Saturday, 4 August 2012

Long distance friendship

Long distance friendship starts being a problem in university, for most people. Even if you don't move too far away from home, chances are that some friends will do so, and visits may take place across the country, dossing on floors and seeing what other student unions look like. There's the beginning of a sense that your friendship network spreads across the country, sometimes even the world.

(And here's a fun story for you, young 'uns – we didn't have Facebook when we started university! It used to just be for students, and only permitted universities got to have it – St Andrews was possibly the first in the UK to be accredited, in my first year in 2005. I have no idea how we all kept up with each other beforehand.)

Most UK universities are hubs. You're more likely to meet someone from a different town than from the town you're actually studying in, excluding possibly the London universities. With an increasingly cosmopolitan outlook in most universities, you're also more likely to make international friends. Forced together into new circumstances, and possibly also a result of your age, you make firm friends. Then you all graduate, and chances are you all go to different parts of the country.

How do you maintain these friendships? Even worse, if you move home, and all of your friends have moved away, how do you keep a circle of friends at all?

I'm lucky in that I have a strong friend network from 'home', from 'university', and from that weird subsection of people who started as friends of friends and then became my own friends. That said, I have this topic of long distance friendship on the brain, firstly because Mr DG has a university friend staying this weekend who's travelled from Down South, and because it's my birthday next week. Parents have very kindly allowed me use of their garden and barbeque, and said I should invite friends if I want. (God, it's like being seventeen again.) So, I asked 'local' friends in an effort to overwhelm a house that I no longer live in and realised that there's about three people.

That was a shock.

The point is that I still have many friends, and I don't feel lonely. In fact, my social calender is currently fairly stuffed in terms of seeing various friends! It's just the nature of the friendship that changes. It's more difficult to 'just nip out for a drink', being that it involves hopping towns and checking diaries. However, it leads to more big social activities and more long weekends, chilling out and chatting.

It takes more effort, and I will be the first to admit that I am a terrible friend in terms of travelling to people – I need the odd weekend off, which explains why I am sat at home watching the trampolining at the Olympics and blogging rather than socialising with my husband and his friend, although we'll be eating together this evening.

The point is that the friendship stays strong. It's a pleasure to see people again, and I hope they're glad to see me! I'm lucky in that at least most people seem to be roughly between the lowlands of Scotland and the Watford gap, so not too big a distance considering, despite the issues with the rail network. It takes work, but then, that's true of most things worth doing. It's just a change, that's all – but then, it seems to be a change that most graduates are sharing these days.

(Long distance romantic relationships are a whole different kettle of fish. There just isn't enough blog space in the world to tackle that one, or at least not today!)

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