Surviving a long distance relationship in grad school

Relationships are complicated. Add distance AND grad school to the equation and things can get even more difficult.

Before sharing my own experience with long distance and some strategies that have helped us, I thought I would share a little bit about our relationship. Steve (my fiancé) and I started dating when I went away to school to Calgary, Alberta for my Master’s degree in 2011. The distance from Calgary to Toronto is a plane ride away. After my degree, I took off and traveled to Geneva, Switzerland for 4 months and then again to Saint Lucia for 6 months – more and more plane rides. We had a couple good years together in Toronto until I decided to up and move again to Ottawa, Ontario for my PhD. As you can see, we have experienced A LOT of distance. It hasn’t been the easiest road and of course, comes with its ups and downs but by now we like to think we know what we are doing a bit more.

So these strategies may look a bit different if you are just starting a new relationship, but hope you can still take something from it.


When stressed, we often can take out our challenges on the people we love most. If this happens, take a step back to reflect what and why you are feeling this way and what caused this reaction. This step is crucial and often our ego can get in the way. But if you miss this important part, inevitability you will continue this cycle throughout your relationship.

Clear Communication & Honesty

Once you get real on your feelings, as hard as it may clearly communicate that your partner (oh and apologize for your overreaction if there was one). Sure they might not be able to fully understand your situation but if you’re overwhelmed – tell them, feeling tired – tell them and explain why, are you confused – same thing! Let them in so they know where you are at (their ability to read minds both in person and through distance is quite difficult).


If you need something from them, be specific and ask.

Maybe you need to the day without interruption. Explain what you will be doing (turning off your phone) and why (because you are swamped with school work and feeling overwhelmed) and most importantly explain that when you are done, you will set aside time for them (at the end of the day you will FaceTime them).

My fiancé and I had planned for me to head to Toronto this weekend. I got organized, reflected and came to the realization that I just won’t be able to manage the wasted time through travel. Instead, we changed plans so that he would come visit me.

Your partner will likely need to sacrifice things throughout the time you are in grad school. But remember that this sacrifice goes both ways. So when you do have the time, make sure to make them a priority. And recognize the sacrifice they are making. Be thankful. Give and show them appreciation.

Add Fun

Long distance is hard, exhausting and not typically fun. I miss him every day, multiple times a day. Especially on the difficult days. So make sure to add some fun to your relationship through the distance – of course when you do see eachother, set aside that time to really connect. When you are away from eachother, incorporate fun things such as watching the same TV series at the same time and texting about it. FaceTime during times when you are doing just normal things like cooking or cleaning. This semester, Steve and I are reading the same book (George Orwell 1984) to feel more connected.


Yes, long distance relationships are hard but overcoming these challenges together can strengthen your relationship quickly. It also gives you time for solitude and exercises your independence. It can strengthen your creativity and enjoyment of your work. So remember –  it’s not all bad!

What strategies do you use in your long distance relationships?

Until next time,

Christine xo




P.S Don’t forget to use #ScholarCulture #ScholarSquad #ScholarSunday to keep me updated on your experiences as grad students.

P.P.S Applying to grad school for the 2018/19 school year? Check out this FREE eBook on 5 steps to a successful grad school application. Are you in grad school and struggling to find easy lunches to bring to campus? Check out three FREE recipes and full nutritional information here.


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