Long distance relationships: ‘Hard but worth it’

Second-year Destinee Aponte Skypes with her longtime boyfriend Darryl regularly.

Many students view college as an opportunity to leave home and meet new people. For some new students, however, this can mean leaving behind a longtime partner. Many choose to break it off before leaving, fearing the distance will be too much. Yet a few Novocollegians have managed to make it work with text messages, Skype dates and the occasional rideshare off the forum.

Second-year Destinee Aponte met her boyfriend Darryl in her high school statistics class. They have been dating for the past year and eight months.  When it came to college decision time, Darryl chose to pursue a degree in international relations at Florida International University (FIU) in their hometown of Miami, while Aponte packed up and moved to Sarasota. The decision to continue long-distance was something they had discussed but ultimately decided to play by ear and see how it went.

“The first few weeks were really rough,” Aponte said. “We weren’t used to being apart, and I was really busy with the beginning of school here, and FIU started later. There was just a lot going on.”

Darryl also struggled with the idea of New College’s party culture.

“He didn’t like the idea that there was a party right outside my room and that the drinking was so open. That was surprisingly a big issue in the beginning,” Aponte said. “He was able to visit last year during Fetish Ball, I think he had fun.”

Though they have had their ups and downs, and Aponte does not deny the difficulties, she said they are in a good place, and that “on a scale of one to 10 our relationship is a solid nine”. The couple, like most in long-distance relationships, relies on Skype and texting for most of their communication.

“We’ve started to send each other packages as well,” Aponte said. “It’s a lot more intimate and sincere.” Being in the same state, they are able to visit each other occasionally throughout the year.

“I used to be a huge skeptic of long-distance, but I guess I’ve realized that even though it’s a fight, it’s worth it,” Aponte concluded.

Second-year Cymri Mellen-Jones agrees that, though it takes effort, her relationship with her girlfriend Nadia Fernandez is worth it. The couple has been together for three and a half years, but Mellen-Jones said, “We still have a long way to go.”

Fernandez attends the University of Florida in Gainesville three hours away. Though neither of them have cars, the forum allows Mellen-Jones to find a rideshare up there usually once a month. Even though they are lucky enough to see each other fairly regularly Mellen-Jones stressed the importance of communication while apart.

“It’s really important to keep communication every day,” she said. Like Aponte, Mellen-Jones said the first couple of weeks were the hardest. Getting used to being apart and the chaos of adjusting to life at New College made it difficult.

“I fell off the grid for two weeks,” Mellen-Jones said of Orientation Week and the weeks following.  She added that this year she and Fernandez were much more prepared for what to expect and that things have been going great. Mimicking Aponte’s sentiments, Mellen-Jones concluded by saying, “It’s hard, but so worth it.”

Alumni Matthew Thompson (‘95) also thinks it was worth it. Thompson and his partner Jessica, both Texas natives, spent their college years in a long-distance relationship. While Thompson studied anthropology at New College, Jessica received a degree in biology from Bard College in New York. Living in a pre-Skype world their communication was limited to emails and phone calls from the landlines in the dorms.

Using academic opportunities to their advantage, Thompson spent two Independent Study Projects (ISP) off campus with Jessica and she was able to secure an internship at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota for a semester.

Jessica was one year younger than Thompson so they spent a total of five years long-distance. Matthew and Jessica are now happily married with three daughters. The couple has been together for 21 years.

“Twenty-one years of friendship,” Thompson said.

When asked if he had any advice to students in long-distance relationships Thompson said, “You have to think of it as a long distance in time not space. You’re playing a very long game, and when you have a passionate romantic attachment to someone the passing of time can be strange. But in looking back on my life the amount of time that we were apart was actually not that great.”

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