Staying Close to Those You Love Most

College is a time to create yourself as a new person or further develop your personality through new friendships, new activities and most importantly, new classes. It can be a challenge to stay close to old friends from home or even family. Some students even find themselves balancing a long distance relationship. However, it is possible to stay close to loved ones throughout college.

Junior Sarah Turner said, “I miss my family a lot so I do everything I can to stay in touch from Skype to phone calls. It is just nice to hear my family and friends’ voices.” Turner believes relationships are always changing, even when you arrive back home for the first time.

“As you go through college you change and grow up so when you go home things are different,” Turner said. “My relationship with my parents has evolved a lot since I have gotten used to independence at school.”

Dr. Rebecca Sanford, associate professor of communication, commented on students living awway from home for the first time. “Students are gaining a sense of autonomy and independence. They’re becoming increasingly able to navigate the world on their own,” said Sanford. “But at the same time it changes the roles at home, so we have to renegotiate those roles.”

When you return home to finally catch up with old friends, Turner said, “It is easy to reconnect with them because you have so much catching up to do.”

Sophomore Danielle Rivera believes staying close to high school friends can be a bit more challenging. “A lot of my old friendships have been replaced with new ones since I’m so far away,” she said. “ However, when my best friend from high school and I are home, we make it a priority to talk at least once a week just to keep in touch, and when we are home things still feel the same.” 

Rivera’s advice to student is, “It is impossible to come into college thinking that things are going to stay the same. You have to expect that some friendships will change as your life is changing, but those who mean the most to you, make sure you go out of your way to keep them in your life.”

Freshman Jamie Himmelreich of Middletown has been dating her boyfriend since Septenber 2012. Even before she started at the University, she was in a long distance relationship with her boyfriend who resides in Hamilton, NJ, an hour away from where she lives. “Every chance we get, we text and try to talk on the phone or FaceTime at least once a week, even if it is only for five to ten minutes,” she said.

Himmelreich believes seeing the other person’s face or hearing their voice not only makes both partners feel more connected, but makes them miss each other more rather than feeling like they are growing apart. “The key thing to remember is if you truly love one another enough and you make a considerable effort, it will work out,” she said. “Trust is also important since you are separated. A rule my boyfriend and I live by is if you would not want them to do it, do not do it yourself.”

Dr. Christine Hatchard, assistant professor of psychology, believes the desire to visit home may become especially strong when students are feeling homesick, stressed, anxious, or even bored. “Connecting with loved ones can help students emotionally refuel which can help them tackle the challenges of college life,” she said. “However, students should be careful to not allow contact with those at home to interfere with making new friends and fully enjoying their college experience.”

Hatchard suggests students get to know their classmates personally before their class begins instead of texting, build a support network on campus with friends, and invite loved ones to visit their college. “Students should remember that their loved ones are internalized and always with them, even when they are physically apart,” Hatchard said.