Part of studying abroad is making friends from different places, backgrounds, worlds. And part of the struggle when you leave is hanging on to those friendships. When you leave the world you entered to re-enter your own, it can be hard to stay in contact because your life sweeps you back up. At least, that’s what my friends in London are worried about. I, at the same time, worry that they’ll continue their experience at university, make new friends and completely forget about the times when I was there.
The thing we’re forgetting is that this has been done before. We were in one world during high school and many of us left it to go to college or university or higher education–whatever you want to call it, whatever it was. We promised to stay in contact with friends from home and stay up-to-date on their lives. Sometimes it happened and sometimes it didn’t. But the important thing is that it proves it is possible when the effort is made. With the magic of the Internet, we don’t even have to accumulate an outrageously expensive cell phone bill.
I am the girl from high school who has struggled to maintain contact with all the people I talked to during high school. I want to keep contact with the wide variety of friends I had–from the theater geeks to the nerds to the jocks–because they remind me why living is fun. Something I’ve learned about myself, since beginning college, is that I am reluctant to let go of my past no matter where my life is taking me. And when I lose contact with someone it hurts because I feel part of the past drifting away.
While I have come to terms with this loss of high school connections, I refuse to let it happen now. High school friendships, for me, were usually formed because we had the same classes. Now that we’re growing into our own, differences that weren’t a problem while we complained about an assignment or teacher or worked on a project now are much more pronounced. And while I still maintain contact with many people, some of them are connections I pick up because I’m home.
But now that friends are mostly found through common likes and experiences, there’s so much more to hold friends together. Through high school, I jumped from activity to activity and had such a large variety of interests that it was difficult to truly get to know the people involved. And the same is true at Wellesley. Many of my college friends were made because we did similar activities, not always because we had personalities that mixed to create fantastic conversation. My friends in London were different. Part of that is because I threw myself into this new environment and they helped me out which created something more. Another part is that the group I joined at the beginning are the people I stuck with to the end, for almost all social events. And it never got old.
As soon as it truly connected that the semester was ending I realized that this was a group of friends that I wanted to hang on to. And so I will. Facebook and Skype may make maintaining contact easier but it will still require effort. Wellesley will sweep back into my life and I will throw myself back into a long list of activities. The time difference will have to be faced but I will not lose contact with these friends simply because I have to talk to them in the middle of the afternoon. They are a group of friends that helped me learn all about me. They helped me discover my sweet side (the side that is usually hidden behind the tough let’s-get-things-done side) and my love for cooking. I can be silly and serious and motherly and childish and there is always someone who will respond appropriately.They almost always make me smile and laugh.
Since coming home, I’ve talked to almost everybody from the group. But I’ve also been on break and still have over a week until school begins. There’s been plenty of time for me to simply sit at my computer and wait for them to sign online. I have to face the fact that I will not Skype with people as often as I do now –and if they are swept up and move on, I have to let them go. But I will hang on for as long as I can. Friendships, no matter how painful the distance might be, are always worth the effort.