You never know when love will strike, maybe when studying abroad? Read how this couple’s love blossomed and how they make their relationship work, even if they are a world apart.
The following article was written by Ashley Davidson and Peren Mountfort for International Student Voice Magazine.
In 2011 Ashley while attending Alma College in Michigan, she travelled to Dunedin, New Zealand to study for one semester at the University of Otago. While she had a bunch of trips around the country in mind, plans changed to put more focus on her faith. She got involved as a youth group leader and active member in Student Life, a Christian organization on campus.
During an Autumn Retreat for Student Life in Queenstown, Ashley and Peren caught each other’s eyes and exchanged brief words as Peren courageously dove into the freezing water while Ashley less than graciously stuffed a famous Fergbuger in her mouth. That was the beginning of a new friendship. Throughout the remaining three months Ashley spent in New Zealand, she and Peren began to spend more time together, walking dogs from the SPCA, long-boarding, swimming, eating plenty of Rob Roy ice cream, and talking about anything on their minds. Conversations seemed so short, yet when the two looked at the time and realized they had chatted for over three hours!
They started to individually wonder if their friendship was more special than they originally thought. For about two weeks, the two sought individual advice, constantly prayed, and continued to consider the true value of their relationship. All this was done while not knowing that the other was going through the same things. It was not until June 15, 2011 when Ashley and Peren had the official DTR (defining the relationship) on the top of Baldwin Street, better known as the world’s steepest street. When it all came out in the open, the two decided to take the challenge with a leap of faith to establish a long-distance relationship. An added obstacle to the situation was the fact that Ashley’s return flight to the United States was only nine short days away.
This was not the only new challenge facing the new couple. As the two faced comments from friends and family claiming the failures of long-distance relationships, especially ones starting so late in the game, another challenge of limited communication was formed as Ashley reported to work as a summer camp counselor immediately following her arrival back in the United States. Though it was a good job, there was very limited time and access to utilizing a communication device. The first two full months of the relationship therefore entailed minimal communication. But Ashley and Peren continued to rely on faith and trust in the relationship, and the USA summer was over before they knew it. The two relied on Skype for main form of communication involving devotionals along with the usual chats. When October rolled around, the two stated the “L” (love) word and realized they were each other’s first loves, and therefore in the relationship for the long haul. Grateful to the generosity of Peren’s parents, he travelled to the USA for his first white Christmas. It was the first time in exactly six months the two had seen each other. It was a beautiful Christmas that was also incredibly short. The airport good-byes made the top spot on the list of challenges in the relationship. Both Peren and Ashley (and Ashley’s mom) could not recall ever crying so much.
Thankful to the generosity of Ashley’s parents, flights were booked to visit New Zealand four months later in May 2012. While Ashley and Peren were ecstatic for Ashley’s visit, they also began to realize the next struggling challenge that would follow: another six months of being physically apart. As full-time university students, the two could not get the funds by themselves to see each other. This has remained an unfortunate case despite the extreme efforts the two have made in working jobs and remaining as frugal as possible. With this in mind, they wanted to do their best to maximize time together during Ashley’s short two-week visit in May.
During that time, the two looked at immigration possibilities for Ashley, as they did not want to have to bear the pain of another long-term goodbye following this one. Alongside with that, Peren still studying, and Ashley learning as much as she could about her dream Master’sprogram at the University of Otago, the two still made good time to have fun together, including their first official date as a couple! Several dates followed, including one where Peren proposed to Ashley on a small dock on the water under the stars. It all was truly a dream come true for both of them. Now as they cope with being apart again, they’re working hard to plan for a USA wedding with very limited funding as well as make plans for Ashley to move to New Zealand so the two will not have to say a long-term good-bye in the airport again.
Many of these things seem nearly impossible, but as faith brought the two together in the beginning, Ashley and Peren trust that faith and love will help them overcome obstacles and will therefore keep them together.
While the remaining six months will be a big challenge for both Ashley and Peren, they are very excited that the next time they see each other there will be no more tearful goodbyes. The future looks bright for this young couple who long to be together on a daily basis. While being in a long-distance relationship has many challenges, it does not stop true love.
Ashley and Peren will be married on January 5, 2013 in the United States. At the moment Ashley is working on visa and immigration applications while Peren looks for a place for the couple in Dunedin, New Zealand. Ashley and Peren will live in New Zealand after being married with the possibility of moving to the United States and establishing dual citizenship later down the road. Congratulations from the International Student Voice team!