The Power of the Pen Pal

Social distancing can get complicated at times, especially when the only things to do are schoolwork or to binge-watch yet another TV show on Netflix.

Okay – at first, it wasn’t all that bad. Maybe it just felt like a few “cool down” days that helped with the second-semester burnout. But, if they haven’t kicked in already, the quarantine blues might be fast approaching. One way to kill time and keep those blues at bay is to pick up a new hobby. And one that has piqued my interest since remote instruction has been, in effect —writing letters.

I was yearning for the familiarity and comfort of a coffee date with my friends. For a late-night study session because both my roommate and I had procrastinated. For a Monday night Bachelor watch party with my sorority sisters. Things that could not, and still cannot, happen. Luckily, getting a pen pal is a way to stay connected with friends that gets the creative juices flowing as little, or as much, as one pleases.

In fourth grade, to teach us formal letter writing skills and to connect us with other students from across the globe, my English teacher got each student in my class a pen pal. I remember so fondly crafting gifts and filling up a hand-decorated letter with questions about favorite colors, TV shows, and snacks. The day we got our replies felt like an end-of-the-year pizza party. I had an immense feeling of connectedness to a kid half-way around the world that I had never met. So, writing to someone who I already know and love was a surefire way to bring a connection during this time of relative isolation.

I immediately hopped to work collecting my supplies from around the house, decorating paper and envelopes, drafting some heartfelt words, and crafting little extras for my friends.

Putting together the packages was a way to expend some of the energy that gets pent up spending almost all day inside. Not to mention, when I got the replies to my letters, I felt more connected to my friends than I did before. A text or call can be meaningful in their ways, but a handwritten letter takes a little more effort and time. An emotional note, sappy as it sounds, carries weight like no other and can be held onto as a memento for a long time.


If this inspires you, but you need a little help getting started, here’s everything you need to create a pen pal package!

  1. A pen pal.

Ask any number of friends you would like whether they want to exchange a letter or two. You can set a schedule, like once every two weeks or once a month, or keep it random – a surprise letter in the mail is always a treat!

  1. An envelope or package box.

If you want, though it’s in no way required, a little personalization with markers and stickers make the packaging on your letter just as sweet as the message inside.

  1. Small items and extras to stuff the envelope with.

Stickers, photos, drawings, a flyer you thought was funny. Whatever strikes your fancy that you think your pen pal would like! I also threw in a single postage stamp so that my friends’ first replies were on me.

  1. The letter.

This is the meat and potatoes of your pen pal package, so do not skimp on telling your pen pal how much you have been missing them since social distancing has been in effect. They will appreciate your sentiments, and you will appreciate theirs in response.

  1. A postage stamp.

After sealing up your envelope with all your little gifts and love inside, stick a stamp on it and put it in the mailbox. You’re done and can now sit by the door and excitedly await a reply.