The U of T student body includes 28,433 international undergraduate and graduate students, coming from 170 different countries and regions, across its three campuses. Among this, around 29 per cent of students, many packed their bags, left behind their loved ones, and moved miles away from home to continue their education. 

Aside from family and friends, some students also leave their significant others and transition to long-distance relationships. Even among domestic students, some navigate relationships with people who live in different cities or provinces.

The Varsity spoke to two U of T students who shared their experiences in long-distance relationships (LDRs) and how they navigate them: the challenges, considerations, and even some unexpected benefits. 

The challenges

Vincent Quach — a fourth-year student pursuing an English major, and minors in mathematics, and education and society — met his girlfriend at a convention in 2022, and they have been together long distance since then. While Quach and his partner both live in Canada, they find it challenging to meet since they live three hours away from each other.

Quach mentioned that the distance restricts how physically intimate he can be with his partner — he can see her “maybe a week or two in a full year.” 

“You start thinking, ‘Man, I can really go for a hug right now.’ And then she’s hundreds of kilometres away,” he told The Varsity.

Ahan Kalra Mathur — a second-year Rotman student — dated his partner for a year and a half before university. They met in Dubai through common friends in 2020 over the pandemic. In 2022, Mathur came to Ontario to study at Rotman, and his partner moved to Vancouver for school.

For Mathur and his partner, time differences are a significant hurdle. He told The Varsity that it was hard for him and his girlfriend — who has since moved back home — to connect over the summer due to the eight-hour time difference between Canada and the United Arab Emirates. 

Quach also said that the inability to see his girlfriend is upsetting because, during rough patches, he doesn’t have the option to approach her and check-in. “Assuming something goes wrong, you can’t go show up to their doorstep and, like, knock on their door and see if they’re okay,” he said.

The positives

According to Mathur and Quach, LDRs have their benefits as well. 

Mathur pointed out that being in an LDR has helped him foster a sense of individuality. To him and his girlfriend, a relationship is “something that’s a part of us, but it’s not our whole personality.” Being away allowed him to discover more about himself — and, in turn, about his relationship. The distance has allowed them to “understand what the other person wants and needs and how previous wants and needs have changed.”

“You start thinking, ‘Man, I can really go for a hug right now.’ And then she’s hundreds of kilometres away,” he told The Varsity
Vincent Quach

Quach said that the experience has made him a better communicator. Before he met his partner, he was somewhat closed off and didn’t always share things with others. However, since they started dating, he has opened up and started sharing glimpses of his day more often. He has also become more patient, recognizing that although they live separate, busy lives, they can still take the time to talk at the end of the day. 

Maintaining an LDR

Although the evidence on the longevity of LDRs appears mixed, some research shows that they tend to exhibit more stability — although this may be due to greater commitment when partners enter the relationship.

When asked about important factors that helped him maintain an LDR, Quach explained that he and his girlfriend had initially met at a convention, after which they connected over Discord. In other words, the foundation of their relationship was a long distance from the start. This dynamic differs from that of someone — like Mathur — who dated their significant other in person before beginning a long-distance relationship. 

Regardless, Mathur and Quach both emphasized the importance of trust in building a relationship. “If you don’t trust the person, you don’t really have a proper relationship,” said Mathur. He stressed that people have to earn trust, so both individuals should show the other why they should trust them. 

Quach mentioned that respect for each others’ time was vital for an LDR. He added that mutual understanding of the other person’s choices and way of life was also important. 

As U of T students, they juggle university life and their relationships. Quach finds it helpful to set a routine and set aside time to talk to his girlfriend at the end of his day. To Mathur, talking to his partner is a delight after a long and hectic day of studies and extracurricular activities.

“You should have fun talking to your partner. And communicating with your partner shouldn’t feel like a chore,” Mathur said.

Both mentioned the importance of showing that you care and think about your partner. Aside from talking often, Mathur sets up virtual dates with his girlfriend. Quach explained that he tries to write letters to his partner, and regularly texts and calls with her.