Emma West


My boyfriend is on the opposite side of the world—Now What?

Photo by Emma West

In fall of 2016 I got the amazing opportunity to study overseas in Wellington, New Zealand through a program called ISA, or International Studies Abroad. This program immersed me into a culture vastly different from my own and I developed life-long friendships. This being said, I also met a fine lad in Wellington named Jakob who changed my life for the better. Our days of sharing sandy kisses on Oriental Beach and hiking rocky cliff sides have now been replaced with open chat windows and poor wifi connections. Some days I can feel every kilometer between us—all 14,000 kilometers. I constantly question our long distance relationship and question my self-worth. Because our relationship has changed to a more digital platform, this leads me to question: Does my boyfriend exist or is this another Nigerian prince stealing my credit card information?

I have come to discover that communication will make or break your long distance relationship. First, you need to have a conversation with your partner about how you will have conversations with your partner. This could mean that you set a specific night aside for Skyping, or you will send them a “good morning baby xx” text every time you wake up. You should be having conversations, big and small, while including the little mundane things to make the relationship seem authentic. You will learn to appreciate the simplest things that makes your relationship special. I did not realize how much I took holding my boyfriend’s hand for granted, until I could no longer hold his hand.

This is the digital age and that means you can access your significant other in the bat of an eyelash. Jake and I have planned times to watch movies online so we can spend time together and have something to talk about when all we can type in is “imy.” Our long distance relationship version of dinner is when we both sit down at a table eating spaghetti over Skype. Sometimes we even take our video calls outside, to go on a romantic walk. There’s even a magical thing called the post office where you can physically send a hand-made love letter to your bae. There are many creative ways to stay connected to your long-distance partner, just as long as you stay connected.

As I previously mentioned, communication is vital to your relationship. It is important for your conversations to be organic, instead of forced. If you tell yourself you have to talk to your partner every day, that’s when your relationship will feel like a chore. You will feel exhausted if you send excessive messages to your love and soon you will start half-assing the conversations which means you are half-assing your relationship. Your relationship should feel natural, not obligatory. Sometimes people get busy with life and they don’t message you for a few days and it is not the end of the world because they most likely still love you.

Next, I would like to mention the mind-twisting feeling jealousy. Once I saw a five second Snapchat of my boyfriend dancing with someone at the club. Instantly my heart caught on fire and my brain raced from one paranoid delusion to the next. “This is it,” I thought “I knew I was going to die alone with my seven cats while wearing a mu mu.” Later, I realize that’s his American mate who he has known since childhood, not to mention it was actually a guy. Jealously is an emotion that is bound to rear its ugly face in your relationship, so how do you address it?

If you feel that you are becoming jealous in your long distance relationship you must realize your partner still has a life away from you, and they are allowed to socialize with their friends. On the nights when they’re out and you’re home alone it is easy to feel rejected. It’s a good idea during these times to reassure your partner this situation isn’t optimal and that if you could be with them then you would be. Also, you have to be open and honest with your significant other when these feelings come up. You cannot hide feelings of jealousy forever, because the thoughts will continue to re-emerge.

I would like to remind you this is a time for yourself. Yes you are in a long distance relationship, but you are also a brilliant individual who should practice self-care. Often I find myself dwelling on the fact  the love of my life is on the opposite side of the world; therefore, I feel unloved. However, this is a ludicrous thought because you are indeed loved, because your significant other is committed to you, love is all around you and you are also filled with love.  Even though you are alone, you get to decide whether or not you are lonely. Keep yourself busy from destructive thoughts by surrounding yourself with hobbies, clubs, books and friends. The time apart from your significant other is a time to focus on bettering yourself. Once you learn to love yourself, you can then learn to love your long-distance partner even more.

In reality long distance relationships aren’t going to be long-distance forever and you will eventually see each other again and settle down. One day the plane ticket will be one way and you will step off the terminal and run into their arms. Remember you’re already bold enough to go into a long distance relationship and that you should not be fearful of being alone for a little while in exchange for seeing the love of your life permanently. Know that every mile is worth it and your love can travel because it’s limitless.

Wellington, New Zealand’s Coffee Culture

Photo by Emma West

Coffee from Wellington, New Zealand is something I hold near and dear to my heart. Even on the windiest days and running late for uni, I would stop by a small café called “Jack’s Bakery” for a flat white. Many of us would probably give little thought of the coffee-making process, but luckily Wellington is filled with people who make it into an art form. Before your perfect cuppa is placed in front of you there have been many heartfelt hours given over to sourcing, roasting, grinding and blending. With more coffee shops per capita than any other city, CNN ranked Wellington one of the top 8 international coffee destinations.

