There’s no doubt that college, especially when arriving as a freshman, is one of the most exciting times in your life. It offers the chance for you to make lifelong friends, grants you the freedom of a true adult, allows you to develop and expand your interests, and exudes endless possibilities. This excitement is largely present in our society (whether through media glorification or parental experience or any other mode), but an aspect of it all that’s often left out is the simultaneous isolation that many incoming students feel. It can feel so hard to seize opportunities and begin to create a new life for yourself when you’re mourning elements of your old one.
In my six short weeks here at Tulane, I’ve certainly felt it myself. I was one of those people lucky enough to grow up just blocks away from my childhood best friends—we spent countless hours at sleepovers, established our favorite restaurants and rituals, relied on each other for everything, and lived through milestones together. It was a privilege to have such tight-knit friendships growing up, and it was something we all took for granted until departing internationally to our respective campuses—the first time we’d been more than three miles apart in eighteen years. While I’m beyond excited to meet new people here at Tulane, I also don’t want to lose the closeness my current friends and I had back home, especially at a time where I feel a little uncertain about my social life. That being said, I’d also hate to end up relying on them too much while on campus, and ultimately stifling my (and their) chances to make meaningful friendships here at college. It’s no easy task, but here are four ideas on how to effectively balance college and hometown friends, and ultimately get the best out of both worlds.
1. Set a Date and Stick To It
College, especially in the beginning of the semester, is an incredibly busy time. While it’s already hard enough to balance classes, work, club involvement, and going out, it’s almost too easy to forget to stay in touch with home friends. Setting a weekly or bi-weekly time to chat is a great way to combat this. Soon enough, it’ll fall into your routine and you won’t want to miss it. Go a step further and combine it with an activity—missing your old workout buddy from home? Arrange to call them while you both workout or run around campus, and motivate each other while also catching up!
2. Create a Group Instagram Account
Shortly after we left for college, one of my friends came up with the genius idea of creating an Instagram account accessible only to my friend group — a group “finsta,” if you will. She assigned each of the seven people in my friend group a certain day of the week to post an update of our lives at college, complete with pictures and videos. Catching up on one of my friends’ lives has become the best part of my day, and I look forward to posting and receiving comments that make me laugh. This idea could also be adapted to other social media platforms, such as a private Snapchat story where one person takes over each day.
3. Send Care Packages
What’s better than receiving a surprise package full of goodies after a long day? Composing a box of your friend’s favorite foods, some tailgate clothes, or even something meaningful (like a framed collage of all your pictures together) is such a great way to let your friend know you’re thinking of them! It’s especially great to send something after a big milestone, like when they ace a midterm or score the job they wanted, or also when they need it most, like after a hard breakup or illness.
4. Take Advantage of Breaks
Planning something fun during breaks is the perfect way to catch up and spend time together in a fun and relaxing way. For example, Tulane’s fall break happens to match up with one of my friend’s, so we plan on travelling to Austin together for the Austin City Limits music festival. Whether it be an international trip over a longer break, a weekend road trip during a shorter one, or just a fun dinner out, definitively planning an event lets you look forward to something and keeps you going when you miss them the most.
Hopefully all of these ideas can help keep long-distance friendships alive without taking too much away from the present. While you don’t want to lose contact in college, you also don’t want to rely on hometown friends too much, so make sure you always stay present and open to new friendships in college, no matter how hard or uncertain the social scene feels. Soon enough, you’ll find that you’ve achieved the best of both worlds: amazing friendships both at home and at your home away from home!