Long Distance Friendships in College
If you are a young adult female, there is a high chance that you’ve seen the ultimate ode to best friendship: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. If you live under a rock and have no idea what this early 2000s chick flick is about, here’s a quick summary: four best girlfriends, Tibby, Bridget, Lena, and Carmen, are all separated during a summer. Each friend is unique with different personalities and interests, yet all experience some type of coming-of-age moment and embark on different exciting, romantic, andsad journeys. Throughout the summer, the girls share their experiences with each other through a magic pair of jeans that comfortably fits each of their vastly different body types. This film is celebrated by girlfriends nationwide, yet many fans do not get to experience the wonders of long distance friendship. Lucky for me, I have the luxury of being stuck in a similar situation.
In the summer before my junior year of high school, I participated in program designed to foster peace between Catholic and Protestant teens in Northern Ireland. Eighteen teens from Coleraine, a small coastal town in the northern part of the country, travelled to the first state to spend the month of July creating lasting memories and breaking down the barrier that separates the two religions. I spent an entire month, almost everyday of the week, laughing, singing, embarrassing myself, traveling, learning, team-building, and more. I cried my heart out on the last day of the program. It was so difficult to let go of my best friends, knowing that we wouldn’t see one another again for a very long time.reunited. I genuinely believed departure day would conclude my fantastic journey and budding friendships. Little did I know, my friendships were only beginning to blossom. One summer experience in 2013 would lead me to develop my strongest friendships and to meet my three best girlfriends: Emily, Nyah, and Mollie.
Emily, Nyah, and I all lived in the same area, while Mollie lived in Coleraine. The next year, in 2014, Emily moved across the country to California and Mollie and I headed off to college. Two years later, some of us were on the move again to Switzerland, Chicago, and Germany. And in the years following, our return addresses changed several times and so did our lives. Over the years, we all had coming-of-age experiences -- first loves, losing friendships, big moves, new-found independence, extreme sadness, bliss, anxiety -- and going through them together made our friendships stronger. We grew from awkward fifteen-year-olds to young women seeking higher education, traveling the world, and pursuing our dreams.
As much as fostering a transcontinental friendship group can be thrilling and adventurous, it’s also hard work to maintain. It’s difficult to not have your best friend within arms reach when you need a shoulder to cry on when you want to be that comfort and support for them, or when you want to hug to celebrate something your ecstatic about. I miss the days where I was a ten minute drive away from their home rather than a ten hour flight. Maintaining friendships is hard in college when you’re broke and busy. You’re eager to meet new people and spend time with new friends. When you aren’t spending time with new friends, you’re busy studying. You might find yourself enjoying new things with new people and feeling less inclined to to video chat, call, text, or write letters. It’s easy and understandable to lose touch when the memories of friendship seem distant.
The key to maintaining any friendship, whether you live 10 minutes away or 10 hours away, is to always be open to reconnecting and to not feel any resentment or guilt about the amount of time that has passed since your last catch-up. Life gets complicated and sometimes it’s hard to even schedule a phone call. Don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t hold it against the other person.
Also understand that your friendships will take many forms. We all have different personalities and needs, so it’s only natural that friendships come in various flavors. You will have some friends that you text with every day, just joking around or sharing quick little updates. At the same time, you might have friendships where you don’t talk often, but when you do, you pick up right where you left off and talk for hours. When you do tap back into a friendship that has a bit distant, let yourself fall back into old stories and jokes. Share your new life with them and be excited to learn about theirs. Nothing is quite like that magical moment when you reunite with a close friend, when everything seems to fit right back into place. So if it’s been a long time since you’ve caught up with one of your friends, don’t have any anxiety about making the first move. Send a text, make a coffee date, schedule a Skype call.
At times, it was difficult to maintain long distance friendships, but it made me cherish the times we had together and the memories we made all the more.
“But we know now that no matter how far we traveled on our own separate paths… Somehow we would always find out way back to each other. And with that, we could get through anything. To us. Who we were, and who we are. And who we'll be… Together and apart.” - The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.