Maintaining old networks

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Your existing networks can be really helpful in adjusting to university life. Think about who you want to stay in touch with and how.

If you’re moving away from home, the sudden distance between you and your friends, family and guardians can seem like a loss. But even if you’re commuting to university, a sense of distance might open up with those people too.

Thankfully, more people are now comfortable communicating online, this can make it easier to maintain our old relationships and networks.

However, it is still worth taking some time to think about how and with whom, you want to maintain contact.

Questions to ask yourself

1. Who do you want to stay in contact with?

As you move into this next phase of your life, it may help to consider this question and then to make positive efforts to stay in touch with those you value. You may want to consider questions like:

  • Who do I feel close to?

  • Who makes me feel good and is a positive influence in my life?

  • Who can I imagine being in touch with for years to come?

  • Who you would like to support?

2. How will you stay in contact?

There are lots of ways you can keep in touch:

  • Online video chat like Zoom or Skype

  • Messaging and social media

  • Meeting up in person.

  • Some people like to send old fashioned letters to their friends.

If possible, discuss this in advance, so you can each avoid misunderstandings or disappointed expectations.

3. When and how often will you be in contact?

Again, it may help to agree this in advance, so no one is disappointed.

However, it is often sensible to be flexible in response to changes in your life and their lives. If one of your friends takes up a new hobby and is a bit less available, it doesn’t mean they care about you less or are letting you down – it’s just how life works. Flow with this and if it concerns you, discuss it with them and make new plans.

Nowadays, social media, phones and apps like Skype and FaceTime make it a lot easier to keep in touch with your friends and family back at home. It is vital to maintain your support network at home so you can speak to them when you need to.

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Allow the relationship to keep developing

You and your friends and family will continue to grow and change while you are at university. Be aware of this and allow room for it.

Just because you are both changing it does not mean your relationship will mean less to either of you. Be willing to accept when they develop new interests or make new friends. Being willing to adapt to their new lives will help to deepen your relationship.

Page last reviewed: September 2022