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Thank Me Later: Tips for Staying in Touch with a Long-Distance Bestie

The decision to study abroad for my entire junior year was not an easy one to make. After losing the second half of my highschool senior year and my freshman year of college to the pandemic, I was ecstatic to finally have two semesters in-person and on-campus for the 2021-2022 school year.

 Now, as the line in my resume changes from “sophomore” to “rising junior,” I have found a sense of comfort in the rhythm of living at AU. I’ve figured out where the best study spots are, what TDR foods to avoid, and how to perfectly time the walk from my dorm to the Wonk Bus so I don’t have to wait outside of Kogod. But most importantly, I have found my people—people who I hope will be giving speeches at my wedding and whose kids will be forced into playdates with mine.

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Warner Bros. Television, Gilmore Girls via GIPHY

So, as I gear up to study abroad next year, the fear of losing touch with these core people in my life is starting to set in. Yes, I’m excited to meet new people abroad, but the thought of missing an entire year of laughs, cries, and drama-filled weekends is giving me anticipatory FOMO. But I am trying to remind myself that I have done this before—or, in the words of my therapist, I am “checking the facts.” 

My preschool best friend hosted me at her new apartment in LA over spring break, my middle school best friend still picks up my weekly facetimes, and my high school best friends are just as invested in my college experience as I am with theirs. Despite moving to different cities and leading different lives, these foundational people continue to be my rocks. 

How have I kept these gems so close when they live so far? Well, here are my tips for staying in touch with a long-distance bestie.

1. Scheduled Facetimes 

My best friend and I are always caught in the back and forth of: I call and she doesn’t pick up, then she sees that I called so she calls me back, but by then I am preoccupied and don’t pick up, then I see that she called, and I call her back but she doesn’t pick up. This goes on forever, which results in us both having things we want to talk about but never actually getting around to it. So, this semester, we put our schedules side by side and found a time when we were both free. That became designated catch-up time. 

Though I have always prioritized our friendship, the out of sight out of mind mentality is hard to escape. It is easy to get swept up in what’s happening right in front of you and it’s hard to step away from that. But when I started seeing our weekly calls as a mandatory part of my day, I realized how healthy it was for me to take a break from my little bubble and hear about her life. And as a girl who loves a good planner, checking that off my to do list every week was very satisfying. So block off time in your gcal to commit an hour of your week to a little chit chat with the bestie—it’s so cathartic. 

And, if you really want to take it up a notch, you can prepare weekly recap presentations. As someone who can appreciate a good Canva template, I poured my little soul into making a powerpoint every week to summarize the past seven days to my best friend, who then matched my energy and presented her own. 

This week I did an ALDC-style pyramid of the foods I ate this week (mozzarella sticks were on the top), rated the shows I’ve recently binged out of 10 (Netflix’s Is It Cake? deserves a special shoutout), and went through some questions that have been on my mind (including, but limited to, “Am I addicted to 2048?” “Will I fail econ?” and “Am I in love with [redacted]?”). Powerpoint night with my best friend is now a highlight of my week. 

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CBC, Schitts Creek via GIPHY

2. Snail Mail & Care Packages

There is nothing better than getting a surprise in the mail. The theatrics of ripping open a letter or slicing open a box spark so much joy, especially when you don’t know what’s on the other side. A check-in text is great, but a physical reminder of someone’s love and appreciation is more heartwarming. Receiving a letter or package is a reminder that someone took the time out of their busy day to send you something meaningful. It serves as a reassurance that someone is thinking of you, and there’s something so comforting about an old school handwritten letter or hand picked goodies from a friend who knows you well. 

Curating care packages is my love language. My friend is having a stressful week? I’m sending face masks, tea, and some melatonin. Just had a breakup? You’ll be receiving chocolate, a bath bomb, and some travel tissues in 2-3 business days. You can also throw in knick knacks that remind you of them or reference an inside joke. Care packages don’t have to be expensive—dollar tree gifts are just as sentimental! 

If the thought of shipping a box is too daunting, send a letter! If you haven’t spoken to a long-distance friend in a while, write what you would have said in a text message down on a note instead. Rip out a page of your notebook, or buy a cheap card at Target—the ones that play a little song upon opening are my personal favorites. Get out some colorful pens and start writing. It doesn’t have to be long, but the reminder that you are thinking of them will surely be appreciated. 

3. Virtual Tour of Campus

As a native New Yorker I love a good walk and talk moment. Pop in those headphones, Facetime your friend, and take them on a personalized tour of your campus. It may seem mundane, but where you live is a big part of your life and college experience. I love getting a glimpse into what my friends’ lives look like on the day-to-day and vice versa. It’s like I get to visit them without the risk of COVID and the hit to my bank account that comes with traveling across the country. 

Seeing your world through your friend’s eyes may even spark a newfound sense of appreciation. Showing my hometown best friend around AU allowed me to admire how pretty our campus is. When rushing around campus to-and-from class, it’s easy to not register the trees of freshly bloomed pink flowers lining the quad or the perfectly curated plants outside of the library. But seeing my best friend dumbstruck over some trees forced me to see the beauty in the little things I bypass everyday. 

Virtual tours of campus are also convenient. Once you show a friend the ins and outs of campus life, chit chatting becomes a lot easier. My best friend has yet to visit AU in person, but when I am ranting about my day and mention MGC or the space between McDowell and Cassell, she knows exactly what I’m talking about. And when she is reenacting an interaction from her day, I can easily picture it after seeing her campus and college town via Facetime. 

AU Main Campus
Original photo by Yutong Deng

4. Show and Tell

Moving away from friends means that there are new characters in your life that they never got to meet. I often use my long-distance friends as an outside opinion when something is frustrating me and I need to see if, perhaps, I’m the problem. These frustrations usually involve new people in my life that my older friends don’t know, so to establish context for a rant or gossip session, we do a Show and Tell. 

We show Instagram profiles, camera roll photos, or really anything we can get our hands on that can give the other friend a sense of who the person in question is. I want to be able to picture the inflammatory encounter my best friend had with her roommates, and how am I, a visual learner, to that without Instagram stalking said roommates before I get the rundown? 

Show and Tells can be done through screenshots if you want to be old school, Zoom screen share if you want to get serious, or even—thanks to iOS 15.1’s new “Share My Screen” feature—Facetime. 

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ABC, Bachelor in Paradise via GIPHY

5. Be realistic

Living apart from a friend means you likely won’t play the same role in their life as you did before. You won’t see or speak to each other everyday. You might not be the first person to know about something that happens. You can’t be there to hug them when they’re sad or hold each other as you throw your heads back in laughter. But, if you put in the work and potentially employ these tips, you’ll still be in each other’s hearts and minds. 

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Paramount Pictures Studios, Mean Girls via GIPHY

***

Did I write this article to share my own experience and expertise on keeping in touch with a long-distance bestie? Yes. Did I write this article to remind myself that I have what it takes to keep my AU friends while I study abroad? Also yes. So I’m trying to reframe. Instead of looking at my study abroad as a year of activities that I am missing out on, I am seeing it as a time to reinvest in my friendships. And I hope with these tips, you can too—thank me later.

Isa Iiams

American '24

Isa (she/her) is in her second year at American University as an International Relations major with a focus on Justice, Ethics, and Human Rights. Her passions include reading, traveling, and reality television. She hopes to advocate for social justice issues through her writing.
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