An incoming college freshman recently asked me how it was like for me in the first year, trying to make friends at a university where I knew practically no one. They also asked how it was like for me when I tried to keep in contact with my old friends – the ones from my high school and my hometown. This particular incoming student happens to be studying abroad in a far away country, but this problem – the struggle of staying friends with your new pals and your old one – is something that affects any university student, no matter how far away (or how close) you go to school.
Paths will diverge and people who you used to be around every day will build their own lives, separate from yours, and it can be daunting to think that once you create your new life at university, your old one will disappear from existence. But it doesn’t have to be that way – as I told the freshman – and here’s how:
1: MAKE TIME FOR YOUR OLD FRIENDS…
Skype dates, FaceTime calls, even just back and forth texting – there are so many ways to keep in contact with people that are physically far away. The hardest thing about university life is that you get caught up in it so easily; I’ve often felt that there aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything I want to do. But if you want to stay close, you have to make time – even if it’s just an hour a week, it’ll help you feel connected and keep yourself updated on your friends’ lives.
2: …BUT DON’T LINGER ON THE PAST
Don’t stay stuck in your old life – especially when you have so many opportunities to make a new, wonderful one in university! It’s nice to keep in contact with your old life, but not at the cost of feeling isolated in a place that should be your new temporary home. Go out with new friends, explore the new setting – and then tell your old friends to visit!
3: SOCIAL MEDIA IS GREAT!
I have a group chat with all my closest friends from back home that I like to check every day to see what they’re up to! Most often the messages are about meeting up and going out, which I obviously can’t attend since I’m away, but it’s nice to talk to them about where they’re going and what they’re doing – it feels like I’m still there, still included in their plans. Catching what they’re doing on Snapchat or Facebook is nice too, and noting down fun things that they seem to be doing to do with them when they return is always a good idea!
4: UNDERSTAND – FRIENDS COME AND GO
The toughest part about leaving your old circle of friends is the realization that no matter how hard you try and keep in contact, it is inevitable that some friendships may fizzle out. It isn’t either of your faults – distance makes one realize that maybe sometimes, the people you were close with don’t have much in common with you at all. Some people also find it hard to make the time for people that aren’t physically close to them, and that’s okay too. Whatever the case, it’s important to realize that this will happen and that when it does, you embrace it and cherish your times with your friend. It doesn’t mean you’ll never speak again – it’ll just be a different sort of friendship. At the risk of sounding cheesy, you will always have those memories that’ll link you together forever – memories that helped make your past fun and full of laughter.
Balancing old and new is difficult, but not impossible. And if you’re truly friends with someone, you’ll find out in the end that despite time and distance separating the two of you, meet them again and it will be like that gap never existed.