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Illustration of people chatting across different platforms
April 30, 2019
3 mins read

How to make long-distance friendships work

Sometimes life is like an extended episode of Scooby-Doo where the gang splits up and looks for clues.

Except instead of looking for clues, you’re looking for job opportunities, and instead of coming together to unmask a bumbling villain, you just live in a different city from your friends forever. Ruh-roh!

Moving away from good friends is, unfortunately, part of life. I’ve lived in several cities now, and any time I’ve had to move, I’ve made some kind of pact with my friends to “stay in touch.” This usually means sporadic Facetime calls, a tag in a meme here or there, and gushing messages on special occasions.

I still value many of the friendships I formed in places I no longer live, even with people I haven’t seen in years. If you’re moving away from friends, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. You can still be friends...

It might seem cataclysmic to be separated, but you don’t have to lose out on the friendship. There’s no rule that says you can’t be friends with someone who lives in a different place than you. The connection you’ve built in person can carry on, even at a distance.

“Staying in touch” is possible, and it doesn’t always take a lot of effort—it can be as simple as keeping up a Snapchat streak once a day (because why not prolong Snapchat’s slow demise a little longer).

2. ...but your friendship will be different.

This long-distance friend isn’t going to be the one you go clubbing with every Friday night, obviously. If they were before, it might take a while to adjust into the kind of relationship that’s possible when you’re long-distance friends.

Instead of going out together, you can chat on the phone, play video games, or even read a book at the same time and chat online about what you thought!

3. Go beyond “staying in touch”

The term can be a platitude, so regardless of how much you communicate, stay friends rather than just stay in touch. Just because you’re speaking more infrequently doesn’t mean that your conversations have to be surface-level. I’ve found that my friends outside my Vancouver bubble (or wherever I happen to be) have given me really great advice.

A bit of distance from your friends can make for an interesting perspective on the other person’s life, as it allows for some more objectivity. Don’t be afraid to open up and share!

4. Look ahead...

Distance, other commitments, and money can be obstacles to seeing your long-distance friend again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look forward to it. Whether it’s a visit to the other’s city, a trip you go on together, or another move that brings you closer together, you’ll definitely see each other again. It may take a little while to be reunited, but it helps to have something to anticipate.

You also never know where you’ll cross paths with someone—once, I accidentally ran into my Grade 8 Social Studies teacher from Calgary in London. It’s a small world, after all (now try getting that out of your head).

5. ...and look back

No matter how far apart or how little you speak, the time you and your friends spent together was important, and you’ll always have those memories to reflect on.

While it’s great if you can feel close to a friend who lives across the country (or across the world) from you, it can be hard to maintain the level of connection you might need in a friendship. Don’t get discouraged, and remember the great times you and your friend shared together.

You can always try to rekindle the friendship if you end up in the same place in the future. And if you feel like your friendship has really “ended”, that’s okay, too. Sometimes people grow apart—and you never know who you’ll meet next.

Life-long

I recently met up with a friend I hadn’t seen for over two years. I was nervous that the time apart would feel like a wedge between us, but it was really just an opportunity for some great conversations.

Soon, we were able to joke around just like we used to. It made me realize that a strong friendship can survive anything, and that you don’t have to see someone everyday to feel close to them.

So don’t be afraid of following your life where it leads you—the friends that matter will always be there when you come back.