Students strive to navigate long-distance relationships created by coronavirus

By ARIADNE WILL

SARAH FAGAN

With Middlebury students now scattered across the globe, many have found themselves in long distance romantic relationships they had not planned for. Following the evacuation of campus in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, students had to make quick and unexpected decisions about their relationships.

While some of these students already had experience with distance dating, the announcement to leave campus came suddenly and threw many students for a loop.

Katelyn Mei ’22 has been dating her boyfriend, Cater Wang ’21, for over a year. The couple dated long distance last summer. 

Still, the new challenges brought about by the sudden evacuation of campus took the couple by surprise.

“There was definitely a shock to [realizing] we weren’t going to see each other for half a year,” Mei said. “It was like, ‘We have four days we need to spend together, now.’”

Wang, who is still on campus, is an international student from China. For now, they are both in the same time zone, with Wang in Vermont and Mei at her home in Brooklyn.

But Wang will return home in May, placing a 12-hour time difference — and thousands of miles — between them. Mei said she’s worried about when Wang returns to China.

“There’s definitely a day’s delay of conversation unless we make time to meet each other [over] FaceTime,” she said regarding the time difference.  “At least I have this person [who] I can share my emotions and my feelings [with].”

There was definitely a shock to [realizing] we weren’t going to see each other for half a year,” Mei said. “It was like, ‘We have four days we need to spend together, now.’”

— Katelyn Mei ’22

Will Hoppin ’22 from Mill Valley, California is dating Chloe Zinn ’22 who lives in South Hero, Vt. 

“Vermont is a much different place than California and [Chloe] is a much more humble person and a much more caring person,” Hoppin said. He noted that his Bay Area private high school, on the other hand, fostered a culture of elitism and narcissism.  “It’s so refreshing to be around someone who’s so genuinely present and caring, and I think I have a lot to learn from her.”

Hoppin and Zinn now sit on opposite sides of the country.

“I was at her house for a week before I decided to go home,” he said. “That was a really hard decision to make because [I had to decide,] do I want to be with my girlfriend — her family was really excited about me staying there — or with my family?”

He said that while he is “at peace” with his decision to go home, he misses Zinn greatly.

“I’m not going to see her until August, if things keep going this way,” he said. “We have plans for her to come out to California if she doesn’t have a summer job that’s in-person, but it’s scary to be like, ‘I’m not going to see this person that’s so important to me.’”

Maeve Callahan ’22 expressed similar concerns.

“It’s definitely a bit more of a roller coaster,” she said regarding hopes to see boyfriend Jose Morales ’22. “Some days I think, ‘yes, I am going to road trip as soon as classes are done.’”

But other days, she feels nervous about making the 27-hour-journey from her home in Massachusetts to Dallas, Texas, where Morales lives.

“I don’t want to endanger people if I go on a road trip, I still have to get gas and I still have to eat,” she said.

Nick Wagg ’22 decided to stop waiting and travelled from Maine to Minnesota on April 16 to be with girlfriend Elsa Soderstrom ’22.

Wagg, who arrived in Minnesota on April 16, decided to follow Soderstrom after a few weeks at home.

“I felt I wasn’t totally understood at home,” he said. “I was seeking some type of normalcy of what college was like and I felt that coming [to Minnesota] would feel a little more like how things were.”

Wagg said that he ultimately decided to make the flight because of the indefinite nature of the situation.

“We’ve had to deal with distance before, but what was different about this time was not knowing when we’d be able to see each other again,” he said. “This time there was no light at the end of the tunnel.”

While Wagg and Soderstrom are together in Minnesota, Matt Fliegauf ’22 is still waiting until he can safely head to South Carolina to see his girlfriend Raeanne Smith ’22.

“I’m going to head down to South Carolina as soon as it’s safe, but we don’t know when that’s going to be,” Fliegauf said. “I can’t put myself in a situation where I’m threatening either my health or her health or her family’s health.”

Fliegauf and Smith recently celebrated their one year anniversary over FaceTime. 

“[Celebrating our anniversary] was tough,” Fliegauf said. “We knew that it was going to be spent apart, but it was really hard to have such a significant anniversary so far apart.”

But he has enjoyed the opportunity for them to have longer conversations together since heading home.

“At school … you don’t have the chance to just sit down and have a long conversation,” Fliegauf said. “I think that this has given us a little more time to just sit and talk, which I really appreciate.”

In addition to long FaceTime conversations, Fliegauf said that he and Smith frequently have movie nights together.

“Netflix party has been a blessing,” he said. “We’ve been watching ‘Tiger King’ together.”

At school … you don’t have the chance to just sit down and have a long conversation,” Fliegauf said. “I think that this has given us a little more time to just sit and talk, which I really appreciate.”

— Matt Fliegauf ’22

Despite their distaste for technology, Madison Middleton ’22.5 and Sean Lovett ’22.5 have also found using Zoom and FaceTime necessary since leaving campus.

“Even though I hate FaceTime, I hate not seeing Mads more than I hate FaceTime,” Lovett said.

For Middleton and Lovett, quarantine has been particularly unusual, as they both live in the D.C. area.

“We’re lucky in that we live only a 45-minute drive from each other at home, but since we can’t leave home, it’s become difficult,” Middleton said. “My routine with seeing [Sean] has changed.”

Instead of seeing each other a couple times a week as they usually do when they are home, Middleton and Lovett have not been together in person in over three weeks.

“It’s torture. It doesn’t feel right at all because part of my natural inclination at home is to go visit Sean and his family,” Middleton said.

Lovett agreed, but said that he is glad that they are not too far apart.

“I have been in a long distance relationship before — both across the country and on another continent — and I feel a lot more secure having Madison so close,” Lovett said. “We’re not able to see each other, but being only 25 miles away is really reassuring.”