Goodbye, Not Good Riddance: How NOT to Lose Friends

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Anxiety accompanied my excitement as the summer prior to my freshman year rapidly came to a close. My best friend was off to a rival school in the fall. How could we possibly stay friends from opposite sides of the state? That crisp, white Penn State acceptance letter suddenly felt like a death sentence. 
Though goodbyes were half-hearted, denying any change, the last time we hung out was tainted with a sense of finality. Sooner than I was ready, two SUVs were packed and headed in opposite directions. Had five years of friendship run its course?
We shared an occasional text over the next few weeks, but conversation was limited. It was almost like going to different schools had created too big of a divide: a tale of two mascots. 
Thankfully, Thanksgiving break proved otherwise. A trip to his campus and a week at home put us back in the tenth grade. We told the same stories and jokes like there was no change at all.  Any weirdness was just the product of adjusting to a new place. 
The semesters that followed saw a flood of casual conversation. It was the norm to know who hooked up with who and what professor needed a career change. Every phone call was a breaking news event and every break was a family reunion. Yes, things were different. Our friendship was stronger. 
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to trade your childhood friends for the key to your dorm room. Here are seven ways to ensure your best friend from down the street stays your friend across the state. 
1. Pick up your phone and dial.
You did it at home; you can certainly do it at school. Sending a quick text or making a phone call between biology and English is a simple way to maintain a friendship.  Stay current in all the details of your friend’s life, as long as your data plan permits. Just because you can no longer talk in person doesn’t mean that you can’t talk at all. 
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2. Stalk their social media.
A casual favorite on Twitter or comment on Facebook allows you to remain connected. On top of providing instant messaging services, social networking sites allow you to see where your friends have been and what they’ve been up to. They’re also the ultimate conversation starter as they only tell part of the story. Facebook might tell you your best friend is in a relationship, but getting all the details requires a phone call. Consider social media your gateway drug to discussion.
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3. Utilize Mr.Postman.
Make sure you get your friends new address. It may seem archaic, but snail mail is a fun way to stay in touch. Whether it’s a package or a postcard, it’s always exciting to get mail when you’re in the commons area of your residence hall. Simple greeting cards can go a long way, especially once the homesickness sets in. In an age when we opt for the convenience of Wi-Fi, we all jump when something other than a bill is waiting in the mailbox. 
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4. Hop on Skype.
For those more inclined to take advantage of high speed Internet, video chat is a convenient way to hang out with friends when an in-person reunion is impossible. During the year, I spend more time clicking icons and wrangling with volume control than seeing many of my friends in person.  Once you’ve settled in at school, schedule a time to chat via webcam. Be aware that dorm Internet connection is spotty at best so you may need to drag yourself out of bed and take your laptop somewhere quiet on campus.
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5. Check out their neck of the woods.
If you ever find a weekend when you don’t have to cram for a test or finish that 5,000 word paper, hop on the highway and spend the weekend at your friend’s school. Campus visits are a great way to catch up and check out the lifestyle of another school. Unless you want to end up with nowhere to sleep, make sure to check out the guest rules at your friend’s dorm before you jump into the car. Most universities allow residents to have overnight guests, but some require you to register 24 hours in advance. For those of you without easy access to your mom’s Chevy, Megabus and other lines run to most colleges and offer reasonable rates if you book early.
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6. Hang out during breaks.
From winter to the long, hot months of summer that you’ll come to dread, university breaks are the best way to reconnect with high school friends. If only to escape your parents for a few blessed hours, hit up old hangout spots and splurge on a movie or seven. You’ll find it quite easy to slip into old patterns when your friends are only two miles away instead of two hundred. The friends you missed all year are finally nearby; make sure you get together. 
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7. Don’t overdo it!
It’s important to remember that just because you can be in constant contact, doesn’t mean you should. During freshman year, you and your friend will face a tornado of new people and exciting opportunities. If you constantly text your high school BFF, you might miss out on opportunities in college or annoy him to no end. You’re not Brutus stabbing Caesar in the back if you skip the daily phone call. Schedule a time once a week to catch up while you meet new people at school. After all, no one wants to end up being that weird kid on the fifth floor still stuck in high school.  
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Daniel Kuhn is a senior studying journalism at Penn State University. A great companion. Just don't feed him after midnight.

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