Valeria & Ozan

Valeria & Ozan
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Valeria wasn’t expecting to start a lasting relationship on her 2-week trip to Istanbul, but then she met Ozan. They’ve been traveling back and forth between Serbia and Turkey, but that’s on hold because of the pandemic

After joining the Fulbright program in Belgrade, Serbia, Valeria did a lot of solo-traveling to nearby areas. She met Ozan on a trip to Istanbul.

“I have traveled alone to various different countries over the past two years. It’s a great way to leave my comfort zone and self-reflect. I was definitely not expecting to meet someone that I would continue dating after leaving my trip.

However, on my first full day in Turkey, I met Ozan. For the two weeks I was there, we spent as much time as we could together. He even planned a road trip for us the following weekend because he knew I wanted to see other parts of the country. During those two weeks, we became closer by the day, since we had such limited time before my flight back to Serbia.

Towards the end of my trip, it was obvious we had a unique connection and we needed to keep dating. I went back to Serbia. Not even a week later, I was back in Istanbul so we could spend Valentine’s Day together. After that, we decided to make our relationship more official, planning trips to visit each other every few weeks.

When I left Istanbul after Valentine’s Day weekend I was sad, but I knew he’d be in Belgrade in less than three weeks. He left Belgrade thinking I would then see him in Turkey just two weeks later. That’s when I got the email that the Fulbright program ended.

Those of us in the program were strongly encouraged to evacuate back to the U.S. However, I wanted to stay in Serbia. With this global pandemic being the first-of-its-kind for Fulbright history, there was so much that was initially unsaid. ‘Does this mean I’m being forcibly evacuated? Am I still being paid? How long do I have to pack?’

It put a big strain on me since Ozan and I were just settling into our relationship. Suddenly, there were so many questions about whether I could stay in this region of the world or not. We talked constantly about our options. ‘Should I go straight to Turkey instead of the U.S? If I go to the U.S., what are the chances I would see him again?’ It was very anxiety-driven.

Finally, three days ago, I got the final decision from the Embassy that the Serbia Fulbright program was not forcing us to evacuate. We are happy that I get to stay in Serbia, but it’s been hard not knowing when I’ll see him again.”

Valeria and Ozan’s Techniques for Stress Management in Uncertainty

“I want to say we video chat at least two hours a day. We are technically used to long-distance, but we always had the certainty of seeing each other soon.

The circumstances kind of forced us to have more difficult conversations about the path of our relationship. Normally, these conversations would not have not happened until months from now since we are a fairly new couple. Our situation has taught us to communicate our feelings and views in a healthy way, even when we are stressed and the future is uncertain.”

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