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The Prospector

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The Prospector

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Absence in the Time of Valentine’s

Long-distance relationships are often colored with the stigma of negative outcomes. But every year while students study abroad they come back with culture shock, a high boost of confidence and sometimes with a taken heart.

UTEP alumna Lauren Ruiz didn’t see this coming. She met her boyfriend during her studies in France and is currently in a long-distance relationship with him.

“I met him a day after Valentine’s Day in Paris in front of the museum of Les Invalides and although it was not love at first sight, much to my surprise, this stranger turned out to be one of the most loving, caring and romantic people I had ever met,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said that it’s not the distance that is the measure of a relationship, since any relationship with or without distance requires love, time, work, dedication and God.

“Any relationship, whether long distance or close, will always require work,” Ruiz said. “When you truly love somebody, distance will never be an issue. Although I do miss my boyfriend, the distance doesn’t stop us from being happy.”

Long-distance relationships have become more manageable thanks to apps like Skype, but the price for technology’s innovation can be quite expensive, according to Monica Ramos, a UTEP alumni who also met her Belgium boyfriend during her study abroad experience in 2011.

“Skype credits eat up fast with almost $10 every two weeks,” Ramos said. “We also send each other care packages often and eventually—the total amount spent added up quite fast.”

However, Ramos said that thanks to apps  like “WhatsApp,” “FaceTime” and “Skype,” they are able to communicate much more fre-quently and be a part of each other’s lives, even with an eight-hour time difference.

“We also communicated via email, since my boyfriend is sort of old school. We would also send each other poems and our reflections through letters,” Ramos said. “But if it wasn’t for these outlets, I think it would have been impossible to catch up with one another. Honestly, I don’t know how they did it back in the day. I mean regular mail is exciting, but I would have died without the rest.”

After dating for two years, Ramos’ relationship didn’t become part of the 40 percent of the 14 million people in the U.S. who end a long distance relationship. They both now live in Belgium and this will mark their second Valentine’s Day together.

“Our Valentine’s Day will consist of cooking pasta together, which is one of our favorite plates, then maybe spend a relaxing night watching a movie or just walking through the city,” Ramos said. “Couples often times take for granted the little things that matter in a relationship, and rather focus on how much we have to spend in order to make this day special.”

Unlike Ramos, Ruiz will be waiting until May to see her boyfriend and said she can’t wait to have Valentine’s Day every day for the three months that he will be in El Paso.

“I look forward to spending time with him and having actual dates, where we can talk in person, laugh, walk together, hold hands and live life,” Ruiz said.

Apart from all the obstacles that long-distance relationship couples face, Ruiz and Ramos agree that the time difference is something difficult to keep track of. There was only some allotted time to talk before either one of them had to go to school, but eventually it became part of their daily routine.

“I would stay up and Skype with him at 11:30 p.m., while he had to wake up at 7:30 a.m.,” Ruiz said. “Most of the times, I would end up going to bed at three in the morning, simply because we had such great conversations that took my sleepiness away.”

In addition, Ramos said that not being able to physically share her day with him was hard to endure on a day-to-day basis.

“On Sundays we would log in to Skype and cook simultaneously and then eat together. I would have brunch while he would eat his dinner,” Ramos said. “Not being able to hug or cuddle, while watching a movie, was very difficult to endure, but because of all these obstacles it certainly strengthened our relationship. It made us fight for each other so much that it established a rock-solid base.”

Much like a relationship, friendships are also established and evolve while being abroad.

Isabel Molina, who studied for a semester in France last spring, said that although making new friends is an essential part of a study abroad experience, its a hard transition once they have to test their friendship oversees.

“We became something more than friends; we became dependent on one another, we became a family known as ‘The Ragazzi’—a name that was given to us by an Italian woman,” Molina said.

Once the semester is over and everyone has traveled back to their home countries, Facebook and Skype are the only ways to remain in contact and talk about their adventures and memories.

“Never did I think family could be found on the other side of the world,” Molina said.

While the perks of having a long-distance relationship or friendship don’t always fall under that happily ever after category, the reward always shines through.

The time apart may strengthens communication, honesty and creativity that will serve as valuable factors in a relationship—creating a strong bond between each other, Ramos said.

“This experience really made me grow as a person and definitely taught me how far I would go for him and not take anything for granted,” Ramos said. “However, long-distance relationships may not be for everyone, since the only way that it works is if both parties are willing to put double the time and effort in the relationship and are mature enough and serious about each other.”

Ruiz added that being apart has encouraged them to talk and share their emotions a lot more, since long-distance relationships can’t afford confusions because of dead silence.

“There is always something to talk about, laugh or cry about. It is a period when you show the person who you truly are,” Ruiz said.

While Ramos, Molina and Ruiz have dispelled the stigma put on long-distance relationships, they share common advice for those that are currently thinking about study-ing abroad or for those that are not yet aware of their fate.

“Just like any relationship, it requires time and effort to make it work. Distance relationships, however, require double the work, trust and much sacrifice. They are kind of like an unofficial marriage, like a test run or an experiment, since it requires commitment, understanding from both parties and not to mention much creativity to keep that spark going and make up for each other’s absence,” Ramos said.

Andrea Acosta may be reached at [email protected].

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Absence in the Time of Valentine’s