Widgets Magazine

Five things I learned about keeping in touch with friends over the summer

FaceTime calls can help keep long-distance friendships alive. (EMILY SCHMIDT/The Stanford Daily)

Having lived 3,000 miles away from home and been separated from my high school friends for basically nine months during my freshman year, I was convinced that staying close to my Stanford friends over the summer would be a breeze. Between texting and FaceTime, how could communication be difficult? (My parents sometimes talked on the phone once a week during college summers and still managed to get married.)

I’m a person who likes to keep regular contact with people, even if it’s just checking in to see how they’re doing. The problem I quickly ran into was that not everyone holds the same expectations. As I journeyed through the ups and downs of communication, here are five things I realized about keeping in touch with long-distance friends.

1. You have to make an effort.

Some friendships are like succulents and others are like orchids; they either need very little attention or constant nurture. Despite the difference, no friendship can survive without any care. Neglect is a pest that has to be addressed before the friendship withers.

When I found out that one of my friends from Stanford would be working in Washington DC for a month, I immediately set aside a weekend to visit her. I knew it would be the only time I’d see her the entire summer, so I wanted to show her that a three-hour train ride was nothing compared to our friendship. The number of trips arranged, FaceTime calls made and text messages sent were all part of my effort to keep my friends close.

2. You have to respect each other’s space.

While I strived to continually reach out, I also recognized that my friends led busy lives during the summer. From cross-country travels to nine-to-five workdays, they weren’t always around to FaceTime or answer a message right away. And it wasn’t like I was sitting in my house all day either; I worked at a restaurant, held down two remote writing internships, self-studied Italian and participated in a month-long poetry workshop.

Sometimes a friend asked to chat and I couldn’t respond for several hours because of work, but I never forgot to respond with an explanation. Clear communication is key to avoiding passive-aggressive conflicts.

3. Time differences don’t really matter. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about a college student’s sleep cycle, it’s that regularity doesn’t apply. Some nights you’re in bed before midnight, but most of the time you’re not asleep until the wee hours of the morning. Because of this unintended flexibility, I know that at least one of my friends is awake pretty much at all times.

When multiple time zones stand between inseparable friends, I didn’t expect communication tendencies to change drastically. I still took phone calls after midnight and even received text messages at 3 a.m. PST when I was up for work at 6 a.m. EST. It was a weird dynamic, but it certainly worked well throughout the summer.

4. Your friendships may undergo changes.

Physical distance tends to place a strain on both romantic and platonic relationships. At the same time, the hundreds or thousands of miles between you and your closest pals can bring you closer together – I experienced both over the last few months. When my grandmother passed away in July, I wanted nothing more than to have my girls with me. Like the amazing people they are, the ones I called immediately picked up their phones and spoke to me for as long I needed, but they also respected my desire to be alone.

On the other hand, I had one friendship that fizzled out from a variety of factors – FOMO, irregular and misunderstood communication and the reality of being apart. It was hard for me to lose a friend, but that’s just part of life. Some friends are meant to stay and others are meant to go.

5. Fall quarter comes quicker than you think.

From the day I left Stanford in June, I had a running countdown of the days left until I returned. It might seem a bit extreme, as I was hyped to finish finals and spend time with my family, but I couldn’t wait to be reunited with my college friends. Fourteen weeks seemed like forever, especially with my high school friends gone after mid-August.

Despite weeks of droning days at work, summer went faster than I expected because I filled it with shorter weekend and day trips. Planning ahead definitely sped up time since I always looked forward to something and before I knew it, I had one week left until fall quarter started.

Now that we’re back, I’m so ready to have my closest friends not only within the same state but within walking distance.


Contact Emily Schmidt at egs1997 ‘at’ stanford.edu.