No doubt about it—some of the best experiences at college are the friendships you’ll form. You’ll be making new friends probably every year, including lifelong friends, maybe even people from around the world.
But what about your buds who helped you through earlier stages of your life, from braces to break-ups? How do you keep those friendships strong?
Here are some tips…
“Tend to the fire.” You can’t go away for even a semester and expect to pick up with friends when you return home if you haven’t kept the friendships going. Like a campfire, a friendship can die—so e-mail or phone your hometown friends at least every couple of weeks.
Share but listen. It’s fun to tell old friends about your new life, but don’t forget to ask about their new experiences, too. Make sure you’re the person with whom they still want to share.
Avoid too much talk about new friends. You’ll definitely want to tell hometown friends about your campus friends, but be careful to not overdue.
Try not to compare friends—even to yourself. Don’t minimize old friendships by always thinking new ones are better.
Arrange for a campus visit. After you have gotten settled, have hometown friends come for a visit; it’s best when just one or two friends come. Make sure they feel welcome by having specific plans for the weekend. Show them your campus, and introduce them to your new friends—but always get caught up with their lives, too.
Understand that you’re changing—and so are your hometown friends. “Sometimes when students go home on break, they think life will be like they left it, but that’s a fantasy,” points out Fran Pollock, a counselor at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania. “You might have a grief reaction when you realize that your support network isn’t the same. But there’s also an opportunity for relationships to grow.”
Don’t be afraid to show how you’re different, but also listen to your friends and see how they have changed. Is Jordan now interested in politics? Is Sarah no longer big on trips to the mall? Kate is now talking about an internship this summer—what’s that about? Ask! Grow with your friends.
Be sensitive about non-college friends. If you’re attending college but a friend isn’t, your friendship can definitely survive—if you avoid overwhelming them with details about college life.