Distance Kills Relationships?

“Want to skype when you wake up?” My friend in England messaged me late on a Saturday night. Being the night owl that I am, I was still awake to see the message. Yes! I would finally get to talk to one of my best friends in over a month. I headed to bed, pulling the sheet over my head and forcing myself to go to sleep so that tomorrow would come faster.

My weekend wake-up approached at noon, and the first thing I did was roll over and text my friend, “I just woke up.” An hour-long Skype call ensued, consisting of catching up on major life moments and tales of her latest adventures in Europe. I showed her the contents of the package I was going to send her but hadn’t gotten around to packing up. Too soon, however, it was nighttime in the UK and her regular sleep schedule forced the Skype call to end. We said goodbye, and I was left to start my day in Hawaii.

The Reality of Having Friends in Far Places

My time in college has led me into many friendships with the looming thought that time would eventually drag us away from one another. My first taste of this was when I moved to Hawaii, which tore me from all of my high school friends and anyone I had ever known. At first, I wrote letters to some of my friends, but as time went on, the letters stopped arriving in my mailbox, and I bought less and less postage stamps. Now, I rarely speak to any of my high school friends on a regular basis, only contacting them when I’m back in Texas to recall old times.

Studying abroad in Korea primarily led me to make friends from England and Australia. Our friendship seemed to be one out of necessity. We were all put in the same Korean classes, the same dorm, and we even shared the same time schedule which made meeting each other quite hassle-free. But those friends disappeared even faster than the ones I had made during high school, except for one. And that was my friend from Australia.

He arrived in Hawaii during a vacation, and I remember the distinct pleasure of seeing his dopey smile as I hopped into the back seat of our mutual friend’s car. During his stay we met several times to enjoy what Hawaii has to offer. We made fun of our friend while eating incredibly messy burgers at Teddy’s Burgers. We practiced our faulty Korean at a Sikdorak, Korean BBQ restaurant. We compared the attitudes of Americans and Australians at Sandy’s beach. Before he left, he promised to keep in touch, and to this day he has kept that promise. Nearly every month, I receive a very lengthy Facebook message asking about my daily life, how my school work is going, and also about HKC. His effort inspired me. How he acted as a friend made me want to be that kind of long distance friend to others.

On my latest study abroad trip to Korea, I had the pleasure of being in a Korean class at Seoul National University. It was made insanely awesome by the students in that class. People from Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia filled my days with lively conversation, and as I cried leaving them, I vowed to be like my Australian friend and to try my best to stay in touch with them.

I message them almost every month. We talk about a variety of things ranging from Korean presentation projects to which universities they got into. One day when I promised my linguistics project group that I could get a native speaker to pronounce our Chinese sentences I immediately picked up my phone and messaged one of my lovely Chinese friends. Being the saint that she is, she agreed to record herself reading the text.

With the harsh sun of Hawaii beating down on me I walked back to my room listening to her recorded voice. I was so thankful that I had continued being her friend, not only for the project help, but also knowing that she showed her loyalty through her willingness to help.  Of course, I’m not always successful when I reach out to friends that are abroad. Some don’t reply to my messages, but I still try to keep in contact with those friends who don’t mind me badgering them every so often.

What are the Takeaways? 

From these experiences, I’ve learned that distance can kill friendships, but that death isn’t inevitable. If two people put in the effort, friendships never die.

This theory is currently being put to the test again as two of my friends recently went to study abroad in Korea. I’ve vowed to take the initiative to contact them as often as I can, because I value their friendships. I wouldn’t want to lose a friend just because 3,000 miles separated us.

Here are some of the things I do to keep my friendships going despite being apart:

  • If I see something interesting on a friend’s Facebook, instagram, twitter, or snapchat, I’ll message them about it or comment on the social media

  • Send friends snapchats about my daily life (not excessively)

  • Randomly contact friends asking if they’ve been doing well

  • Set up times to video chat with friends

  • Send friends funny photos I find on the internet

The list goes on, but really, each person can find many different ways to communicate with their long distance friends and choose the one that best fits the relationship.

As the years go by, I’ve come to really value my friendships, and I will always fight to make sure that long distance does not stop me from maintaining friendships across the globe.

To those who have long-distance friends, keep up the contact! You can do it as long as you try!

 

Author

Raquel “Rocky” Reinagel is a MA candidate and graduate assistant in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; former president of Hanwoori Hawaiʻi; and Co-President of the Second Language Studies Student Association (SLSSA) at UHM.