How I Am Maintaining Friendships While Studying Remotely

There is no way I could’ve imagined that I would be completing my final year at Conn virtually. I am still struggling to wrap my mind around the idea of not physically being on campus. But I know that staying home this fall was the right decision for me as hard as the choice was to make.

Unlike so many of my fellow Conn students, I do not live in the Northeast. Nope, my home is the lovely Midwestern state of Illinois. (woo!) So, it was much easier for me to just stay home logistically and peace of mind. Although I have made peace with my decision, it is hard knowing that I won’t be able to see my friends at all this year.

Most of us have been away from our friends going on 7 months now, so we have been finding all kinds of ways to maintain our friendships for a while now. Lately, I have been reflecting on how I have been able to stay in touch with my friends back in Connecticut and reconnect with ones back home in Illinois. Here’s what I found.

Staying in Touch with Friends Far, Far Away

As I am sure many of us have discovered, FaceTime and other video call programs like Google Hangouts are the key to staying in touch with long-distance friends. A lot of times, it just takes one person to reach out, and then before you know it, your call has lasted for way longer than you expected. But in order to stay in touch, it also takes consistency. Consistency from all parties involved. It is easy to reach out and talk once or twice with little communication in between. But it's not effective. When every friend reaches out—whether it’s twice a day or twice a month—it ensures that you all still feel important and close to each other.

I usually start by texting to see how my friends were doing and then, more often than not, that turns into finding a time when we can have a full-blown, 4-hour FaceTime session, talking about everything from how our families are to what TV shows we should start watching to what we have been doing to stay busy. Although texting is also an option, I find that it is a good first step but doesn’t usually last as long or feel as refreshing as hearing your friends’ voices and seeing their faces. So, no matter where you are this semester, don’t forget about those friends who you don’t get to see every day. Pick up the phone call them, or text about finding a time to talk, and soon you’ll feel that distance shrinking.

Reconnecting with Friends Close By

One of the biggest things that has kept sane during these isolated months is seeing and talking to my friends from home. Trust me when I say that when I went to Conn my first year, I never expected to come back home unless it was for a short visit. And being back home often feels like I have lost that sense of freedom and independence I had on campus, but seeing some of my best friends on a regular basis again has been amazing.

Of course, we still had to follow health and safety guidelines. My best friend and I came up with sitting on opposite sides of my driveway (well over 6 ft. apart) in lawn chairs. That way we could enjoy the summer sun and still hang out "in-person" every week. We also went on walks (crossing the street when we saw other people and wearing masks when needed), which even made us feel productive because we were spending time together and exercising. Talk about multitasking! It just takes a little creativity to find safe but fun ways to hang out with friends, and if there is one thing I appreciate about this time at home, it is having more time with my best friends who I would not have seen much otherwise.

Finding Out Who Your Friends Really Are

There is something else that happened for me while being home for so long, though. I realized that there were some friends that I gradually (or sometimes pretty abruptly after leaving in March) stopped talking to. Besides an occasional text every few months, we had no communication at all. And at that point, is that really a friendship?

Quarantine has allowed for a time of reflection in all parts of our lives, and that includes reflecting about the friendships and relationships that you want to put effort into and the ones that you just don’t. I definitely believe that it is a good thing to reflect on and decide who you really want to be in your life. One of the key signs for me has been how often are you reaching out to a friend, and then how many times your attempts to reach out have been reciprocated. If you find that your answer to either question is a low number, it might be important to remember that friendships can’t function one-sided or no-sided. I have always found that a few close friends who I talk to regularly is better than a lot of friends I rarely talk to. No matter what kind of way you are keeping in touch. And now more than ever, it is important to vent to, laugh with, and tell everything to solid friends that support you.

Do Parents Count as Friends?

Maybe this is just me, but I have talked much more to parents since I have been in college than I ever did when I actually lived at home. Even when I was on-campus before, it was not unusual for me to call my mom after dinner and talk about our days and vent about everything that was stressing us out. Now, that I am home with just my parents—my twin brother having gone back to campus this fall—they are my main source of human contact and communication. Sometimes when you need a person to talk to, they don't always have to be a friend. They can also be your parents. Parents usually have different insights and advice than you or your friends would consider that is equally helpful. And as I get older, I am definitely starting to see my parents as an untapped resource, and yes, sometimes even as friends who are there for me when I need them.

 

This year, while I take my classes virtually and stay in my house for what seems like more long months with no end in sight, I know that my best friends—both near and far—will be the people keeping me sane. It is just a matter of making sure that we all find a little time on a regular basis to stay connected.