I had the awesome experience to take a tour with ISA , International Studies Abroad,  in Havana Coffee Works to take a look into how Wellingtons roast their coffee beans. From using biodegradable-packing wherever possible, to safeguarding social equality and environmental preservation, Havana produces their coffee with the highest of love. They seek out the best beans for their coffee and found 16 origins around the world, knowing each farmer personally before trading with them. Farmers roast their beans in their origins to keep the taste authentic and give their customers a true sense of their flavor and culture. Havana Coffee Works roasteries are popping up all around New Zealand, however their company stands out the most because of their originality, sustainability, and force behind fair trades.

This being said, Havana is just one part of the whole coffee scene in Wellington. If you walk down the famous Cuba Street you will be greeted with numerous coffee smells drifting through Wellington’s strong winds. One of my favorite places to grab a drink was Midnight Espresso. This café is eclectic in design with black and white tiled floors and polyester booths. I would often sit at the windows and people watch while sipping on a latte. The cool thing about this coffee shop is it stays open until 3 a.m., a time in which is vital for you and your mates to grab a cuppa while walking home from Cuba Street’s various pubs and bars.

Of course you can’t truly experience Wellington’s coffee without trying brunch at Fidel’s Cafe. Looking back at Kiwi’s representation of “Caribbean” food was lackluster; however, the coffee was phenomenal and that’s all I’m really focusing on. Often, my mates and I would meet up at Fidel’s for Sunday brunch and order flat whites while sitting on the patio. Later I researched and found out that Fidel’s Cafe actually buys their coffee beans from Havana Coffee Works and all of their other ingredients from local artisan producers and vendors. This is just another example of Kiwis pride towards neolocalism.

Photo by Emma West

Overall, I would say that if you want a taste of real steamed coffee you should go travel to Wellington. Just by walking a few blocks down Cuba Street you can see how the demand for coffee is high due the amount of shops in the CBD.  The quality for coffee is also taken very seriously which has made Wellington’s roasters and baristas to be the most competitive in the world. So, if you consider yourself a coffee fanatic I would suggest you go visit Wellington, New Zealand. One easy way to explore this beautiful coffee culture is to travel with ISA abroad and experience first-hand the taste of international coffee.

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

You may know Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, from the movie starring Reese Witherspoon. Let me start off by saying once again the book is better than the movie. The book gives an in-depth perception of Strayed’s solo hike over the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,663-mile wilderness route stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian and traversing nine mountain ranges and three states. This journey started when Strayed thought her life could not get any worse because of the tragic death of her mother, her failing marriage and her addiction to heroine. With nowhere else to turn to, she headed for the trail to find herself.

This book is raw, bitter and reverent all at once. There were moments in the book where you believe that Strayed will not make it to the end. From dried up water sources, wild animal encounters and brush-ups with perverted men, Wild keeps you entertained and inspired. Reading this book, I became very attached to Strayed because of her character development. At the beginning, she was hiking with boots that were too small for her feet and a backpack too heavy for her body. The backpack was appropriately named Monster because of sheer heaviness of the pack, leaving her with blistered hips. Throughout the book you see her transition from a grief stricken addict to the empowered “Queen of the PCT.” Parts of the book make you feel as if you are hiking with her and I would sometimes feel mentally exhausted reading about her 16-mile a day hikes through knee deep snow.

As beautiful and awe-inspiring as Wild is, I would strongly recommend one should not hike long distances, such as the entirety of the PCT, without proper experience or training. Strayed was driven by a blind will to fix her broken life by the healing effects of nature; but, she had no clue what she was doing. There are many ways to hike or travel safely, excursions that are well thought-out and planned. International Studies Abroad has great programs where you can hike and explore the wilderness in a distant land. If you took the structured route to “finding yourself” might I suggest hiking through fossil beds in Morocco, or canoeing through the mangroves of Colombia Isla de Salamanca. I believe if Strayed knew the excursion options of ISA, she would be on board and hopefully carrying a lighter backpack.

Overall, Strayed describes what it is like in the wild, “with what it was like to walk for miles with no other reason than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets.” Strayed drags you through the ugly parts of her flawed life and that’s what makes her undeniably human. I winced at the pain of her blisters, her inexperience and her grief. I cheered her on for her courage and her will to go on. I actually cried at the end of Strayed’s memoir because I felt that it was a genuine story about a woman’s struggle with grief and growing up. This being said, reading this book gave me a strong urge to go buy hiking boots, to fix my own life. Wild is redemptive, passionate and brilliantly written. Her epic journey is a page turner, which is incredibly beautiful as it is tragic.