How to maintain friendships from home while at college

By Andrea Flores, Longform Editor

In just a few weeks, you’ll be packing up your bags to start your life in Champaign. Before my freshman year began three years ago, I was so eager to get to school that I started packing about a month before move-in day.

But, as excited as I was to start college, something major was missing from my luggage — I couldn’t pack my best friend and bring her to Champaign with me.

Becky, my best friend since eighth grade, was also preparing for her freshman year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and it felt like the end of the world to think that we would be nearly 300 miles away from each other for most of the year.

Not only was I sad I wouldn’t be able to share my college experience firsthand with her,  I was worried our friendship would end once college began.

But, in the last three years, our friendship has only grown stronger. So if you’re worried like I was about maintaining friendships while away at college, keep the following in mind.

High school is different than college

This is an obvious statement, but just hear me out. In high school, your friends from home were typically always around you, so you may be used to having them at your side or on their phone whenever you want to hear from them.

But now, everyone is going to be on different schedules. Maybe your friend will have more afternoon classes than you, so if you have a major life update or crisis that needs their attention, or you just want to chat, they may not get back to you as soon as you would like.

Remembering this is crucial; everyone will be falling into their own rhythm between classes, jobs and extracurriculars so it’s important to be understanding and be patient! But, with that in mind…

Answer your phone

As the saying goes, communication is key. If your friend texts you saying “DUDE GUESS WHAT!” but you’re about to clock in at work, or take that much needed afternoon nap, don’t leave your friend hanging.

Taking one minute to say “Let me text you back later!” when you’re busy really goes a long way. If you keep missing your friend’s texts…

Plan time to catch up

Every year, it feels like I just get busier and busier. Classes get more demanding, responsibilities increase and Google Calendar becomes your best friend. You will be probably experience the same thing, as will your friends, so don’t be shy to suggest setting time aside as often as you’d like to catch up.

Scheduling a phone call or FaceTime with your friends might feel strange, but just like making plans to hang out, you’ll look forward to hearing from them.

Step out of your comfort zone, literally

When Becky and I went off to college, we promised each other that we would visit each other every semester. And for the last three years, we’ve kept our promise, and it has made for some of the best memories I have of college so far.

Once you’re settled at school, host your friends in your dorm for a weekend. Show them everything you love about the University, and trust me, there’ll be too much to see in one weekend.

And when your friends are settled, plan a trip to their school. Nothing is sweeter than seeing what makes your friends happy. Meeting their new friends and checking out a new college that you’ve never been to before is a great getaway in the midst of midterms.

If your friend stayed home, whether they’re still in high school, at a community college or working, heading home to see them is also the perfect way to catch up.

It’s a lot easier than you might think. The Illinois Terminal is Champaign’s bus and train station that has both Amtrak, Greyhound and other transportation company stops . It’s definitely a bit nerve-racking to travel alone, but it will make you feel incredibly independent and you’ll see new places and things, which is what college is all about.

Just breathe

I find myself overthinking a lot, especially when things seem awry. This was especially the case when I started college. If Becky didn’t reply to my Snapchat that definitely should’ve been responded to, I’d worry about it excessively. If texts with another friend from home seemed short, I’d think a lot about what went wrong. And if my friend posted a Snapchat with her roommate and captioned it “Love her!” my stomach would lurch a bit.

Those anxieties, and others like them, are completely natural when you’re away at school. You’re in a new place, and you may miss home and life before college when times get tough, and if your friends are AWOL, it definitely won’t feel great.

But, don’t forget to just breathe. They likely just got wrapped up in something and missed your text. It happens, and it’s okay.

With that, don’t be afraid to tell your friend if you feel like they’ve been hard to reach. They care about you and will adjust accordingly. Also don’t get jealous; be happy for your friend just like they’re happy for you.

Friendships change as you grow up — don’t forget that.

Last, but not least…

Tag your friend in memes. Send them old, cringe-worthy photos of you and them from high school. Sharing a laugh with your friend, possibly hundreds of miles away, is still just as sweet. Sending a “Thinking of you” text with a funny picture, and receiving one, makes all the difference.

It’s not easy to be away from someone you spent so many years being close to, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s just the start of a new phase of your friendship that you get to grow from.

Andrea is a senior in Media.

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