Graphic by Lucas Olscamp/The Gazelle

Advice: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Whether it's trouble with a long distance relationship, choosing your major or feeling like NYUAD is not the right place for you, A Word of Advice is ...

Sep 19, 2015

Graphic by Lucas Olscamp/The Gazelle
Whether it's trouble with a long distance relationship, choosing your major or feeling like NYUAD is not the right place for you, A Word of Advice is here to listen. Your calls for advice will be answered by a peer, with help from the Health and Wellness Center and your RAs, no matter if you are on Saadiyat campus, studying abroad or at home. Some responses will be published in a column in The Gazelle. All submissions will remain completely anonymous. Remember, advice is just an opinion and if you need a health care professional, please visit the Health and Wellness Center.

Dear Johanna, I am feeling really close to a few friends, but can't seem to keep contact with those who have flown away to study abroad.

Is letting go of friends something I should just get used to here, or can you share some tips as to how to keep friendships lasting even if you never are on a campus at the same time ever again?

What you describe here is a problem and a privilege built into the very nature of our university. For most of us, traveling to the UAE and arriving here means leaving behind all of our friends. As if that's not hard enough, we face the same situation every semester as each of us rotates through different semesters abroad. We make new friends, and we say goodbye to them.
It can feel like the friends we have are only going to be around for a semester at a time, which can make it hard to open yourself up to someone and connect.
Every now and then, though, we find those people that we just click with. After a semester or a year, we've gotten really close to these friends, but the inevitable point comes in which they study abroad, or you study abroad, or one of you graduates.
First of all, you don't have to get used to letting go of friends while you're here. That's the good news. The slightly harder news to swallow is that you're going to have to get used to friendships and friends changing dramatically. College is a time of amazing growth as we confront new ideas, figure out what we believe, meet people that really impact us and form the way we interact with the world.
Over the course of one semester, someone can radically change in the way they see the world. This is a good thing, but it can make keeping friends really difficult.
To make things even more complicated, going through this growth and this change can be really time and energy consuming. It can be very difficult to adjust to all of the new things you are experiencing and still keep in touch with old friends. After all, out of sight, out of mind — especially if your mind is preoccupied.
Chances are, your friendship will make it through being apart for a while, but there is also the chance that it won't. It's a painful process to lose or grow apart from a friend. Every time I return back home, I am reminded of the friends that I will always have, but I also see those people from high school that I used to be really close with, but we suddenly have nothing to talk about anymore. It is sad and difficult, but you are no more likely to grow apart from and lose a friend while being on separate campuses than you are while being on the same campus.
So here are some things that can help keep a friendship lasting: Be compassionate. You are busy. Your friend is just as busy. If you don't hear from them for a while, don't get angry — or worse, assume they don't care about you anymore. There are going to be times when one or both of you disappears for a while. It might be because classes are super heavy and they don't have time to think about anything else, or because they are getting used to a new place. When you are busy, time can pass by very quickly and suddenly, it's been two months since you've spoken.
Try not to resent your friend for staying silent. This happens to me all the time. I've moved a lot in my life and every time I move, I will start to grow frustrated at my friends for not emailing or calling or visiting. The difficult thing to realize and internalize is that when you are on opposite ends of the world, how often you talk is not a very good reflection of how close you still are. Much more important is the quality of your interactions when you do get the chance to see each other again.
This is an important one: Don't wait to answer letters and texts. Don't let yourself think, "This person deserves to get a fully thought-out letter when I have the time to sit down and write it the right way." You won't have the time, and you will forget. If your friend sends you a long letter or post, or even just a short message, answer the most important parts even if you don't have the time to address the whole thing. Just let them know you'll write more when you get a chance to.
Take the chance to write or call them. With friends far away, you no longer have an excuse to be bored. Have a moment to yourself and don't know what to do with yourself? Call your friend. Is it 3 a.m. where your friend is living? Well, maybe just write them a long email instead. I guarantee you, your friend will be happy to get that email, even if it is just a really boring account of what you did the last week. It's not boring to someone who hasn't seen you in a while.
When you're thinking about your friend, let them know. Whether through Facebook or email or texting, if someone pops into your mind, send them a quick message — something along the lines of, "Just thinking about you. I miss you," or "I think you'd really enjoy this book." One of the worst parts about being far apart is feeling like the other person could not care less whether or not you are a part of their life. By letting your friend know that you think about them, you give them a chance to feel missed and you remind them to send you a long email about what is going on in their life.
Plus, staying in regular contact keeps the channels of communication open. It can feel really overwhelming to have to tell a friend everything that has happened to you over the past summer, semester or year. By talking about small, silly things regularly, the big things won't feel so big.
And remember, the world is actually really tiny. You are going to see your friend again. It might take a while, but eventually your paths will cross, especially if you care enough to find a way to make it happen.
Just some thoughts,
Graphic by Lucas Olscamp/The Gazelle
Graphic by Lucas Olscamp/The Gazelle

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