Maintaining a long-distance friendship at university
|Date:||22 March 2019|
Moving away for university is a huge step for everyone. You’re leaving the place you grew up, the friends you’ve sat next to in class everyday to a new city or even country, where you might not know anyone at all. This is a pretty daunting step, which can intimidate you to staying close to home or choosing a university based on where you know people. Having moved to Groningen when all of my friends moved to Maastricht or Tilburg (so from Groningen, basically the other side of the world), I have learned the ropes on how to master a long distance friendship - and trust me, it’s not too bad. You’ll meet new friends in no time and these ones, you’ll actually get to choose. I realized that most of the people I spent every day with in high school were fun, but more a practicality. Moving away will allow you to find yourself, and realize who your real friends are.
But for the friends you really don’t want to lose… here are some tips to help maintain that friendship:
1) Messaging: thanks to social media and the internet, your friends are never really far away. Don’t be afraid to spam the hell out of them - they’ll appreciate it that you want to tell them everything that's going on in your life. But don’t expect to get replies instantly, your friends have their own lives. I usually end up waiting about a week before I send a follow-up message. If you’re both constantly messaging each other, you won’t have time to meet new people. Voice messages are also an amazing way of communication (the responses are usually even slower though).
2) Facetime: long live the invention of video calling. This is great for friends who are overseas, who you might not see for months on end (or even years). Facetime is a great way to feel like you’re together. An all time favorite of Facetime are the calls that last hours, where you both are doing your own things, but it still feels like you’re together. Just make sure you take time-difference into consideration to avoid the conversations like: “where are you???” “oh, you meant 8 your time! I can’t right now”
3) Plan days/weekends/vacations together: Make use of your distance: plan vacations to visit each other. Staying with your friends means cheap accommodation and a great opportunity to show each other your new homes. Or plan to go to events together like concerts or festivals. Pro tip: once you plan the day/weekend/week: don’t cancel last minute. Nobody likes a flake-out. Commit to your friends!
4) Don’t fear lack of contact: circling back to point 1, I cannot stress this enough. Don’t get annoyed if you don’t talk as much as you used to. A real friendship won’t die if you don’t talk for 2 months. If your friend insists that is the case and gets annoyed if you don’t reply instantly, realize that building your new life might be more important than clinging on to the past. Same goes for if you are constantly bashing your friend for not replying quickly. Allow them to live their own life, they’ll get to you when they have the opportunity. And if not, so be it! Some friendships naturally end, and that’s okay.
5) Be supportive: show that you care and support them in the decisions they make, even if it’s not the approach you would take. In hard times they’ll be counting on their oldest friends to help them through whatever mess they might be in. So is your friend being stubborn and not listening to your advice during a breakup? Just keep supporting them. They decide to do a board year even though they already have 2 years study delay? Let them make their own decisions.
6) Allow each other to make new friends: university is about new experiences, new people and new friends. This is definitely going to happen, and you need to accept that. Don’t get jealous of their new friends, feel honored they still include you in their new lives. Making new friends allows for opportunities to introduce them to each other during visits!
7) Accept you most likely won’t see each other for a while: the hardest part about a long distance friendship, is that your priority starts to fall lower as time goes by. Studies, boyfriends/girlfriends, uni friends, sports, associations tend to win the upperhand of priority. It’s a though reality, but accepting this makes it easier. You can go years without seeing a friend and it’ll still feel like you never left.
I realized when I started studying who my real friends were and which ones are purely functional. When a friendship gets tiring and feels like an obligation, you might want to consider letting it go and moving on. The best friendships are the ones you can forget to reply to for 3 weeks and it doesn’t matter.