Will My Long-Distance Relationship Survive SIPA?

Ask Us Anything: Leading up to fall orientation TMP will respond to your questions. First years, what do you want to know? Submit your questions here! We’ll post your questions and our answers throughout the summer.

I’m doing long-distance with my significant other. How much of a burden is the coursework going to be on attempting to navigate a relationship? 

I’m not sure if I’m the right or wrong authority to answer this (since my long-distance relationship fell apart after just one month into school), but I think it’s a question that a lot of people struggle with at SIPA. Personally, I’d say it’s one of the most difficult balancing acts that you will face at Columbia. Obviously I can’t speak to your specific situation, but many have found SIPA to be incredibly unconducive to long-term relationships – I would say about 1 out of 10 friends I know who entered SIPA in partnerships lasted beyond the first semester. Don’t let that deter you, but just know it can be a struggle.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you prioritize. SIPA can be an extremely social entity if you allow yourself to be immersed in studying, student organizations, and social events. On the flip side, you can choose to prioritize your life outside of SIPA, but that comes with the cost of pulling away from the community at school. Some people do take solace in those relationships outside of SIPA, because it can give them a healthy escape from school. It’s a balance that everyone has to strike, but I’d add that most people choose to prioritize SIPA – since after all, you’re paying some 80k a year to be there. SIPA can be all-consuming, and trying to maintain a long-distance relationship can make you feel as though you’re living two separate and independent lives.  

Regarding the “long-distance” component, I’d say it’s not so much the physical distance that makes it difficult. Brooklyn – or even midtown Manhattan – can feel like long-distance from within the SIPA bubble. I’ve watched many friends suffer through emotional turmoil that comes from trying to balance SIPA life, classwork, and strained relationships. It isn’t impossible to make it work, but for me at least it was difficult to separate my personal life (and relationship) with my SIPA identity. SIPA is a time for growth and learning, and in doing so it almost places you in a bubble separate from the outside world. I polled a few friends both in and out of long-term relationships, and they all recommended allowing yourself to be fully involved in SIPA. The friends and connections you’ll make at SIPA will soon be your professional colleagues and peers – and that’s all part of the benefit of coming to a school like SIPA. If your partner is understanding and supportive of you taking that space, it should make finding that balance much easier. But if a relationship is pulling you in another direction and creating tension, you may find yourself evaluating how it’s affecting your ability to be a part of this short and expensive educational experience.

In the end, whether or not your romantic long-distance relationship works out, don’t worry, because you will no doubt have a long and emotionally strained relationship with Lehman Library.