Teaching English abroad is a great tool to develop your personal character and a way to fulfill your goals and interests. In an idealist sort of way, teaching abroad can bring many good things into a person’s life. However it is 15 minutes before you board that plane to Beijing when you finally think, “Holy crap – is this really happening?” And it is at that point you realize you’ve left behind your boyfriend or girlfriend for the next 6 months. Just stop, take a breath, close your eyes, and exhale. The bigger picture is more important, and here are some ways to deal with it.
Say what is on your mind
Going back to my own experiences, I was dating a girl (who I am still dating, one year later) who spent the summer in beautiful Spain. Everything was fine for the first few weeks; I was working on the farm and busy with exercising on my time off. I didn’t have a problem with Skyping and emailing back and forth, in fact it was a nice relief seeing as my girlfriend has always been a bit clingy-er than most. One day on Facebook, she posted a picture of herself with a young Spanish guy while at a bubble party (basically a dance party with far less clothes). I told her I didn’t feel comfortable with it, and she explained that it was a non-issue.
Jealousy is the enemy
Which leads us to this next point, dealing with jealousy. Yeah, we get it: Europeans are much more suave, sophisticated, and fashionable than Americans. If you end up getting swindled and your significant other decides to be unfaithful, you know right there that he or she is not worth your time. Leave it at that. On the other hand, do not allow the pungent stench of jealousy to intoxicate the relationship. It does nothing but drive the two apart and especially when long distance separates the two. If you have a problem, address it (“I have an issue with not talking to you lately, seeing XX pictures on Facebook”, etc.). Like most feelings, jealousy has ways of altering your own life and not in a good way. It constantly clouds your mind, makes you bitter towards your significant other, and has a multiplying effect. Best way to deal with the problem? Don’t be jealous. Don’t cheat on them and 99% of the time they won’t cheat on you.
Skype (and other apps)
Seeing and hearing someone speak in real-time while thousands of miles apart can be special. Your significant other can show you around the house (or you show them yours) so you can share the experience, at least partially. If you’re the one who is away, introduce your friends or home-stay hosts to your significant other. Allow them to chat for a bit. Change it up a bit and surprise the other person. Snapchat is another great one to use because you can send silly pictures and pictures not noteworthy enough to keep. Plus you can add text, use the pencil to draw and personalize, and choose how long they can view the pic before it disappears forever. One of my personal favorite apps is the WhatsApp application. It allows you to text each other (and any friends or family that have the app downloaded) when connected to the internet (either mobile or wifi). If you can buy a smartphone to use overseas with a minimal internet data package included, you can text your significant other all day long like you would at home. It uses very little data and functions exactly like your phone’s text messaging system!
The Bigger Picture
In all reality, you’ll eventually return home. Just remember that no one is dependent on their significant other. You two work together and complement each other, but each of you still lives an independent life. Teaching English abroad is one of those experiences that will not come around that often. Take the chance and sacrifice a few months being together for something that will benefit you much more in the long run. If this is something you really want to do, do not let your significant other keep you sheepish of doing so. If both of you are in this together, you will make it work.
About the Author
After obtaining degrees in English Literature and English Secondary Education, Sean Lords packed up his bags and left to South Korea where he lived for three years teaching English abroad. Sean has since returned to the States and is currently at work on his Master’s degree.