I suppose what I learned from my long distance relationship could be applied to anyone in any stage in their life, but mine was during my time in PA School. I met my husband at the ripe age of 20. I was living in Boston with a low-paying job in cancer research, had blonde hair and was still carrying my Jersey accent. He was also working a similar job, living in the world’s smallest apartment with his 2 buddies that only had 1 bathroom and the smell of old beer on a good day. He was also in the process of applying to medical school, and I to physician assistant (PA) school. I decided a few years after college that I wanted to be a PA, (see how to rock your pa school application) so I was scrambling to take prerequisite courses and get patient care experience. He even served as my practice “patient” during my exam to become a certified nurse assistant..I literally had to pretend to give him a bed bath ( I was laughing so hard I cannot believe I passed). Don’t get me wrong, we still had fun and spent way too many nights eating ramen and partying til dawn. But at the end of it all, he was accepted to medical school in Albany, NY in the fall of 2002, and I was still in Boston.
If you have ever been to Boston you know this is not a city where you can have a car. You take the train (the T) everywhere, so when he was leaving for NY I had to look into alternatives. I still remember the morning I left him in Albany at 4:30 am, taking the dreaded Greyhound Bus back to Boston to go to work. It was dark and I was the only person that didn’t smell like body odor or look homeless, but my heart was breaking. I cried for hours and wondered how on earth we could make this work. I proceed to take that bus back and forth for months until I finally convinced my parents to help me buy a car. Luckily, one of their friends was selling an old Honda, so I was saved from the #buslife.
I had applied to PA schools in NY but in the end received an email from Yale PA program with my acceptance. I was headed to New Haven, CT for 2 years and he would still be in Albany. Although the 3 hour car ride wasn’t horrendous, it is DAMN hard having a long distance relationship when you are both working towards a goal. Every Sunday when I had to leave I felt empty and sometimes lost, but it was also how I knew he was the man I would marry. In the end, everything worked out and we got hitched in 2006!!
So here are some tips on how I survived a long distance relationship during PA school:
Make Sacrifices and Stay healthy. Both of you. Both you and your partner will have to give up something. Sometimes it means you cannot hang with your classmates or make it to that study group. You may feel at times that you are “behind” because you spent time with your partner rather than studying. YOU ARE NOT. Go for a run together, get a workout in, keep your body and mind healthy. In the end you will be more relaxed and likely absorb more if you are in a better mindset.
Find Your Special Place. You have to put the books down. Go out and find a place you both love and make it YOUR place. Maybe its a coffee shop, restaurant or favorite park. Whatever you choose, plan to go there at least once every time you connect.
Plan a trip together. Yes, you have a limited budget, but you can easily do this on the cheap or have one of the surprise travel services to do it for you! (Info here) I remember driving to Saratoga with Dave to check out the racetrack and horses. We stayed at a quaint old inn and drove back the next day. You have to take the time to get away and reboot your relationship and your body!
Facetime. This did not exist when I was in PA school and boy I wish it did. We had the good old fashioned motorola phones. No texting or fun stuff like that. Hell if I had Facetime I would have planned to eat dinner virtually with him every night!! Make a virtual date and stick to it!
Be forgiving. This is seriously HARD. You are focused, stressed and overwhelmed. Your partner may do things that annoy the absolute crap out of you. Actually this WILL happen. Take a deep breath and check yourself. Is it you or them?? Either way, battling it out will only make things more stressful. Communicate, communicate, communicate and you will make it through.