Before she left Peru to come to Canada, Andrea Bárcenas, who graduated from St. Thomas University last year, had the “crazy” idea to fall in love with Paolo, a charming Peruvian man.
Even if it meant spending more than half the year separated, they decided to risk it.
“We can both tell the first year was the hardest. All those new invisible rules that we had to establish, all the new friends, new places, new adventures,” said Bárcenas. “Paolo had a lot of fears, so we made this ‘rule’ of sharing every new experience through pictures or voice messages. It was essential to have FaceTime calls every day. Even just for some minutes, but every single day.”
Bárcenas’ concern was she would miss opportunities as she discovered her new life. She knew she had to find the perfect balance between having a genuine university experience, while taking care of the love of her life.
The couple, who only saw each other every four months, survived Bárcenas’ four-year undergrad by becoming each other’s best friend.
“I found the key in my relationship was that we were closer to each other than to anybody else in the places we were living,” says Bárcenas. “We made our lives and we met amazing people, but we never stopped being each other’s priority.”
Bárcenas and her boyfriend are about to celebrate their fifth anniversary.
“It’s not easy and definitely is not for everybody. But I don’t regret a single thing I gave up, because nothing seems to be more important and fulfilling than him.”
Just like Bárcenas, Sonya Yousseff, who also graduated from STU last year, has been in a long-distance relationship for four years and counting.
Before meeting her boyfriend who lives in Halifax, she never would have imagined getting into a long-distance relationship because of all the problems and misunderstandings these bring.
“However, I don’t regret getting into one because he’s the best thing that has happened to me. FaceTime shortened our distance and seeing him at least once or twice a day made me feel as though he was next to me,” says Yousseff.
Yousseff and her boyfriend saw each other at least once or twice a month. They would meet halfway in Moncton. This system worked for both of them.
“To survive a long-distance relationship all you need is to really want it and put effort into it. If you do, it will work,” she says.
Shawn Henry, the musical director for STU’s musical theatre class, has been in a long distance relationship too but only for a week. His partner moved away from Fredericton to get a master’s degree at Dalhousie Universty. The most difficult part for Henry so far has been getting used to the separation, as they spent all their time together.
Setting short term goals of when they are going to see each other is key for Henry and his partner. “You have something to look forward to,” Henry says. “When you have a connection with someone, distance really doesn’t matter. In my last relationship, there was a lack of connection even though we saw each other every day. In long-distance relationships, you just have to work a little harder to maintain the relationship.”