Long distance friendships: Friends here and friends there

The dilemma of maintaining friendships when you both move away to college

High school presents individuals with some of the most formative experiences of their lives. Through four years of academic, social and personal highs and lows, students leave with a new perspective of themselves and connections with others that have the potential to last a lifetime. However, when going to a school that is smaller than the majority of other universities, those friendships we make in high school and before can become challenging to maintain. A new college environment leads to meeting new people regularly, taking over efforts that once were placed into maintaining past friendships.

In college, relationships of the past are strained by distance above all else. Everyone always focuses on the “long-distance relationship” between couples. As one of the most difficult relationship circumstances, it can cause many to neglect the more prevalent long-distance relationship between friends. As an out-of-state student, this has become something I’ve struggled with. Nevertheless, anyone can make plenty of small efforts to bridge the gap between friends, even from hundreds of miles away.

The most important aspect to maintain is communication. This can come in a variety of ways. In some relationships, a regularly consistent conversation must be retained. One of my favorite people in the world goes to school in the middle of nowhere (Vermont). When we were in high school together, we loved sensationalizing our lives to each other, so we have continued to maintain this practice. Every month or so, we schedule a call to update each other on personal aspects ranging from love lives to friend group drama.

While this practice is great for that specific individual, not every platonic relationship is the same. With the rise of social media platforms having more accessible ways to share content, simply sending your friends media that remind you of them can prove to be an effective way to keep friendships alive. My high school friend group has a group chat that is used solely for sending Instagram reels to one another. Although it may seem pointless, it always allows us to talk to one another regularly, even if it is about the most inconsequential topics. By letting your friends know that something reminded you of them and vice versa, your relationship can continue to withstand the emotional distancing that keeps you apart.

Making time for everyone I want to keep in touch with can be extremely difficult. And doing so on a regular basis can seem almost impossible. Because of this, understanding your own limitations is also vital to maintaining these friendships. It can be helpful to create a list of people that you want to keep in touch with, then make sure to touch base with them at regular intervals. I have my own list of people that I make sure to call once a semester as a worst-case scenario.

While communicating with friends is critical, it’s best to have a goal in mind, such as making plans to see each other. As much as communication can be done virtually, the in-person aspect of any friendship is irreplaceable. Being able to look forward to seeing your friends again, whether at home or on a trip together, can allow you both to keep each other in mind as you prepare and get excited about seeing each other again.

Finally, the last aspect of maintaining old friendships regardless of distance is to be truthful and honest with your feelings. This point may seem like a given, but properly communicating how you feel in any relationship is critical for longevity. People emphasize this more for romantic relationships, but including this in your friendships can only provide a better understanding of each other. Being the person to take the first step can be as simple as texting “hey, we haven’t talked in a while.” Transparency allows for both parties to always be on the same page.

Long-distance friendships are often overlooked, but these are the people you hope to be there for you, wherever you may be. Communication is the be-all and end-all. Friendships from high school, middle school and childhood are often weakened as we get older, but that does not have to be the case. It is up to each of us how we approach our friendships in every stage of our lives.