Here’s how to make your long-distance friendships work at uni

1st September 2022
Three students standing outside waving their arms in the air

There’s a lot to take in when you start university. You’re excited to strike out on your own, meet new people and take up new hobbies. And that’s no bad thing – after all, uni is all about new experiences and opportunities. But it certainly doesn’t mean people from your pre-undergrad days have to be left behind!

You’ll likely have a band of cherished friends from school or college, and together you’ll have experienced (/suffered) the rites of passage of teenage life – experimental haircuts, unrequited crushes, and not to mention your first house party. Together, you’ve seen it all.

It goes without saying, then, that you’re going to miss your school BFFs when you go to uni, but fear not – even though it’ll be a major change for you both, a strong friendship can survive anything.

Here are our top 9 ways for keeping a friendship alive…wherever you are.

1. Accept that your friendship will change

If you’re envisaging your very own ‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’-style bond with your mates (if you know, you know…), as you each carve out your new paths in life, there’s good news – epic long-distance friendships aren’t just for the chick-flicks!

But your friendship will change – after all, there’s the small matter of you not seeing each other for six hours daily at school/college anymore. It might take a period of adjustment, but those bonds you’ve built in person can keep going strong, no matter the miles between you.


2. Get some screentime

Thanks to the internet, your closest companions are never actually that far away. Having a weekly video call using apps such as WhatsApp, FaceTime or Zoom can be a great way to keep in touch and catch up on all the Freshers’ Week goss. Video calls are especially valuable if you’re an international student – helping you stay connected with your loved ones at home.

Of course, there’s also social media for sending sporadic snaps, TikToks, GIFs or amusing throwbacks. Remember not to get too caught up in your friends’ social media lives, though – as this can cause feelings of anxiety and even homesickness.

3. Be creative

The various lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 turned all of our relationships into long-distance ones. But we moved with the times and realised that plenty of shared hobbies can be enjoyed in the virtual realm.

Here are some apps that will serve you and your long-distance BFFs well:

  • Spotify – Why not share a playlist with the new songs (read: student union anthems) you’ve discovered at uni?
  • PodBean – Found a new podcast you love? Share it with your friends and discuss them during your next FaceTime.
  • Strava – Are you and your mates fitness buffs? Use Strava to see what running routes and general explorations they’ve been getting up to in their uni towns.
  • Netflix – Coordinate watching your favourite film and howl at the most cringey bits on video chat.
  • Xbox Live – Keep your competitive streak going with your friends. FIFA, anyone?

4. Look beyond digital

Of course, it’s not all about smartphones, laptops and games consoles. There are other creative ways of staying in touch, although they require a tad more planning.

Why not write your friend a letter or make them a ‘Missing me?’ box – filled with notes, memories and inside jokes, to open as and when? If you’re feeling extra creative, you could even set up a book or craft club with your friendship group.

Student sitting on their bed writing in a notebook with a pen

5. Don’t draw comparisons

The first few weeks of uni are the best time to meet new people, and you’ll no doubt form new circles of mates – from your flat, course, sports teams and societies. But try not to compare your ‘home friends’ to your newfound clique, and allow each other to make new friends – no green-eyed monsters, please!

Similarly, don’t isolate yourself from your uni experience by trying to keep up with your school friends in those early weeks. Moving away from home is a big change and your uni mates will be a vital part of your support network, so make an effort to immerse yourself in the ‘here and now’. At Sanctuary Students, our halls have common areas and we also run regular events, making it easy to meet your flatmates and help you settle in.

Three friends play a board game

6. Have some real-life face time

Video chat is good – but nothing beats seeing your mates face-to-face! Make a plan to visit each other at university, or at home – if they’re working or doing an apprenticeship. For those at uni, you’ll get to see their student digs and meet their new friends – helping with any feelings of FOMO when you see them pop up in your BFF’s Insta. What’s more, you can show them your amazing Sanctuary Students accommodation!

7. Plan a festive reunion

The lengthy uni breaks are a definite perk of student life, and the first one that rolls around is the Christmas break. Make the most of you all being home at the same time and organise a festive meet-up – ice skating, Christmas markets or festive baking. Even if you haven’t seen each other in your first uni term, you’ll soon be joking around like you used to.

8. Make new memories

While nostalgic anecdotes, ‘in-jokes’ and embarrassing ‘remember-whens’ are the cornerstones of your friendships, it’s important to keep making new memories with your school friends, so your relationship continues to grow. The previous tips will help you with this, and means that in the future, you won’t just be chatting about the ‘good old days’ of school.

9. Don’t force it

It’s completely natural to miss home in the first couple of weeks. But don’t worry if your school friends seem busy – remember that they’re in the same boat if they’ve gone to uni or started an apprenticeship, and probably have a lot going on. And talking of potential misunderstandings, it’s not unusual to have the odd disagreement with your long-distance friends. As with any relationship, good communication is the key to maintaining a strong bond, as you navigate the changes in your friendship.

Going the distance

It’s tough moving away from beloved mates, but it’s a part of growing up, and moving away to uni will teach you that, no matter how far apart you are, the good ones will stick around.

And, as this blog has shown, with a little effort (and some virtual friend-dates), you can still include each other in your lives – through university and those exciting adventures beyond.

That said, you might find yourself growing apart from some friends, and that’s okay, too. After all, you never know what amazing human you’re going to meet next!

At Sanctuary Students, we’re with you every step of the way as you immerse yourself in university life. If you’re feeling anxious or homesick, there are plenty of avenues of support you can turn to, including our Student Advice Line from our partners at Health Assured. Call the freephone number on 0870 397 2190 – we’re here as often as you need us, for as long as you like.