As everyone returns to campus with the post-Thanksgiving hangover, the time comes to pick up the long-distance version of relationships with family and friends that you just reunited with. Reuniting with friends, especially after the first semester of being away from home, can bring about a whirlwind of emotions; being able to share your individual growth with the people who have impacted you throughout your life is so powerful. As a fellow third-culture kid, I am no stranger to the reality of long-distance friendships- the physically closest member of my friend group is a mere 300 miles away, with the rest of my friends scattered around the globe. Not to mention my family at a mere 7000 miles away. In this everchanging, interwoven globalized world we live in, it was a sheer part of life for friends’ parents to find new jobs and move away. So here are a couple of tips and tricks I’ve picked up.
This might seem a little redundant, but if you decide to watch the same TV shows, whether you talk frequently or not, there will be a common thread pulling you together. Once you connect again, there will be that extra layer of connection; you’ve lived through experiences with the same characters. And although you will never meet those characters in real life, those emotions are real enough that there is a very real association. Additionally, it gives you something to talk about if you don’t know how to start a conversation after months of not talking.
One of my dear friends moved away my sophomore year in high school, and I didn’t see her until the summer before freshman year of college. But I went to Greece with her for my senior trip. And that was after not seeing her for 2 years. How did we keep in touch you ask? She would send me short films that she found scattered through the internet because she thought I would like them. I watched them while we were both online and then we would talk about how fantastic the character development was, or how ridiculous the acting was, or how impactful the ending shot was, and so on. Similarly, I would send her the most random obscure songs by unknown artists that I thought she would like. I would have a little list on my phone and I eventually ended up making her a playlist. There was a two-year gap between the two times I saw her, yet we still had this additional layer to our friendship that changed my perspective on growing apart but growing together.
One wonderful thing about having a friend that doesn’t live in the same state, country, or time zone as you, is that they can provide a complete unbiased opinion on the events going on in your life. If there’s drama between friends or relationship drama, usually your inner circle of friends will find themselves involved in some way or another. Whether they’ve interacted with the other parties or they themselves are the culprit of the drama, it’s a little too risky to ask for advice from some of those in your inner circle sometimes. Having a friend on the outside, and I mean literally outside (the state or country), works as a fantastic neutral source of advice. They can provide a unique perspective and are a valuable outlet for any much-needed rants.
The epitome of the Millennial/Generation Z mode of communication. Little visual snippets with optional words. You don’t even have to type out words. The one thing that I’m sure most college and high school kids will immediately grasp the importance of, is Snapchat streaks. The arbitrary number paired with a tiny fire emoticon gives us a sense of accomplishment too important to comprehend. Yet it seems that people are focusing so hard on that number that the meaning behind it is forgotten. When I receive a picture of a ceiling, with the single (overused) word “streak”, it means nothing to me. That’s one thing that I very strongly avoid doing. Once I realized the potential connections that this dumb little app could foster, I vowed to always make my streak snaps something interesting; something relating to my life. Sometimes I’ll send a picture of the sky with a caption that explains my love for skies, or sometimes I’ll send a picture after an awkward social interaction and I’ll write it out; I’ll write out little anecdotes. Because even though I haven’t properly held a conversation with my streak people, they know about my internal dialogue, about what happened that specific day. Over time, that’s hundreds of little occurrences in my everyday life. They know how I react or feel about certain things, and in turn, subconsciously know me better.
Keep apps like Whatsapp and Messenger in your pocket
No one can guarantee that you will have the unlimited text and call plan forever. And the next best thing you can do is find alternatives for when texting and FaceTime minutes are eating your money up a little too quickly. Messenger and Whatsapp are established enough to be both abundantly used and trustworthy.
If there’s a moment when both of you can talk, I would very highly advise you to postpone watching that next Stranger Things episode; take advantage and press that video call button. With the heavy and demanding schedules of being a college student, chances are you will not find a common point in time where both of you are free. If you’re hanging with your college friends, this could be a perfect opportunity to introduce them to your best friend(s) from home. Otherwise, excuse yourself for half an hour and go rekindle the inside jokes and connection that made high school worth it.
Much like the tip for long-distance romantic relationships, you need to be able to begin planning the next time you’re going to see each other. For some this might easier than others, since there’s no guarantee your friends are going to come home every holiday. Start dreaming big: get yourself a map and a couple of pins. Then start bringing it closer to the ground; think dates, costs, and parental permission. I have yet to visit Minnesota, Boston, Colorado, Iowa, Toronto, Holland and Spain. I’m sure my parents will be fine with the fourteen plane tickets that’ll show up on their credit card bills in the upcoming years.