The Day of Love and Friendship

It has been said that “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We see what others have on Facebook and we long for the same things. As we get caught up in thinking about what we don’t have, we never stop to think that maybe someone might be looking at our life that way. Have you ever thought that you could have something that everyone else wants? Instead of looking at other people’s lawns, we should work on watering our grass, taking care of what we have. Do you have a close relationship with your sibling? A grandparent? A parent? A pet? Do you have a group of friends that are there to support you, or even a best friend that you know you can trust with everything? Some people don’t have any of that. However, if there is one thing I know, there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how small.

Many people have strong feelings about today. It can be seen in the many ways that people refer to it: Singles Awareness Day, Valentine’s Day, GALentine’s Day, etc. Recently, I was trying to put together a lesson plan that included Valentine’s Day vocabulary in Spanish. When I was researching about the holiday, one interesting phrase that I kept seeing pop up was “El d√≠a del amor y la amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). It made me really think. You can have a significant other and still not do anything for Valentine’s Day. You can be single and still celebrate the day.

When I was younger, my parents would take our family out to a restaurant every year. We celebrated a day of love, but a different kind of love. As I got older, I started celebrating the day with my friends. Currently I am in a relationship, but I have yet to spend the day with my significant other. Two years ago, we weren’t able to celebrate together, so my friends and I put together a delicious potluck dinner in our apartment at school, celebrating a day of friendship. Last year, I was abroad in France while my boyfriend remained in the United States. I couldn’t be with him, and we still talked on Skype, but I went to the movies with two of my good girl friends and then we went out to a restaurant. Both of those days were special days, even if they were not spent in the way that the holiday gets commercialized.

Your special someone does not have to be your significant other. You do not have to have romantic feelings for someone to make today special. If you have a significant other, then great! Celebrate the day with that person and remember to love them every day. If you don’t have a significant other, then spend the day with whoever your special someone is. Celebrate the other kinds of love that exist, and remember to love that person every day as well. Valentine’s Day is a lot like Thanksgiving. We tend to get caught up in life and forget to be thankful and love others daily. Don’t limit love to one day.

Loving Through Language

It started with a love of languages.

After winter break of my freshman year of college, I was at a dinner, talking about what I had done over the break. I sheepishly explained that I had spoken Spanish with my mother and spent much of my time studying French. The boy next to me said that he didn’t think that was nerdy at all and that he would have done the same if he had a relative to speak another language with. That’s when I casually gave the invitation to practice Spanish with me whenever he wanted. It was an invitation I gave out often but never got a response. I wanted a way of being able to keep up with my Spanish while I was away from home.

When I gave the invitation out this time, the results were different. A few nights later, the two of us walked home from watching a movie in a friend’s apartment and that’s when he started conversing in Spanish with me. This lead to a friendship based on speaking the Spanish language. We would share music with each other, talk about what was going on in our lives, and more! Spanish was something special that connected the two of us. There were many people who would wonder what we were saying and get frustrated that they didn’t understand. It was our little secret.

As time went on, we started studying together and became swing dance partners. We grew close and got to know each other well, becoming good friends. We really enjoyed each other’s company. Our sophomore year, we started to date.

Almost two and a half years later, we are still together. We’ve had to endure challenges such as being long distance for a length of time but have made it through. We still speak Spanish frequently, although not as frequently as before. Recently he has started learning Russian and I have started learning Korean. We share what we learn with each other and continue to love through language.

I have read many stories online about couples who have met through language exchange/penpal websites and was always amazed by the connection two people could make through a common interest in a language. I never thought that I would be one of those people, and that I would meet someone on my campus. Have you ever had an experience where you really connected with someone based on a love for languages? Tell your story in the comments below!

Making Your LDR Last While Abroad

“Distance makes the heart grow fonder.”

Or does it?

I have heard about plenty of failed attempts at long distance relationships. Relationships succeed and fail for many different reasons, whether distance plays a role or not. My long distance relationship experience, like everyone else’s, was unique. I studied abroad in Europe for two consecutive semesters, about seven months in total. During those seven months, I was back in the United States for a two-week period to work on getting my visa for France. Knowing there was an end date helped us hang on and look forward to when we would see each other again.

We had been dating for almost a year when I hopped on the plane to Spain for my first semester abroad. Before dating, we had been friends for about a year. This gave us a strong foundation, which is one of the first things that is important in a long distance relationship. We knew each other well way before I left. If you are going to study abroad, I would recommend that you:

Evaluate yourself honestly. What kind of person are you? Do you get jealous easily? Could you fall into the trap of meeting someone and flirt with them because you are missing the physical or emotional affection and attention your partner gives you?

Ask yourself: What kind of person are you dating? Is he/she happy for you to have this opportunity to study elsewhere? Is he or she letting you experience everything without holding you back? Do they support you and encourage you or do they get jealous?

The most important factor in a relationship arguably is trust. I remember a time where I was playing a board game called “Loaded Questions” with my family and my cousin’s boyfriend. The object of the game is for the person asking a question that they read off a card to guess what each person playing with them answered. It is a great way to get to know people. The question asked was what we thought was the most important thing in a relationship. Unanimously we answered: trust. Where is your relationship at? Are you two in a serious, committed relationship or an open relationship? Are you both on the same page about where you are at? Do you two know you can trust one another?

Another hugely important ingredient is communication. It is important not to miss out on your abroad experience by always talking to your significant other. What worked for my boyfriend and I was setting up a schedule of when we knew we could both talk on Skype. It was consistent. We always had something to look forward to and made it work with the six-hour time difference. We talked often. We talked about what was going on in our lives. I downloaded a texting app called Whatsapp, that made it possible for me to communicate with anyone from home as long as I had data or wifi.

Every person is unique and therefore everyone’s relationship will be unique based on who both people are. Not everyone will be going abroad for seven months, have a six-hour time difference or be dating for about a year before going abroad. Some people’s significant others will visit them. Some, like mine, will not, and that’s okay.

Being in a long distance relationship is not easy and I would not recommend it for everyone, especially for those looking to start a relationship right before going abroad. Personally, myself and other people I knew in both of my programs were surprised at the number of people in our programs who were in a relationship. As far as I know, all of them made it work, even if the distance made things difficult. Long distance relationships are not impossible, although very sad at times, and I want to encourage those who are currently in one or going to be in one that they can make it though.