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4 ways to maintain long distance friendships when studying abroad

long-distance friendships
Saying goodbye to long-term friends can be tough. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

The biggest challenge with long distance friendships? The distance. No more quick meet-ups after classes or crying on shared shoulders. No more impromptu road trips or exploring new places together. 

Saying goodbye to friends at home when you move away for uni can be tough. Though the journey without old friends may seem lonely and daunting, here are five ways how to maintain and nurture your valuable friendships while you’re abroad:

How to deal with long-distance friendships

Recognise which friendship is worth maintaining  

A necessary first step. Reflecting upon which friendships are worth maintaining can help you manage your energy in the long run. This does not mean cutting them out of your life, but to re-prioritise and to focus on relationships with those who are important.

Not sure how to start? Here are some reflective questions that may help: 

  • Are you overcompensating for their lack of effort? 
  • Has this person expressed genuine interest in your new adventure abroad? 
  • Does this person make you feel heard and validated when sharing struggles? 

These questions can serve as a guide that will hopefully shift your perspective to focus on the friends that add value and contribute meaning to your life. If you feel guilty for prioritising your energy, don’t. You are doing it for you.

Be intentional and make the effort

long distance friendships

The distance should make more of a reason to show your friends you value them. Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Now, the nurturing begins. Friendship is a two-way street. Reciprocation and consistency in efforts play a major role in building quality friendships. The distance should not make for an excuse. Instead, it’s more of a reason to put in the effort to show them you value them. 

And in turn, if they do the same, remember that they value you too.

Understandably, it’s easy for everyone to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. Texting your friends for quick check-ins is another simple yet effective way of being intentional with your effort. Or even just respecting a yearly tradition that you and your friends have every year. This article has some fun ideas. 

No matter where you are, carry your friendships wherever you go. 

Get real and vulnerable 

Many people don’t realise how crucial it is to build a support system that can lift you up on both your best and worst days. A good support system is one where everyone shares comfortably, honestly and vulnerably. It is also one where everyone holds space for each other in a judgement-free zone. Of course, communication is key too, so let your friends know how they can help. 

Apart from that, something as simple as expressing your appreciation to your friends is just as important. Remind them of the influence they have in your life even when you’re in a different country — this will make them feel seen and valued.

Why wait to tell them how they make you feel? There’s no better time than now. Tell your friends that you didn’t know you needed them until you met them. Tell them how much you appreciate their presence in your life.

Conflicts are normal and healthy

long distance friendships

It’s important to address conflicts with an open mind. Source: Jim Watson/AFP

Conflicts are uncomfortable, especially between friends. Letting them go unaddressed is easy when you’re apart due to the limited amount of time you spend with each other. As tempting as it is to sweep it under the rug, it’s important to face them head-on and address them with an open mind. 

Skip the assumptions and communicate openly. Practise active listening and hear them out by bringing up issues in a non-accusatory way. This can be done by using “I” statements. This sounds like: ‘I felt hurt when you bailed on our weekly call at the last minute.’ 

Starting the conversation like so can help all parties involved to practice empathy by taking into account everyone’s perspectives and feelings.