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In just a few weeks, you’re probably going to live hundreds or even thousands of miles away from your high school friends. As you count down the days until you begin your new life in Morningside Heights (62 days away!), you’re also approaching a lot of goodbyes to family and friends at home.

Maintaining those ties with people from home, or at least the people you like the most, may sound easy when it’s the middle of summer and you’re all still living in the same town. You promise each other that you’ll keep in touch, maybe that you’ll Skype every week. As of September, though, you may find yourself only talking to your old friends less and less, which is understandable. You have work to do. They have work to do. You’re meeting people, doing and studying the things you love, living in the greatest city in the world (in our humble opinion), and getting busier and busier—and so are your friends from back home.

Going to college doesn’t mean losing your friends back home, though. You should be able to keep those hometown friendships and relationships alive—if you put in the effort. Here are a couple ways to do so.

Group chats are bae

Group chats can be suuuuuuuuuper annoying sometimes. You put your phone down for five minutes, and the next thing you know there are 100 unread messages, two missed stories, three new disparaging nicknames, and a new group chat name. Group chats definitely have their flaws, but they by far are the easiest way to keep in touch with your closest friends.

If you don’t think you’ll have the time to keep up with multiple individual conversations, then this is the easiest way to see what everyone’s up to. You can read everything at the end of the day and keep up to date with the whole squad.

Maintain one-on-one friendships

When it comes to more personal relationships, whether it be a best friend, a significant other, or anyone else who isn’t part of the friend group mentioned above, you’re going to have to work slightly harder to stay in contact. You don’t necessarily have to text them 24/7, but you should at least have some time set aside to talk to them.

If the friendship isn’t a texting friendship, schedule times during the week when you can call or video chat each other. Even an hour-long conversation every week or two will help you stay connected—and it’ll give you something to look forward to if you’re missing home.

If you live in different time zones, you’ll have to do a lot more planning. Since you might be in class while they’re free, it’s best to talk about your schedules to see when you can both spend some time to talk to each other over the phone. (Here at Spec, we’re big fans of Gcal. If you’re both at college, you’ll probably have Google-sponsored email addresses, which means you can see each other’s schedules, figure out a time when you’re both available to chat, and send each other invites to make sure you don’t forget about your date.)

When it comes to maintaining romantic relationships, you’ll probably end up calling and video chatting much more frequently. If you’re both committed to maintaining that relationship, then you’ll have to remain in constant communication. But again, that doesn’t mean you have to talk 12 hours a day. It’s about finding balance, not exhausting yourself. Make sure you’re talking enough to keep the relationship exciting, but not so much that you aren’t able to do your work or hang out with friends. It might take time to find the right balance, but it’ll get easier with time.

It’s also important to note that you can’t let your desire to stay in such close contact with your old friends be a safety blanket. Considering this is the place you’re going to spend the next four years, it’s important that you find some friends here. If you start to feel like your hometown friendships (and even relationships) are causing more stress than they did before, it’s okay to take a step back for a few days to reevaluate how much time you’re spending on keeping those connections alive and how much time you’re dedicating to developing new friendships at Columbia.

Take the redeye

Another good—but expensive—way to maintain your friendships is to visit your friends wherever they are. If you’re able to, visiting friends in-person once a semester can do a lot to maintain your relationship. Also, remember that they may be able to visit you as well—who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend in NYC? If you’re also able to go home during fall break or for Thanksgiving, that means you can see your friends almost every month you’re at college.

If you make plans to go meet your friend in person, we recommend going to their college. Seeing their school, meeting their friends, exploring the city together, and generally reconnecting in a new place will help keep your friendship alive. It’ll also give you the chance to learn a bit about their new life.

This is obviously not feasible for every person due to travel costs, time, work, etc. If you have the means to visit, then take the extra step. If you can’t, then be sure to spend extra time with them if you both go home for winter break.

Do fun things together online

While you might be hundreds of miles away, that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the things you once loved to do together. Whether that’s watching a movie on Netflix at the same time, playing an online video game together, or online shopping together, you’ll be able to do the same things you love doing in person behind a screen.

Be creative and spontaneous about it! While you might not always be able to do things together for several hours at a time, try to make something work. It’ll mean much more than simply texting them.

Keep up that Snapstreak

This might sound unnecessary or mundane, but keeping track of each other over social media is a simple and quick way to show you care. Be sure to give them a quick like, a Snap of what you’re doing, or post a picture of you two together.

Enjoy your time alone

While this entire article has been about how frequently you should talk or what you can do despite your distance from each other, remember that you also have a new life that you need to focus on. Take this time apart to meet new people, learn new things, explore New York, and have a life here at Columbia.

Stay positive, but realistic

If all else fails and you find yourself growing apart from your friends, try to talk to them when you can, but don’t get frustrated if they don’t answer. You can’t control everything, and chances are you will lose a couple friends along the way. It’s sad, and sometimes heartbreaking, but it happens to everyone. Just remember to stay positive, because your closest friendships may last your whole life, come in and out of your life at random times, or only last a couple years. It’s part of the college (well, life) experience.

Additionally, just remember that not talking a lot during the semester doesn’t mean your friendship is over. If you end up having difficulties staying in touch with everyone you hoped to remember, that doesn’t mean that you can’t see them during breaks. When you get home for fall break, Thanksgiving, or winter break, remember to call them up; even if it’s been a while, the conversation shouldn’t have run dry. In fact, if you haven’t talked for a while, you’ll have even more to talk about!

When it comes to significant others, though, remaining in contact is key to making sure your relationship is healthy and fun. If you find yourselves drifting apart, be sure to talk to them about your feelings and goals in the relationship. If you both want to keep the relationship going, figure out a way to do so. However, be ready to accept that the relationship might not be able to survive long-distance. How will you be able to tell? Your conversations become shorter and shorter, you both feel bored with the relationship, you start thinking about what it would be like to be single on your college campus, you’re suspicious of how they’re spending their time at their university, and you don’t feel supported.

Even though your relationships with your friends and significant others will exist largely over technology for the first few months of college, that doesn’t mean that they’re doomed to fail—you’d be surprised by how much just 20 minutes a week can do to maintain a friendship.

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Want more tips on maintaining your long distance friendships and relationships? Read up on everything in this latest issue of Required Reading, or ask us your questions on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Huber Gonzalez is Spectrum’s deputy editor and a Columbia College junior. He still talks to some of his friends from high school, but he’s definitely ended a couple of friendships through the years. Reach him at huber.gonzalez@columbiaspectator.com to ask him to spill his tea.

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