student life

How to survive a long distance relationship at University

Despite the stereotype it’s hard being a student, especially if you add alcohol and a social life into the work mix. Lets face it, nowadays when we hear of a couple trying to make a long distance work we either let out an “Aw” in adoration or roll our eyes and mentally decide upon an expiration date. Having a successful long distance relationship with your school sweetheart may seem next to impossible. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so pessimistic.

Research supports long-distance relationships

A study carried out by Dr Crystal Jiang and the City University of Hong Kong found that long-distance relationships can lead to couples becoming closer and developing stronger bonds. The scientists spoke to 63 heterosexual couples from Cornell University in Ithaca, around half of whom were in long distance relationships and had been apart for around 17 months. While some lived just 37 miles from their partners, others lived nearly 4,000 miles. Most saw each other once a month or less. Over the course of a week, the couples were asked to complete diaries of their communication and were also asked to fill in questionnaires about their relationships.

The study found that long-distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy. So maybe there’s hope yet?

Putting it to the test

One couple that supports this study and successfully challenges the stereotype of doomed long distance relationships is Northern Irish students Mark McCormick and Hannah McMahon. Despite studying in different parts of UK – Mark studies at Liverpool while Hannah is further south in Plymouth- they have been together for nearly three years since meeting at school.

Mark said: “Hannah and I met on March 2nd, 2013 when I was 17 and she was 18. At the time, my best friend was going out with Hannah’s best friend and we were introduced at a bar in Belfast called Limelight – we hit it off straight away. We’ve now been together for 2 years and 8 months!”


Mark says the most difficult aspect of a long distance relationship is the distance itself: “It’s hard but I think it makes it worthwhile when you see that person again.”

Hitting the nail on the head Dr Crystal Jiang’s study found that couples in long distance relationships had longer encounters when they met face to face and reported feeling that their partners shared more of their thoughts, feelings and emotions, when reunited.

How to help your relationship survive 

So what can you do to give your relationship the best chance at surviving long distance through University? Mark puts it down to four key factors. 

  1. “Stay in communication; texting, calling, Facetiming, whatever it is, try and stay in contact as much as you can, even if it’s just a quick good morning or goodnight message.
  2. “Arrange dates to see the person so you have something to look forward to and so it doesn’t feel like you’re not sure when you’ll see that person next. Don’t forget to do little things to show you care.”
  3. “You have to think positive about your long distance relationship and be determined to make it work – this will bring you closer together. Just because your partner isn’t there with you, it doesn’t mean you should be sad.”
  4. It may be confusing thinking space in a long distance relationship can be beneficial but Mark says it is also important to enjoy time with your friends, “they are as important as your girlfriend/boyfriend. It is always healthy to have a life outside of your relationship.”

Mark credits a lot of his communication with Hannah to social media platforms such as Facebook and Skype as they make communicating a lot quicker and simpler. However, he notes that people shouldn’t lose touch with more traditional, and romantic types of communication: “Sending handwritten letters which requires a lot of thought and effort is another great way of showing you care. Making time for the person is important, whether it is just a text or a phone call.

“Obviously when you can, try and visit the person – visits are the best part of a long distance relationship as they make you appreciate what you have. If you can’t visit often try and do other things to let that person know you care like sending them flowers.”

Give it a try

To all those doubtful sixth formers or university students currently doing long distance Mark says: “It’s definitely worth a try if you want stay together and I don’t think the distance really matters if you want to be with that person – no matter how far away they are. If you don’t try, you’ll never know what will happen!”

You may receive a negative reception when seeking advice from single friends also venturing out to university, a common response being, ‘you’re too young to be in love,’ but Mark disagrees: “Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t be in love! Follow your heart.”

It’s like they say, ‘If you want to live together, you first need to learn how to live apart’ so don’t be afraid to give long distance a go.

Have you done long distance or are you in a long distance relationship right now? Tell us how it went/is going in the comments below.