In my two-and-a-half years of being at the University of Delaware thus far, I have had the opportunity to spend time abroad twice. The first time was my freshman year and I spent about six weeks in London during Winter Session. Currently, I am two months into my four months abroad in Cameroon pursuing an internship. I’d be lying if I said that being away for so long didn’t take a toll on my relationships back at home. Especially “college friends” because you are so used to spending practically 24/7 with those people, however, I threw together some tips, tricks, and advice to best manage these friendships.
#1 Recognize that every friendship is different. I have some friends that I need to talk to regularly or else I know we are going to drift apart. Then I have other friends where we can not talk for months and then when we see each other again, we pick up right where we left off. One of my closest friends is AWFUL at showing emotion over text message, so when I was in London for Winter Session I barely heard from her. When I got back to campus that spring she ran up excitedly to see me. I admitted that I wasn’t even sure she missed me. All of that is to say that it’s important to recognize the differences in friendships and respect that not every relationship is going to look the same or have the same upkeep methods once you go abroad.
#2 Know that your real friends will stick around. Some of your friendships just aren’t going to last when you’re not around each other all of the time. That’s just the reality of life. My philosophy has always been that if I can keep one or two close friends from each stage of life I am in, then I’m doing something right. Time abroad will be a good way to tell who your real friends that are sticking around are. The real friends will be the people that check in to see how you’re actually doing, not just how the picture of you at the Eiffel Tower portrays you. They’ll be the friends that when you get back want to hear every single detail of every single day, not just ask you, “how was it?” expecting you to summarize your four month immersion experience in Africa in a sentence.
#3 It takes two people to maintain a relationship. It’s easy to get caught up in whatever is going on while you’re abroad and almost set expectations on your friends to be the ones to reach out to you. However, they could be feeling as though you’re so busy that you’ll just reach out if you have time. This could then lead to just not talking for way too long. It’s important to remember that it takes two people to maintain a relationship and it could be good to set up times that you can talk and catch up. A close friend and I pick a two-hour time frame twice a week that we’ll make sure to be paying attention to our phones so that we can text for a little while.
Long distance friendships can be hard. Especially when you’re used to doing even the mundane, like brushing your teeth, together. However, with a little hard work and determination you’ll be able to enjoy your time away and still come home to a great group of friends that you can pick up where you left off with!