Does absence really make the heart grow fonder?

We tell the stories of Dartmouth students tackling long-distance relationships during a pandemic.

by Omala Snyder | 5/5/21 2:10am

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by Kamilla Kocsis / The Dartmouth

Being in a long-distance relationship is difficult. Being in a long-distance relationship in college — with social, academic and extracurricular pressures — can be even harder. Maintaining a long-distance relationship in college during a pandemic? One might say that would seem impossible. But for many students, both at Dartmouth and beyond, keeping their loved one close despite the distance has proven to be a surmountable obstacle. 

Surina Prahbu ’24 started dating her high school boyfriend in November 2018 in their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. He goes to Auburn University, over 1,000 miles from Hanover. Prahbu said that the distance has been challenging for them and that prior to starting college last fall, they decided to take a break before getting back together in November. 

“The prospect of so much distance can sometimes be daunting, especially with this being freshman year and knowing that there are so many years ahead,” Prahbu said. “But we decided to take it as it comes.” 

The most important element of maintaining a healthy and balanced long-distance relationship, Prahbu said, is communication.

“I’m a person that needs people around and thrives off of proximity to people, so being apart has also been really hard in that sense,” Prahbu said. “We make sure to check in on each other every day, and every Sunday, we have a virtual date night.”

Similarly, Sofia Ispahani ’24 emphasized the importance of having open and honest communication and not suppressing any feelings. For Ispahani, the biggest challenge has been a five-hour time difference — Ispahani is from London, and her boyfriend currently lives there. Despite being separated from her boyfriend by an ocean, she had an impressively positive attitude toward the time difference and the 3,262 miles between them.

 “If you want to make it work, you will,” Ispahani said. “It takes effort and sacrifice from both sides, but I am so lucky to be with him, and that’s what motivates me”

While long distance has taken some getting used to, Ispahani said that she and her boyfriend have overcome a lot of challenges and their communication has improved as a result. 

Technology has also been an important factor in maintaining closeness despite the distance: Ispahani and her boyfriend talk frequently over FaceTime and study together over Zoom. 

“The worst part is definitely missing him, but the fact that I get to be with him outweighs any negative,” she said. 

Becca Wade ’22 is also in a long-distance relationship — with another Dartmouth student. She met her girlfriend, Katie Pursley ’20, through their sorority, Sigma Delta. They have been dating for 15 months, and the majority of their relationship has been distanced since Dartmouth went remote last spring.

“We see each other about once a month — she has a full time job in Boston and I’m still in college and working part-time,” Wade said.

In addition to the distance, academic and work obligations have posed a challenge to their relationship.

 “I think that we keep things realistic despite our different schedules,” Wade said. “I work eight-hour shifts and she is studying for the MCAT, so we definitely do try to make the most of the time we can spend together.”

“It takes effort and sacrifice from both sides, but I am so lucky to be with him, and that’s what motivates me.”

Wade said that their ability to communicate has kept the relationship strong. This may be due in part to the fact that they are both Dartmouth students and understand each other's commitments.

“I think we have a unique advantage because we both know what it's like to be Dartmouth students,” Wade said. “We both understand the culture which makes it easier to communicate because she knows what it's like to be here.” 

Both Bridgit McNally ’24 and Ari Garnick ’24 are in relationships with roughly a two-hour distance barrier. McNally’s boyfriend is a year older and attends Northeastern, so they have been doing long distance for over a year and a half now. 

“Long distance is hard, but you have to come to terms with the fact that you are both going to live your separate lives,” McNally said. 

While it has taken time to adjust to the realities of a long distance relationship, McNally said that  being apart has gotten easier with time, adding she and her boyfriend see each other over breaks in their hometown in New Jersey.

Garnick has been dating his girlfriend for a year and a half, and distance has been a factor in their relationship since day one — he is from southern New Hampshire and she is from Boston. COVID-19 and travel restrictions, he said, made it challenging to see each other in the earlier months of their relationship. However, he remains optimistic about maintaining it moving forward.

“I don’t see distance as much of an obstacle, as it feels doable and has its benefits,” Garnick said. “You have your own life and friends that you can share with and include someone else [in], which is healthy.”

Skylar Miklus ’22 has been dating their partner, a senior at Yale, for six months now. Their relationship has always been distanced, but the two make the time to see each other in person roughly every two weeks, Miklus said. 

“The main challenge would be finding time to visit each other, as a weekend away means time away from my friends,” Miklus said.

However, Miklus noted that with remote learning, they have more flexibility to travel to see one another. 

“Classes being remote has made it a lot easier to travel, and we spend long consecutive periods of time together and talk on the phone all the time, so it feels like we are close,” Miklus said.