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December 8, 2023 by

Balancing relationships at home and at school can be a challenge. How do you live in the moment, treasuring the relational opportunities at college, while also valuing and investing in relationships back home? I remember feeling very torn my freshman year as I tried to navigate the reality of having my life, family, and friends back in Oregon while also trying to create a life and community in Ohio. The reality is that you cannot be in two places at once and your relationships will look different, but that does not mean that relationships back home are a lost cause! I want to share four habits that I have that found go a long way. 

Set Time Aside to Call!  

Technology is incredible — you are only ever a phone call, video call, or text away from loved ones back home. Take advantage of this! I make it a habit of calling home at least once a week, and I have a list of high school friends, church connections, and grandparents that I try to cycle through calling every month to two months. I also have friends who have made a habit of checking in with their family every Sunday afternoon and others who might call their parents once a month — figure out what works for you, but make sure Mom and Dad feel loved! Taking the time to call friends and family can be a sweet taste of home, and it also shows them that you care. Depending on the person and their schedule, it sometimes works best to plan a call ahead of time to make sure that you are both available. I love making calls while I am out for a walk. It gives me some privacy, which can be hard to come by on campus, and it gets me out and moving around. It is also totally okay to set a time limit for phone calls — sometimes it helps to know that you have 30 minutes set aside for this conversation and then you are going to get back to doing homework. As always, remember to seek a healthy and sustainable balance — everything has an opportunity cost. If you are always on the phone with somebody from home, you are not able to be fully present in friendships at school. 

Remember Birthdays!  

Birthdays are an important time to reach out to folks back home. Make sure that you mark important birthdays down on your digital or paper calendar so you remember! I make a point of texting my friends back home on their special day, both to wish them a happy birthday and get a life update on how they are doing. Even if it is someone that I do not regularly keep in contact with, a birthday is a great annual excuse to check in and catch up. For closer friends and family members, I love sending homemade birthday cards and handwritten notes — it’s a neat way to show that I am thinking about them without breaking a college budget. 

Send Cards!  

Birthdays are not the only time of year you can send mail to loved ones back home! Whether it is another holiday or thinking-of-you or National Banana Day (which is April 17, in case you are wondering), a thoughtful letter or note is always appreciated. I have found that personalizing little watercolor cards is a fun way to add my own personal touch, but a pack of cheap pre-made blank cards gets the job done too! Do not feel the pressure to make your notes long or eloquent — just letting them know that you miss them and telling them a little bit of what is going on in your world is enough. It is the thought that counts. Writing letters or sending postcards is an especially sweet way to connect with younger siblings or grandparents who might not text or use social media. 

Pray for Your People!  

I will end with this tip because I truly believe that it is the most powerful way to stay connected to loved ones when you are away at school — pray for them! One of the most impactful lessons I learned freshman year was the power of prayer. I can entrust those I love and care about into God’s good and gentle hands. He loves them more than I ever will, He is always with them even when I cannot be, and He can care for them better than I ever could. Whenever you think about someone from home, use that as a cue to lift them up to the Lord. Ask people how you can be specifically praying for them, pray faithfully, and then follow up. This shows that you remember and sincerely care, breaks down the distance between you, and opens the door for meaningful conversations. It also gives you a reason to stay connected!  

These are just four simple habits that I have benefited from, but everyone and every relationship is different, so find what works for you. However you decide to do it, making a commitment to intentionally love the people back home goes a long way and is well worth the effort! 

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