We have all been warned that love is complicated. Especially when you fall for your best friend’s ex, your roommate, or your roommate’s ex. But what if the person you love lives in a different part of the world? How do you make international love work? Univers asked students who left love behind when they departed for Tilburg University, or who found it right here on campus.
Tearful airport scenes, sore arms from holding up a phone for hours every night, and saying ‘I love you’ to a computer screen. International love is all but easy. Six Tilburg University students share their personal stories of borderless love.
Mike (22, International Management), Canada
Fell in love with Dutch student Kim while on exchange in Tilburg
“I met Kim on exchange in Tilburg in the fall of 2016, and we dated for three months before I returned to Canada. We were long-distance for about eight months. I returned to Tilburg to do my master’s, so now we’re back to regular dating!
I first met Kim during the academic integration introduction lectures when I came to Tilburg University as an exchange student. She was an I*ESN mentor in charge of looking after another group of exchange students. She ended up sitting beside me and I didn’t listen to a word of the lecture. I just spent the whole time trying to make her laugh as much as possible.
I knew it would be terrible when I had to leave for Canada, but I was just so happy with her I knew we would find a way to make it work. Being in a long-distance relationship wasn’t easy, but getting to call her on the phone and Skype with her was always the best part of my day, so I wouldn’t say it was terribly difficult. The time difference was the hardest. She would go to sleep around 6pm my time, and every day I’d have a long night without her.
Our plans for the future? Right now, we’re hoping to find jobs somewhere in the UK. But realistically I’ll be happy wherever we are, as long as she is there too.”
Kim (23, Management of Cultural Diversity), The Netherlands
Fell in love with exchange student Mike from Canada
“I met Mike during TOP week 2016. I don’t know about love at first sight, but I definitely thought Mike was very kind, cute and funny from the start.
Honestly, I wasn’t certain about pursuing a relationship with Mike, knowing that he would have to move back to Canada. I had seen couples who tried to do long-distance before, and it never seemed to work. Even though I knew I really liked Mike, I suggested we should just stay friends and keep in contact. I think we kept this up for less than a week after he left. We realized it was a ridiculous idea, because we knew we liked each other way too much to be just friends.
Being away from Mike for eight months was difficult, of course. We talked a lot via WhatsApp and Skype, which made it a lot better. Luckily I was able to go and see him in Canada for two weeks in May.
I think the best thing about being with someone from another country is probably that you always keep finding out new things. We always have something new to tell to one another, so it’s never boring!”
Adam (20, Economics), Ireland
On exchange in Tilburg and in a long-distance relationship
“My girlfriend Rachel and I were together for eight months when I departed for Tilburg last August. It was a bit odd, as I had applied for the Erasmus program before we got together, so I knew there would be this year abroad ahead of us when the relationship began. However, when I applied I was determined to follow through with it regardless of what happened. Rachel and I discussed it early on and were happy to see how it went.
Being in a long-distance relationship is difficult. We usually go about a month without seeing each other, which is not easy, although we’re helped by WhatsApp and Facetiming. It’s definitely a challenge, and there are times where it can feel really bad when either one of us has had a rough time. One positive of the long-distance relationship is that it does make you appreciate the time you actually spend together a lot more.
We have a very strong relationship, so other than moments of irrationality, I’m honestly never worried about us lasting until next summer. Luckily we have the means to see each other about once a month, with either myself flying home or her coming to visit here in Tilburg.”
Valerie (20, International Development and Cooperation), Indonesia
On exchange in Tilburg and in a long-distance relationship
“I’m from Indonesia, and my home university is in South Korea. My boyfriend is American. We met in South Korea in 2016, but he had to move to Germany for work only six weeks after we met. At the time, neither of us was looking for something long-term and neither of us wanted to do the long-distance thing. But we grew feelings over the short six weeks that we were together.
At the beginning of our relationship, we were moving at a drastically different pace. I felt so strongly about him. A few months after he left for Germany, I braved myself to tell him that I loved him. I had stopped seeing other people and going on dates, because I knew I wanted to be in a relationship with him. He didn’t say it back until three months later, and in the months that had passed he had still been going on some casual dates, which I didn’t find out about until recently. It was a really weird phase. But when we found out that I was really going to the Netherlands to study, we both decided that we wanted to be together long-term and that we would figure things out along the way.
Being in a long-distance relationship is definitely difficult. When I was still in South Korea, our Skype sessions really messed with my sleeping schedule, and consequently with my mood and my performance during the day. Now that we’re in the same time zone, we’re just trying to maximize our time with each other and travel as much as we can. For the future, we’re hoping that he can return to South Korea with me while I finish the final year of my Bachelor’s. And for the even further future, we’re looking to live together in the United States or in Europe.”
Max (19, Online Culture), The Netherlands
Fell in love with international student Antonia from Bulgaria
“Antonia and I met on the first day of TOP week. We signed up for the same study program, so we were in the same group. Most of us were speaking Dutch, not thinking about the international students in our group who couldn’t understand us. Suddenly, one of the internationals said rather loudly, “ENGLISH PLEASE!”, and you can guess who this was. That’s when I first noticed Antonia. I literally thought to myself: I want to get to know that girl.
We had a few ups and downs, but finally we both admitted that there was something more. Being in the same study program, we were a bit scared that it wouldn’t work out. So we kept our relationship hidden for a while. That was difficult, but also exciting—sneaking a kiss when we were alone or when nobody was looking.
I fell in love with Antonia for who she is, not for where she comes from. But I do love the involvement in each other’s lives, trying to learn each other’s language. You both have different backgrounds and you get to know someone on a totally different level, which is so interesting and exciting.
We’re lucky to have found each other at the start of our bachelor’s program, which gives us three years to see where we’re heading with the relationship. At the moment we’re looking to rent a house together next year and take in other internationals. If we’re together until the end of our studies, we will definitely try to stay together in one place.”
Antonia (19, Online Culture), Bulgaria
Fell in love with Dutch student Max while on exchange in Tilburg
“Max and I first met during TOP week. We bonded as friends really fast. When we started our study program, I found out that as goofy as he sometimes could be, he’s incredibly intelligent and he’s able to talk about literally anything.
I didn’t know that I was starting to have feelings for Max as more than a friend, until I started being jealous of every girl that he would talk to or give attention to. I tried to hide it at first because I was scared to like him that much. We’re in the same program and we have lots of mutual friends, so what if it didn’t work out? But one night he came to my apartment, and we talked and talked for what seemed to be just a few hours. When I noticed it was four in the morning and we’d been talking all night, I knew that this was something special.
I didn’t expect to fall in love when I came to Tilburg, but I am a huge believer that things happen for a reason and that something drew me to Tilburg. So far, my abroad experience has taught me a lot. I’m living on my own for the first time, I’m adjusting to a different culture, and I’ve made so many new friends. But most of all, it’s been the experience of falling in love that has helped me learn so much about myself and about what’s important at the end of the day and what’s not. My relationship with Max isn’t just changing my abroad experience, it’s changing my perspective on love in general.”
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