Many students remember how often during the last few days of high school, they said the phrase, “Oh, of course we will keep in touch! I’ll e-mail you every day!” Of course, some people may have just said it because it was expected. But the fact of the matter is, even people who wanted to keep these promises found it more difficult than expected and ended up staying in contact with far fewer people than originally expected.
Although it is difficult to do, many students, especially first years, keep in touch with a few of their closest friends. These friends are important ties to home and personal history. “Coming to college creates a sense of loss no matter what,” said Margie Wood, a Social Worker here on campus. Wood feels that a close friend can represent “a familiar place” for people and so it can be very difficult to leave them.
Seth Earn ’01 confessed that he is not very diligent about the task of staying in touch. “I’m usually busy,” he said. He also noticed that as time has passed, he and his friends have just naturally grown apart. “You begin to choose who your real friends are. The close ones will last,” he said.
“Well, I’ve really been very bad about keeping in touch,” said Denise Connor ’99. In fact, most students have a little bit of guilt about not staying in contact with all their friends from back home. It is, however, a difficult thing to do considering how busy the average Williams student is. Amid schoolwork, sports, clubs, and friends on campus, it is hard to find the time necessary to dedicate to old and faraway friends.
Even students whose friends are close by find the balance difficult. Candace Marlowe ’02 is from North Adams and keeps up with about five of her old high school friends. “Sometimes I feel that I see my home friends too much and may neglect my friends here on campus,” she said.
“Coming to college is like trying to straddle two worlds, home and college,” said Wood. There is a lot of loyalty and love for home, but it is also important to get involved and make friends here. Wood said that students have to ask themselves the question, “Where do I put my emotional energy?”
The most common situation is a bunch of friends spreading all around the country at different schools and often having breaks at conflicting times. E-mail, telephone and letter writing are the most common ways of keeping up, but even with these forms of communication available, it is just not the same as being together every day. “No matter what, you are going to have less in common after a while,” said Connor. She said that by senior year, campus really becomes a student’s new home and the lack of friends at the old home can become a bit awkward. “I’m very aware of not staying in touch with people I was in high school and when I go home, I try to avoid places that they might be because it would just be weird,” she said.
Wood agreed that missing that daily contact can be difficult. She also pointed out the new college friendships are of a whole different sort. “College relationships are intimate in a way that high school relationships just aren’t,” she says. This is probably because they involve living together, eating together, and, of course, sharing the same bathroom. It is common for old high school friends to find themselves very jealous of their old buddies’ new relationships.
Ivalina Borisova ’02 experiences the problem to an extreme because she left close friends at home â€“ in Bulgaria. “I keep in touch with my friends in the states, but it is much more difficult with my friends back home,” she said. She has two really close friends in Bulgaria, but is not too worried about their lack of communication. “We are so close and I know them so well, that I basically just know how they are doing and when I get home we talk forever. It is just like before.”
But for those who do not have that kind of trust in their friendships, leaving for college can create a lot of anxieties. For instance, some people require a much higher level of communication. “Personally, I’m not for complete cut-offs,” said Wood. Her advice is instead of allowing a friendship to end, a better idea would be to let its nature transform. “Keep only the important ties and nurture those,” she said. The key seems to be to find a personal balance, to acknowledge that going to college is leaving home, and that sometimes, though unfortunate, goodbyes are inevitable.