I go to college in the same city in which I grew up and attended high school, so homesickness typically isn't an issue for me. However, when I went to college, I made it a priority to grab cute stationery and hard-working pens to rock the heck out of being a pen pal to friends that live further away, or even new buddies I've met via the glorious world of social networking.
Students typically pen letters or send mail to people they miss from home, and while I'll occasionally throw a card addressed to my boyfriend twenty minutes away in the mail, my pen pal experience has been more of a getting-to-know-you process with friends from around the country. I've found a lot of great tidbits and hints to life throughout this first semester of letter-writing, so here is an all-inclusive guide to the art.
1. Cute Fonts
This goes for all facets of life, but cute and savvy fonts are the first trick to making people think you have your sh*t together. I learned this as a high school yearbook editor, and soon enough, I was harshly judging the $1.50 stationery at Hobby Lobby.
The cool thing about pen-paling is that it's kind of like online messaging. You can hide behind a cute return address label and share your life with someone. Obviously establish boundaries and do what feels right and comfortable, but take a little leap of faith and be real. Share your feelings and form connections, because that's what it's all about.
3. Be Generous
My letter-sending friends and I occasionally exchange little trinkets. Hallmark sells tiny pop-up cards to put in your regular cards (inception), and confetti goes a long way. Jazz it up with your favorite quotes in your own handwriting, because those extra thoughtful gestures will show that you care.
4. Be Wishy-"Washi"
Get it? Washi tape is the real MVP. It's super trendy right now, so you can find it almost anywhere and there are a million and one different designs to choose from. Seal your envelopes with it, add a little flair to your sentiments, or if you have extra, use it to hang pictures on your dorm walls. It's legit magic.
5. Take Note of Special Events
Make an effort to know when your pen pal's birthday is, and also be conscious to send mail during stressful times or any other holidays. It makes such a difference on a crappy day to have something kind and heart-warming in your mailbox that's just for you.
6. Keep Your Letters
I have an adorable little box from a craft store where I keep all of my letters and cards from anyone that sends me mail. It's a small fixture in my dorm room, and it's always there when I need a pick-me-up or a reminder to keep going. The people who surround us are awesome, but it's reassuring to know there are others out there who keep you in mind.
7. Buy Stamps
Do yourself a favor and don't get hyped about sending a card, only to have your dreams crushed because you don't have any stamps. A book is obnoxiously pricey, but well worth it to keep up with your pals. One book has lasted me an entire semester, AND they usually have cute designs on them. Someone just sent me a forever stamp with a beagle on it, so I'm kind of on cloud nine about stamps at the moment. A lot of grocery stores or card stores carry them, as well as the post office. Check with your university as well to see what they have to offer!
8. CHECK THE MAIL
This should go without saying, but in order to effectively send mail, you should probably make sure your pen pals are replying to you. And that you're getting back to them in a timely manner. I try to visit my mailbox on a daily basis, and while most of the time I come back to my room empty-handed, those freshly-opened envelope days are the best.
My pen pals have become close confidants that share the kindest thoughts and stories with me. I'm planning to meet Casey's new Golden Retriever (sup, Moses) over winter break, Sadie is always up in here liking my tweets and, best of all, they have great handwriting. 'Tis the season to send some cards, and there is no better time to begin spreading joy.
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