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Jul 15 2017
by Ellie Harrison

What No One Tells You About Moving Away From Childhood Friends

By Ellie Harrison - Jul 15 2017

As college move in day approaches, we will all be saying goodbye to friends and family. It's a pretty bittersweet time, especially when you have known the people you're leaving for most of your life. But it doesn't spell doom for your friendships. Take it from me: Just because you're in a different place, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. 

A Tale of Two Friends

Ellie Harrison

See that? It looks like a normal graduation photo, with two friends hugging. Odds are they go to different schools. What's not normal is that they've lived 4,000 miles away from each other for the past two years. And the lesson to take away? Distance may be scary, but that doesn't mean you should give up your best friend. It may seem daunting, but nothing's impossible!

Our Story

Kayla and I have known each other since fifth grade, when I moved back to the U.S. after a brief stint in England. We had maybe two or three classes together, but we became pretty good friends. When we went to middle school the next year, we were even closer. I'd sleep over at her house a bunch and she'd stay at my house. My mom and her dad became great friends, and we all laughed when my sister came to pick me up and see her math teacher standing in the doorway, because she was Kayla's mom. Over the next years, both our families got really really close. I started calling her parents my other mom and dad, and she did the same to mine. Even now, I still think of her brother as my little brother too.

But things change, despite how unlikely you might think it is.

Towards the end of sophomore year, I broke the news to her that I was going to be moving back to Europe, this time to Switzerland. We had planned so many things that we were going to do during college applications to de-stress and had ideas about a senior trip we would take together (ironically to Switzerland). It seemed like the end of an era for the two of us. We were both miserable, thinking that we were going to never speak to each other again. It almost pushed us to stop being friends before and just after I moved. But somehow, we didn't drift apart like we thought we would.

Ellie Harrison

Over the next two years, we got closer. Whenever she was having trouble sleeping, she'd text me knowing I'd be up because of the time difference. We'd Facetime when I was going to go to bed, and she'd digitally run me around our old school and include me in things like getting ready for the winter formal and the school productions. Whenever I was home for break, I'd stay with her family and bring them chocolate and watch movies with them, and she'd show me around school and town to show me what had changed and what was happening. Hell, when I first came back, she organized with my mom for her and all our friends to surprise me, because she knew the move had been really tough on me.

It felt like no time had passed at all, but we both were growing into our own people. It was the coolest thing ever to watch her become this amazing woman and see it from both her perspective and as an outsider. The space we had really tested us, but also let us grow into who we wanted to be. She started working at a horse barn more, and I was doing more musical theatre. We would text each other about cool things happening in our lives, and I got to see her reaction to getting her top choice college accepting her. So when my parents suggested she come for my graduation, you can imagine my excitement. She had never been to Switzerland, and this would be my opportunity to show her my world, and not in a picture. She met my friends, saw my adopted home and country. It was so cool.

Ellie Harrison

It was only after this that I realized just how lucky we were and how far we'd come from the weirdo fifth graders we were. Having a best friend you can call your sister is a truly amazing thing, but having a friend that will stick by you even when you're thousands of miles apart is straight up incredible.

So, to anyone who is moving away from a best friend this coming year to go to college, I hope this story gives you hope. If two dysfunctional friends can be friends on different continents, you can do it too. I wish you all best of luck! 

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Ellie Harrison - Barnard College

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