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Decision Day at my high school felt like a subtle punch to the stomach. I had always been lucky enough to have my close friends nearby, if not by a car ride than certainly by train. But coming to terms with the fact that my friends and I would no longer be in the same town, much less the same state, was terrifying. My best friend and I would be more than 700 miles apart during the school year.
To say that I had doubts would be a huge understatement. College sounded so daunting, and I didn’t want to lose my support system. But I’m here to say that keeping up those high-school friendships is possible, even when hundreds of miles apart.
Communication is key. Though this seems obvious, I was surprised how quickly I forgot to send texts or make calls to the friends I had back home. Between orientation, new classes, meeting new people, and making new friends, I found myself barely having time to focus on much else. It took me about a month to get my bearings and finally put in the time and effort that all friendships need––long-distance or not.
I have known my best friend for a little over five years now. We met in French class during our freshman year of high school, bonding over the treacherous curriculum and seemingly impossible language. Back home, our go-to spot is a small lake centered in our town’s park district. We’d spend hours upon hours navigating trails and skipping rocks. Though nothing can replace that location, we’ve found our own little knockoff version for when we are apart during the school year. Every week or so, we’ll FaceTime and walk around our respective campuses. While we may not be physically together, it’s nice to share an hour or two walking and catching up.
FaceTimes and texting regularly are our main communication methods, but my friends and I have made it a habit to send good old-fashioned mail, too. It’s fun surprising each other, whether it be with letters, postcards, or care packages. Last year for Valentine’s Day, I sent out fudge and little odds and ends that reminded me of each of my friends. It was a nice little nod to our friendship, as well as a great way to let them know that I genuinely appreciate each and every one of them.
But nothing can 100% bridge the distance than physically being together. I know it’s not possible for everyone, especially financially strapped students. I was lucky enough to visit my best friend recently at the University of Madison-Wisconsin (with a major assist from my parents). Despite numerous delays and other airline issues, I wouldn’t have traded that time for anything. There’s just something so magical about being together that’s hard to replicate over the phone.
Realistically, it’s not possible to visit everyone at their respective campuses. So we make the most of our school breaks. Over the summer, I have an annual bonfire with a handful of close friends. No matter what we’re up to, we make sure to gather at least once and spend the night together. We play music and dance, make dinner together, and, of course, catch up. It’s something I look forward to every year.
Though it may seem like a daunting endeavor, keeping up with long-distance friendships just takes a little planning and effort. And remember, small gestures make big statements. Like I said, it all comes down to communication, however you do it!