When I first left for college, one of my biggest fears was that I'd lose my friendships from high school. It's natural to grow out of friendships, especially ones that are based off of proximity, but some people are people you want to keep in your life forever. So, before I left, I made each of my friends promise to keep in touch, which sounds so simple, but we quickly realized it was the opposite. Here are five ways we overcame the distance.
1. Writing letters
This suggestion sounds so cheesy, but there's an undeniable excitement every time you receive a letter. There's something so seemingly simple and old-fashioned about writing letters to each other; it feels like an experience, and depending on how goofy or creative you and your friends are, you can add some fun things in with the letters.
One of my friends likes making stickers and sends two or three with each letter. Another friend has an ongoing game of tic-tac-toe with me. It takes us about six weeks to complete each game, but that just keeps up the tension, right? But sometimes it's just nice to hear all about your friends' lives, even if it's a week or two old.
2. Game nights/activities
This one was essential for me and my friends. We started doing weekly game nights during the COVID quarantine, and we've managed to keep it up since then. It can be things as easy as playing card games and drawing games online, or it can be a little more involved, like Jackbox games or Among Us.
Games are great for staying in touch because it keeps everyone talking and laughing, but it doesn't have to be anything heavy or too serious. If games aren't for you though, there are other options. Movie nights with Netflix Party or Disney Plus Party make it super easy to keep up on shows or movies together. I have a friend who is super into Marvel, and it was hilarious to binge watch WandaVision with her, but rom-com or scary movie nights are always great too.
As someone who likes to be held accountable for their school work, study nights over Zoom always work too. It's productive, and it lets you catch up with your friends. It's a win-win! The most important thing, though, is that you find something that works for you and your friends and you try to make a habit of it, whether it's gaming, watching movies, or plain studying.
3. Designated times to call/text
This one might be the hardest to do because it takes some discipline and conscious prioritization. It feels slightly clinical to have to schedule a time to text some of your closest friends, because it seems like you will always have time for each other. And it's true that you'll always have time for each other, but only as long as you make that time.
Students get so busy in college, and it's comically easy to lose track of time and all the sudden realize you haven't spoken with each other in months. This is why I try to make a habit of calling each of my friends once a week or texting every couple days. The conversations don't have to be long, but it's nice to reach out and check in with people. That way, you don't look at your contacts and realize that too many days have gone by.
4. Interact through social media
Social media, in many ways, can be harmful, but in terms of staying connected to friends, it's practically a godsend. Whether it's commenting on each other's Instagram posts or sending each other hilarious Tiktoks, social media can keep you connected without habitual check-ins.
Something important to remember is that it's worth the extra effort to slide up on someone's story or send someone a post you found interesting. If you are ever in that moment of Should I send it? Is it worth it?, the answer is always yes. It's so much better to have a meaningful or funny conversation than possibly miss it.
5. Be there when it matters
This one, in some ways, is the most important tip. Because, as much as you keep up with people and interact with them throughout the week, none of it matters if it's all superficial. Distance is taxing, in terms of both time and effort, but a true friend is always there for someone who needs it.