Going the Distance

For some couples, being together isn’t as easy as common free periods shared in the lounge. James Wu ‘13, whose girlfriend Christie Chen attends Westridge High School in Pasadena, is used to seeing Chen once a month.

In fact, ever since meeting Chen at a language camp in Taiwan, rigorous coursework, strict parents and a lack of transportation have made frequent visits less than convenient, though there is less than 20 miles between them.

At times, the couple would go two months before seeing each other again.

“It was hard for her,” Wu said.

Since then, to compensate, Wu and Chen have made a point to talk or face-time once a day.

“It’s not like we don’t see each other,” Wu said. “We’re just not with each other.”

And though the separation is particularly hard now that Wu has more time on his hands, he believes being at different schools was initially a positive.

“At this point I’d love to be with her every day, but in the early stages it was good to have a little distance,” Wu said.

He attributes this to being able to develop a more profound relationship by really getting to know one another, and having the opportunity to miss one another.

“It was tough, but it wasn’t unbearable,” Wu said. “It just made the next meeting more valuable.”

Now, though, Wu is eager to spend as much time with Chen as possible before he leaves for college. This month, for instance, they will have seen each other three times, though they will not be able to see each other this Valentine’s Day.

“Unfortunately, it’s a school day, so we can’t see each other,” Wu said. “I am sending her a gift. I don’t know what yet, but I can count on her to make the most amazing card I’ve ever seen.”

College, though, doesn’t mean the end of the relationship for the couple, as they have decided to stay together and are optimistic about the future.

“I feel like we’ll cope better than students who see each other every day,” Wu said. “Since we’re used to seeing each other once a month, it won’t be too hard to transition.”

As of this month, the couple will have been together for 19 months.

“We always said, when you find someone you connect with so much, despite where you live, it’s always going to be better than not being together”

These were the words of Julie Engel ‘14 as she talked about the distance separating her from her boyfriend, Sam Mathews.

The couple met at a debate camp this past summer, and began dating towards the end of camp despite Mathews living in Denver, Colorado.

“Being apart is still awful and it gets harder,” Engel said. “You would think it gets easier but it gets harder because we’re more attached every time.”

However, Engel says she is fortunate because of how often she is able to see Mathews, since Mathews is able to fly out with his dad when he comes to Los Angeles for work once a month.

Additionally, both are Lincoln-Douglas debaters and are thus able to see each other on a regular basis at debate tournaments. The distance is further tempered by the couple’s daily routine: video chatting every night and texting throughout the day. If they know they have a hard day ahead of them, they will make time in the morning to video chat before school.

However, next year will only be harder as Mathews is a senior and will be leaving for college in the fall. Like Wu and Chen, though, college does not mean an end to their relationship.

“We are going to stay together,” Engel said. “He’s only applying on the East coast which will make the next year harder but I also want to go somewhere on the East Coast, so after that it should get easier.”

Though she knows she shouldn’t base her college decision on her boyfriend, Engle is honest about how his decision has influenced her.

“I have found myself looking, finding schools near his,” Engel said. “I think it is going to influence my decision but I think if I can find a school I can be happy at and it happens to be near him that would be fine because he’s really, really important to me.”

“I have no idea where I want to to go to college, so it helps at least, knowing where he’s going,” Engel said. “It’s not like I’m sacrificing my dream school.”

In keeping with their debate background, the couple will be celebrating their first Valentine’s Day together at the California Round Robin debate invitational.

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