlines are helpful, but being less jealous is also very helpful”, she advises.

mayra computer cat

It has been almost three years since Kato left Georgia to live with her family in France. Even if she only goes back to visit her friends during the summer holiday, she uses technology and creativity to her favour in order to keep in touch. But don’t go thinking that they chat or exchange long emails. “We have Skype Parties! We have some drinks together and, even if they are on the other side of the screen, we have fun and do crazy things. I feel like I am with them”, she says. Of course she misses being around, but these virtual parties, and the fact that she keeps sharing her deepest secrets with her friends from far-far-away Georgia, make her feel a bit closer.

Let’s talk about YOU now

Packing every semester, leaving everything behind and starting the process all over again is something that you love or you just get tired of. How long can you keep going? For some MA Euroculture fellows, the period of the Master programme is already too much. For others, it is just the start of a long-lasting expatriate life.

Just for fun: What kind of exchange student are you?

There are those who are super needy. They always try to make a lot of friends, hang out with every kind of person and are out every night. Hyper-social, they get easily attached and are the first ones to start crying their eyes out on the last day of class. And there are those that prefer not to go so deep. They stay rational and repeat to themselves that this is just another period of their lives, seeing no need to feel emotionally involved with all these people that they are unsure of ever seeing again. If you are in the group of ‘sufferers’ or in the ‘way too cool to worry vibe’, here are some tips that might be helpful to have a blast in the Euroculture way of life:

Good practices for the sentimental:

– Use your sentimental side to your favour; become the PR of the group and assure some of the best memories (and photos) of the season;

– Send some nice birthday/Christmas cards (and maybe one of those best photos) by post – Facebook messages are so impersonal…;

– Keep up with their stories; even if you are far away, try to know what is going on in your friend’s life and be there to give some (even if lousy) advice;

– Try to always have actual conversations with your friends living abroad, say more than “I miss you” – that we all know.

Good practices for the cold hearts:

– Don’t play it too hard. We all know you build this brick wall around you because you fear getting too attached… So, first thing: “Let it be”;

– Keep in mind that this can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Try to get interested about other people’s lives, cultures, idiomatic expressions… It will not compromise your heart and it will help you to become a more tolerant person;

– Enjoy the music. Go out, meet people. If you stay home, you might be letting pass your soul mate and a lot of potential friends!

– Taste new food, be curious and enjoy. It’s alright, none of us expect you to cry and hug for 10 minutes before saying goodbye.

Mayra

Mayra Lopes, Contributing writer

Mayra Lopes started spreading her Brazilianness in Europe a while ago. She studied in the UK, Czech Republic, France and Spain (and in Brazil, of course). Currently in Brussels for the professional track, she thinks she will never see chocolate the same way. Mayra is a journalist crazy about international news, coffee addict and polka dots enthusiast.

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