Staying Connected Near and Far

For most of our lives, making friends has been rooted in location. As students we make friends with classmates, neighbors and roommates. What happens when the shared place is no longer? Can these relationships continue through inevitable change? Adults face these questions through the journey from education to careers.  

As my graduate program ends, I wrestle with these new realities. I’ve always been afraid of change, especially when a new environment comes with it. I drag my feet at first, longing for the old ways and staying closed off. My college advisor told me that I’d meet my best friends while getting my master’s degree, and I never believed her. I was wrong, because nothing bonds more than going through an intensive program side by side. We may not always live, work and study in the same place ever again.  

three people stand in a hallway
Alex Caban-Echevarria’s friends and classmates stand in Newhouse 3. (Photo courtesy of Alex Caban-Echevarria)

For now, and always, I can remember every time we hunkered down in a booth in to do homework or take a break between classes, how we’ve walked, drove and took the bus together across campus, and every time we relaxed by watching “Twilight” or “Gilmore Girls” in one of our apartments.  

When I first got to Syracuse, I kept in touch with my friends from home and created a group chat with my college friends. This was meant to bridge the newfound gap we found after graduation and to decide what deems a “mass text” or not.  I was fortunate enough to live and go to college in the same town. On academic break, I saw my friends who came home, and when they went back to their schools, my friends from school came back from their homes. We had a home base to be there for us through the years.  

As I think about how I’ll be leaving Syracuse behind in a few weeks, I wonder where the new home base will be for the friends who I met here. How do we stay in touch when the group chats begin to fade, the events we have in common are no longer and our careers take precedence over fun? I’m going to prioritize these friends who have supported me in the hardest year of my life by committing to them through lessons I’ve only learned from them. 

Firstly, to never be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out to someone, no matter how long it’s been since you last talked, is harder than it sounds. All relationships are two-way streets, and as long as you try your best, you can’t regret any effort you put in. 

Secondly, to not judge someone for their feelings. Opening up and being honest is the first step to strengthening these bonds. When someone trusts you, you listen, and learn to understand them. Honesty and trust are the only ways to get to know each other, and judgment only violates that sincerity. 

Thirdly, to try even when it gets hard. No matter the distance, there are always ways to stay in touch. Something like a shared memory, a photo or memento, or planning the next adventure can strengthen and help friendships bend to a new phase of life. 

Alex Caban-Echevarria is a graduate student in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.