Nothing could be more exciting than a little international love. What could be bad about a fun fling with a foreign campus cutie studying at your American college? However, things can get complicated when that fun fling turns into a real relationship. Is it wise to get romantically involved with an exchange student while knowing that person will only be around for a limited time before returning home? We talked to some experienced collegiettes and came up with seven things to consider before dating a temporary visitor to the States.
1. He’s Different From American Guys
Dating someone from a different country can be a nice departure from the norm. “I dated a guy from Belgium who was studying at my school for the year,” says Krystal, a student at the University of Michigan. “He was so different than any guy I’d ever dated before… I felt like he was always surprising me, whether it was the things we’d talk about or the fun dates he’d plan. He kept things exciting, just because I never knew what to expect from him.”
Of course, not all American boys are the same, but dating someone from another country can give you a totally unexpected experience. You and your old cutie may have spent every Friday night getting burgers and seeing a movie, but with an international cutie you might spend date night sightseeing, trying out a new restaurant or spending the whole night clubbing. Date night may never be predictable again!
2. You Can Learn About an Entirely New Culture
International students aren’t only different in how they treat a date––they come from an entirely different world than you, full of unfamiliar customs and traditions. “Even though it was only for a few months, one of the best relationships I’ve ever been in will always be with the guy who was studying abroad at my school from Belize,” says Jen, a collegiette from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “He was a great cook, and he’d make all these incredible meals for me that he’d make at home. It was some of the best food I’ve ever had!”
Whether you get to try out his country’s food, listen to the local music or sharpen up your foreign language skills, dating someone from a different culture can allow you to expand your horizons––even if it is for only a short amount of time.
However, culture clashing can come with challenges as well. For Krystal, she found that her cutie “never wanted to go to my favorite bars with all my friends. He said he couldn’t stand all the American pop music they played there.” You may be open to your international guy’s culture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be open to embracing yours.
3. An International Guy is a Novelty
Whether we admit it or not, one of the greatest appeals of dating an international student is the reaction you’ll get from everyone else: jealousy. “My friends couldn’t believe it when I started seeing Ken,” said Krystal. “It was so much fun to be able to introduce him to people, like, ‘This is my boyfriend, Ken. Oh, and he’s from Belgium.’”
Of course, dating someone isn’t all about the reaction you’ll get from others. But we can’t pretend it’s not great to snag the foreign hottie every girl on campus has had her eye on!
4. The Relationship Has an Expiration Date
Whether you just got out of a long relationship or you’re just not looking for anything too serious right now, dating an international student is the perfect opportunity for something a little more casual. “I started seeing a guy in my lit class who was studying here from Germany after I broke up with my sophomore-year boyfriend,” says Brittany, a student at Worcester State University. “It was really exactly what I needed; we both knew he’d be returning home after the end of the semester, and so we just had fun without any expectations of our relationships going anywhere.”
If you’re looking for a fun, casual fling, international students can be your best bet––you go into the relationship knowing they have to leave eventually, and if things end on bad terms, you’ll never have to awkwardly run into them on campus again!
However, if you’re seeking a serious relationship, it’s important to consider whether or not you think things will last once your cutie returns home. “I hadn’t gone into my relationship thinking it would last past the semester, but when it was time for Daniel to return to Dublin, we knew it wasn’t over,” says Kristine from Boston College. “We thought it would be just a limited-time thing, but it has turned out to be so much more.”
Though you may go into a relationship not expecting much more than a fling, be open to the possibility that your international relationship may surpass its expiration date.
5. You Can Have Different Expectations
Dating rituals differ among cultures, and unless you and your international beau explicitly communicate your expectations, some things can become lost in translation. “I had thought things were getting serious between me and a student visiting from England last fall,” says Sarah, a collegiette from Boston University. “He’d take me out dancing and on dates and call me his ‘American lover.’ Unfortunately, I later discovered that he had a number of American lovers. I was looking for a relationship, while he was apparently just looking to hook up with as many Americans as he could in a year.”
Things can also become more serious than you’re interested in if there’s a cross-cultural miscommunication. “When Ken started telling me about taking me home to meet his family, and then later about me moving to Belgium with him after graduation, that’s when I really started to freak out,” Krystal says.
For Sarah, too, physical expectations weren’t always well communicated. “He moved a lot faster than the American guys I’d been with ever did,” she says. “I felt like I was always asking him if we could take things slower, which led to frustration on both our parts.”
Unless you’re both clear on what you’re looking for, both emotionally and physically, you could end up heartbroken (or running for the hills!).
6. It’s Hard to Keep Up the Relationship After He Leaves
After your lover returns to his home country, it might seem romantic to keep the relationship going transnationally. Unfortunately, this usually ends in more frustration than anything. “We kept up correspondence for a little bit after my boyfriend went back to Belize,” Jen says. “But once he was no longer at the same school as me, we realized how different our lives really were; often, he’d just be heading out for the night as I was going to bed! It just wasn’t the same.”
Long-distance relationships can work, but when the two of you are not only in different time zones, but entirely different countries, keeping a connection becomes especially challenging.
Kristine, however, has been able to make it work with her Irish beau. “We’ve been together for a year and a half, even though we’ve lived in the same country for less than a third of that time,” she says. “I’ve gone to visit him twice, and he’s come to visit me twice. We Skype three times a week and text every day. If it’s worth it, you’ll make it work.”
7. You Could Accidentally Fall for Him
You may go into the relationship with the expectation that’s it’s not going to be too serious… but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to control how you feel once you’re in it.
“Neither me nor Mark was looking for anything more than a fling, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t start to get attached near the end,” Brittany says. “I’d tell my friends, ‘We’re just having fun,’ but really, I’d fallen for him. I cried when he had to go back home, but I was almost relieved… If he had stayed any longer, I really would have been in deep.”
No one can say how hard you’ll fall or how attached you’ll get when you enter a new relationship, even if it’s one that you know you will (probably) need to end at a certain point. When you get involved with someone who lives so far from you, there’s always the chance that he’ll take a little piece of your heart with him. But that can be a good thing, too. “…Falling for Daniel was the best thing that ever happened to me,” says Kristine. “People always ask me, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ but I’m not worried about that. I took a chance and fell in love, and for now, that’s enough.”
Dating an international student can be fun. You get the chance to experience an entirely new type of relationship. But dating someone who is only in the country for a limited time also comes with the risk that you could fall harder than you ever expected.
In the end, you have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself; would you rather wonder “What if?” for the rest of your life, but save yourself the heartbreak? Or would you rather put your heart on the line and know you gave it a shot? It’s for you to decide, collegiettes!