Long Distance Love in Graduate School

When I moved to New York to start my graduate program, I quickly noticed a pattern. Every time the subject of my long distance relationship came up in conversation, someone would mention their own or a friend’s failed long distance relationship. Mind you, these were all stories coming from other graduate students. So these were all stories about how graduate school and long distance had torn two lovers apart. Yay!

This was almost as annoying as inexplicable train delays. I’m not sure if people just wanted to relate their own experience to mine or if they were just being insensitive (or a combination of the two).

Regardless, trust me when I say that I get it. I don’t even need to hear the stories. I am fully aware that my long distance relationship could fail just like any other. This is the only area where I allow myself to be a risk taker. I was willing to move across the country to go back to school, knowing the strain it would put on my relationship, because the rewards are great. I am also willing to live with the added stress that of a long distance relationship – again, because the rewards are great.

If you are reading this blog, chances are you probably already know the professional and personal benefits of getting a graduate degree. However, you may not realize why it could be worthwhile to be in a long distance relationship in graduate school. So here are my top three reasons why I continue to do this to myself (aside from love of course):

1. Complaining Until Your Mouth or Their Ears Fall Off

We all love academia, but sometimes it can get old, frustrating, annoying, daunting, and the list goes on for miles. Whether your partner is in the same field or not, it can just be nice to have someone to complain to when you get tired or overwhelmed. This is generally a great thing about relationships of all kinds. I find this especially relevant to my scenario, though. After all, who do you think I complained to about all of those annoying break up stories?

2. An Outsider’s Perspective, An Outsider’s World

Chances are if you are in a long distance relationship, you and your partner have different circles. Those could be different social circles or professional circles. I feel pretty lucky to be dating someone with a completely different career from my own. It helps me get outside of my academic bubble. But even if your long distance partner is also in academia, it can just be great to be reminded that there are other perspectives and experiences out there.

3. The Getaways

A long distance relationship is a great excuse to get out of town. It could mean that you get out of working on that group project on Sunday night because you’ve already made plans to visit your partner in another city. It also might mean that you make time to do something other than school or work. Chances are, when you finally get to see your long distance love you’ve made sure to clear up some time to just focus on being together. Even if it is just a few hours, those are a few hours that you aren’t thinking about your dissertation or your assistantship.

I know that if I continue on in academia the chances that I will continue to live far from my partner are high, but for now the rewards seem pretty incredible.


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