So you’ve made it. After all those months of preparation, shopping, packing, and dreaming, you’ve finally settled into your new life at college. First, congratulations!
Second, you’ve probably noticed by now how easy it is to let a day (or sometimes a week) go by without calling home. And as for all those high school activities you participated in (the sports teams, debate leagues, theater group), they seem as distant as can be. How was that only five months ago? Your family probably understands—the days roll by so quickly, and the school assignments are already piling up—but it's safe to assume they miss you. And your friends back home are most likely wondering about you too. After all, you are worth missing.
Of course, leaving and putting a bit of distance between yourself and home is a part of this transition to adulthood. You are discovering life as an individual in ways you were never able to before—and that’s awesome! Then again, life is a balance and too much distance might be harmful. We'll talk about why in just a minute.
But first, it’s important to address the reality that not all college students feel the same way about their home life. It turns out, there are about three primary ways new college students react toward family and old friends after arriving at school. See which one you identify with most closely.
Category one. You adore your family and appreciate all the love and support they provide. As for your old friends, well, you wish you could have packed them in your suitcase and taken them with you. The memories you’ve shared are important to you and you look forward to making many more ASAP. You’re the kind of student that really likes to keep people in the loop.
Category two. Your family is important to you but, let’s be honest, it’s just hard to keep up. You’re trying to navigate a brand new social life and more school than you know what to do with. So while you certainly have no hard feelings toward home, you’ve decided it’s simply time to focus on the new.
Category three. It’s a relief to be gone. Transitioning out of the home was difficult, and there’s still some unresolved tension between yourself and your family or friends. As much as you wished it weren’t the case, you couldn’t wait to leave. The last thing you want to do right now is keep in touch with your old life.
Each of these options (and any variation in between) are viable and understandable places to be. The important thing to remember, though, is that life at school will come and go. Your family, however, will still be there when you graduate, so it’s probably a good idea to learn how to maintain healthy communication with them in the meantime. Here are a few ideas how:
1. Send photos home.
Do not rely on social media as your only means of showing your family what school is like. They deserve to see it without a filter. Grandparents especially love this one. They'll print your photos and put them on their refrigerator.
2. Bring friends home over break.
Sure, your family can be a little crazy at times, but who’s isn’t? This helps your family see who you’re close with and where you picked up the strange phrases you’ve started saying.
3. Keep a running list of things to talk about.
You probably don’t have time to call right when something relevant happens, so by the time you actually do end up talking, you’ve forgotten it.
Set aside the back few page of a school notebook or open up a notes page on your phone and write out things you’d like to tell your family. If you’re really dedicated, categorize the list by specific friends and family members. What you tell Aunt Patricia is not always what you’re going to tell your older sister.
4. Make it clear to your friends at home they are not be replaced.
It’s easy to see people’s lives develop over social media and feel jealous, left out, or forgotten. Make a conscious effort to focus on the aspects of your relationship that make it so unique and enjoyable.
5. Let your family and old friends meet your new friends.
Add them in a group message or introduce people over FaceTime. Some of the most legendary college moments happen when your classmate starts Facebook messaging your mom on their own. Who knows what kind of new relationships can happen long distance?
It's an old art—actually worth looking into. Hearing the sound of your best friend’s voice, the way they laugh, and the ridiculous words they use will do you good.
And you never know, it might take a phone call to realize how much you actually miss them. If you prefer routine, ask your family and friends what times are best for them to talk, and work that into your schedule. A few brief messages every other day simply does not qualify as meaningful relationship.
7. Avoid the “tourist report.”
If anyone could make it up, don’t bother saying it. Be honest about the good and the not so good of your social, academic, and spiritual life. This way, even if your communication is limited, at least they heard something real from you.
No matter what kind of student you are—no matter the status of your relationships from home—your communication will mean the world to your family and friends.