People always say that one of the aspects of college life that students take for granted is living within close proximity of their best friends.

For four years as an undergraduate, I heard that more times than I can count — but didn’t truly grasp it until now, when I’m six months out of college.

Yes, it’s a revelation!

My friends and I used to live down the hall from one another, and we would see each other almost too much between sunup and sundown. We cooked meals together, attended the same classes, studied, watched movies en mass — spending a ridiculous amount of time together. It feels strange now to walk into my house and not see four of my friends sitting on the couch.

It feels strange to walk into my house and not see four of my friends sitting on the couch.

After graduation, most of my friends moved all over the country. The closer ones to me live within 30 miles; the farthest are more than 1,300 miles away. Because of distance, work responsibilities, and other commitments, we don’t all get together as much as we’d like, which is typical, of course, as young people like us put down professional and personal stakes.

Related: Great Lessons from Friends

Like so many other college students, it was a given, at one time, that we would spend entire weekends connected at the hip. From the time we got out of class on Friday to the time we trekked to our first lecture on Monday, we did everything together.

Once Together, Now Apart
Now it’s a rarity if even a couple of my friends and I devote an evening to being with each other. Spending time together these days means at least one of us has to pack an overnight bag, make a trip and sleep on a couch — or worse, the floor. It usually takes us at least a week of coordinating schedules to plan a brunch, dinner or evening out.

We’ve become pretty good at maintaining our friendships despite the long distances. We’re not experts in the practice, but we do pretty well.

The GroupMe app has become one of our go-tool communication tools. We set up a chat in which we include our closest friends, and we use it almost every day. Sharing our daily thoughts and experiences helps us stay connected. We use our chat to crowdsource opinions on products to buy, discuss news or events relevant to our lives, or even to just share a silly picture of a dog.

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Our conversations aren’t always profound or deep, but they’re great for making us feel close.

Related: Faithful Friendships

We miss celebrating each other’s birthdays, though. The norm used to be a birthday dinner, a pregame with a larger group of our friends, a night on the town, a brunch together the next morning. While some of this still happens with the friends who live nearby, it is not the case for those who live whole states away.

We also use the phone — and actually talk.

It is harder to show friends I care and that I’m thinking of them on their birthdays when I’m miles away. A text or a Facebook post just won’t do the trick, no matter how thoughtful. Instead, I opt to celebrate them with a funny card personal to our friendship. If I have the money, I’ll also send a sweet treat, like cupcakes or chocolate-dipped fruit. It is not the same as actually celebrating with them, but it helps to remind them I’m there in spirit.

Related: Time for Your Friends

We also use the phone — and actually talk. (Who knew?) If we have a free second while commuting to work, we actually speak to each other. In an age where so much of our communication is by text, it’s refreshing to hear my friends’ voices.

The best part about living far away from my friends? The reunions. On big occasions when we all get together, we reminisce, laugh and share stories like nothing ever changed. These special moments prove that all the distance in the world could never weaken our bonds.