Going away to college puts a scary amount of distance between students and everything they have come to know and feel secure about. No longer can we rely on the comforts of home and the familiar faces of everyday life; instead, we have to branch out, try new things, meet new people, and find where we fit in.
Amidst all of this, we also have to manage the friendships and relationships from our past. We must remember to call our parents every so often, write on our high school friends’ Facebook walls, tweet our old camp pals and check in with our siblings, cousins and extended family members. As blogger and motivational speaker Herb Ammons says, we have to balance the old memories with the new.
After two years of being away from my family and friends, I have realized just how difficult this is… until I found that my relationships were actually stronger and improved because of the distance college had afforded me. In trying to navigate all of the changes living away from home brings, I have been able to better appreciate and cherish all of my relationships, especially the one I have with my sister.
My younger sister Danielle and I have always been extremely close, despite a four-year age difference. My other friends envied our relationship—we rarely fight, we share clothes (and lately, shoes—a major plus for me), and we like the same music and TV shows. We can always find something to do together to keep busy—watch a movie, shop, grab lunch, or just gossip and hang out.
But my relationship with my sister goes beyond just these superficial things. She and I truly enjoy spending time with each other. We can confide in each other and take each other seriously, but at the same time, our multitude of inside jokes can leave us breathless in laughter. I love her like a best friend, but our bond is even more special because we’re sisters.
Not surprisingly, because we have such a close relationship, adjusting to the distance college put between us was hard. We’ve had to work on our communication, calling and text messaging instead of quickly catching up after we both got home from school. We’ve had to block out time for each other to chat, since admittedly, we are both busier with new activities, new friends, and a new workload. But whenever I hear from her, she brightens my day and permanently puts a smile on my face.
We’ve also gotten the chance to experience the stronger bond that we now share. When I’m finally home and “reunited” with my sister, we laugh louder, talk longer, and hug harder. I have been able to “step back” from our relationship while at college, allowing me to really miss my sister and reminding me to never take her for granted.
The distance deposited between you and your past friendships and relationships while you’re away at school will help you see where every person you love fits in with your future, thus enabling you to make your way through college with ease. With a little time and dedication to both the new and old people in your life, you can successfully merge these two important spheres into one coherent—and exciting—future.
To do this, Ammons suggests bringing only a few of your favorite keepsakes and photographs as reminders of home to make room for the new memories you will make at school. A quick glance at the pictures on display in my dorm room (well, right now they’re in a pile at home, waiting to be packed!) is a true testament to how I have been able to mesh my old, improved relationships with my budding new ones from college.
Alongside of shots of me and my roommates lounging around, the crew at college events, and our extended group of friends making silly faces, you will find photos of my home friends on the last day of our senior year, my high school volleyball team, my siblings on vacation in Bermuda, my Georgia friends, and a candid of one of my oldest friends and I laughing at our crazy antics.
Most importantly, though, sitting on my bedside table at school, you’ll see my “sister picture,” a designated picture frame I keep up-to-date with prints of Danielle and I; a little token of our friendship to keep with me wherever I am. In my frame currently, we pose together at her Sweet 16 party, barefoot in our fancy dresses, our smiles wide and love in our eyes.
This, to me, is a perfect blend of old and new.
Nicole Alliegro will be a junior at Ramapo College of New Jersey (Class of 2014). She is studying Communication Arts with a concentration in journalism and is editor of the campus newspaper. She will intern at WABC-TV in New York City in the fall. Aside from reading and writing, Nicole enjoys traveling, watching anything on Bravo and spending time with her family and friends.