Studying abroad is such a unique experience; it’s easy to form friendships because everyone is in the same boat – a new country, new culture, and no familiar faces. Being forced to adapt to a new culture and figure out how to live on your own can create strong friendships that are so incredibly different from those you have back home (this is how Lexa and I first met and became friends).
So you spend a semester (or a year) getting to know these people, and they may end up being some of your best friends. But what happens when the semester is over and everyone goes home? You say your goodbyes and cry while making promises to stay in touch. It’s easy to say you’ll stay close, but how do you keep these friendships going despite thousands of miles, an ocean, and a killer time difference?....
Well, we’re here to help because we’re going through the same thing. Here are a few apps (TG for smartphones) and tips we’ve found work pretty well so far:
Download Glide: I am bolding this because that’s how important it is. Seriously, this app is like Facetime and Snapchat rolled into one. You can record up to 5 minutes of yourself talking, but you don’t have to both be online at the same time, which is perfect when there’s a large time difference between you. It’s great because it doesn’t require you to set aside time to talk – you can just send a quick message whenever you have an extra second, which in the summer for me is not a lot (yes, I’m talking about working 12 hour shifts as a bartender to pay for Europe this Fall).
Snapchat and send pictures of everything: It’s easy to feel like you’re still close and experiencing things together when you’re updated on each other’s lives.
Put in the effort to stay in contact. I know life gets busy and sometimes it can be hard to respond all the time. There are days when my friend Mai (from Austria) and I don’t talk, but if you want a friendship to work, you have to put in the effort to keep it going. I try to respond each morning when I wake up and before I go to bed. Mai and I (read her guest blog about her time abroad here) also use whatsapp to text.
My last tip is to make plans to meet again. Obviously this can be hard if you live far away, but make plans to meet up because that will make a difference and keep the friendship from fading. Maybe it’s a 5 year reunion or a reward for hitting some milestone in your life like getting a Master’s; or maybe you happen to be going on a trip (which lucky for us, we are) and you can plan to see one another for at least a weekend to reconnect. For us, this means meeting up for a weekend at Oktoberfest in September.
Staying friends from far away can be challenging, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to stay connected, it’s definitely doable (we’ve been going strong for over a month). Hopefully these tips can help as you’re saying goodbyes and making plans for the future.