I have maintained long-distance friendships my whole life. Since I am Brazilian, nearly all of my extended family is in Brazil. I also have an older sister who lives in Italy and friends who go to school in the United States (and across the globe through study abroad). In addition to all of those relationships, I have made many friends from all over the world during my travels and experiences as an IPAL (International Peer Associate League member) at Arcadia.
Long-distance friendships are so rewarding. Some of my favorite gifts from these relationships are cultural exchanges, whether it’s between university life in California and Pennsylvania, or university life in France and the United States. Also, of course, there are the shared experiences you’ve had with your friends or family members that are extra special since they might not occur that often.
As rewarding as these friendships are, maintaining them can be a challenge. You will miss each other, and communicating isn’t as convenient as it is with friends who live near you. But, it’s not impossible. Here are five main ways I manage to keep my long-distance friendships:
1. Exchange schedules.
You and your friend will definitely have different school and work schedules, and you might even be in different time zones. Fear not! Communication, paired with planning, can help you find out some communal free times. Exchange your schedule with your friend, taking into account possible time-zone differences, to find windows of free time. These free times can be used to schedule Skype dates. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Use social media.
Today, nearly everyone is connected online in one way or another. The Internet makes having a long-distance friendship so much easier since communication is instant, making it easier to stay updated on each other’s lives. Sure, not everyone has Facebook, but there’s WhatsApp (free Internet messaging) or Skype (Internet video calling), and if not, e-mail. (My personal favorite? SnapChat. This photo-sharing app let’s my friends and I send each other quick snapshots of our day.)
3. Send cards and packages.
Sure the Internet makes communicating instant, but sometimes nothing can beat a good old-fashioned postcard. Sending postcards, handwritten mail, and even care packages, can let your friend know that you’re going that extra step to show your appreciation. A cute idea is sending a postcard of your new city (if you’re studying away or abroad), and writing about an experience you just had that reminded you of your friend. Or, you could send a friend studying away a package with some hometown goodies.
4. Be patient. Be flexible.
Sometimes long-distance friendships can be frustrating because your friend might not reply to your messages right away, or might disappear. Our first instinct is to think we’re being ignored, but that is probably not the case. Keep in mind everyone lives busy lives whether home or abroad. Be patient and understanding, and if you happen to be the friend that disappears, make sure to send a “Hello! I’m not ignoring you, just really busy!” message to show your friends you’re okay and are still thinking of them.
5. Do not overwhelm yourself.
Maintaining a long-distance friendship might seem daunting, and it can be easy to overwhelm yourself. Don’t create the pressure and expectations of speaking to your away friends every day, or telling them every single detail of your days. It’s nearly impossible to do so, and it’s not a thing we normally do in our “local” friendships. While studying here in Italy, sometimes I will go a week, or even two, without talking to my friends who are either back home in Philadelphia or studying abroad. But whenever we do reconnect, everyone is always understanding and curious to hear about each other’s latest adventures.
In the end, long-distance friendships can totally be maintained with communication, patience, and some help from the Web. The most important thing to remember is that whether a friend is across the country or across the ocean, friendships that are real have no boundaries.