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In honor of Letter Writing Week, students discuss importance of penpals on friendships

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Lily Hao
Senior Renee Kim writes a letter to her penpal in Japan. “Writing letters is honestly my favorite part, especially because I love stickers and it’s so fun to go in and personalize it. That shows the person receiving it a bit of my personality,” Kim said.

Renee Kim, secretary for the Healing Hearts Pen Friends club and senior, said she values the art of writing letters while living in a society where social media has become the main form of communication.

“When you think about people in the past and when they used to write letters, you just know that feeling of fluttering in your heart like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to receive a letter soon,’” Kim said. “I feel like our society is so based on social media and technology right now that writing a letter can take us away from our phones and basic text messages like ‘LOL’ and ‘OMG. Now you have to actually put thought behind your words and actually put meaning into it. You have to think about exactly what you want to say next, which I feel holds so much more meaning in today’s time.”

According to Educators of America, writing letters fosters international friendships. Arriya Arif, PR manager for the Healing Hearts Pen Friends Club and senior, said she gets the opportunity to learn more about other cultures as the club is in contact with Carmel’s sister school in Japan, Seikyo Gakuen.

“I think it’s really interesting because in the United States where we live, it’s sort of like a melting pot of different cultures, but when I first got my first pen pal from Seikyo, I got to learn more about these different cultures that I hadn’t really experienced before,” Arif said. “I’ve seen things online, but that’s definitely not the same as hearing it from an actual person like getting to know what they do in their freetime or what their school schedule is like compared to ours.” 

Arif said the friendship with her Japanese pen pal is a good contrast from her usual friendships at school, but Arif also said she would like to meet them face-to-face eventually.

“It’s really a different friendship where I get to talk about so many different things instead of just school stuff with my friends here. I get to actually talk about hobbies and things we really like, which I think is amazing,” Arif said. “For a newer pen pal I would want to keep it as a friendship through emails and letters until we’ve become a lot closer and then I would love to have them visit me or I visit them. The thought of having friends internationally is genuinely so exciting.”

Ava Reddick

Like Arif, Kim said the dynamic with her pen pal is different in comparison to her usual school friendships.

“Although there is some awkwardness between my pen pal since it is very surface level, as it’ll be like, ‘Oh, I like to do this and what’s your interest in that?’, I still think it’s a more special friendship in some ways than my ordinary friendships in school,” Kim said. “I almost get to analyze my pen pal and see them whole as a person whereas with my school friends, sure, I can see that they are kind and funny, but that’s just because I know them as that, but with my pen pal friendships I get to know them from, I guess, a holistic sense.”

Kim said because letter writing is filled with excitement, she would like to continue writing to pen pals outside of club activities of her own accord.

“I think I want to continue writing in college because I feel like it’s more about the excitement of getting a letter,” Kim said. “You don’t know when (and) you don’t know what it’s going to say, and it’s your actual hand moving with a piece of metal creating scratches on a piece of paper. Knowing that it’s dedicated to you and that person took the time to curate everything that is said on that paper is touching on another level.”

New this year, the Healing Hearts Pen Friends Club reached out to the Restoracy of Carmel, a senior care center. Brandi Riffel, the coordinator at the care center for this letter exchange, said she was excited to have senior citizens experience the joys of receiving and writing letters.

“I was thrilled when the pen pal club at CHS reached out to me with the purpose of exchanging letters between our senior residents here and students. The residents were so eager and excited to talk to teenagers when we first introduced this exchange. I think connecting the newer generations with the older generations through such a form of communication is such a beautiful thing,” Riffel said. “There’s kind of a chasm between these generations, since teenagers are online so often whereas those older are not as accustomed to the digital world.”

Riffel said writing letters to one another could help bring together the two generations.

“We can bridge that generational gap where kids can learn from their seniors, and seniors can share this special connection with young people with bright spirits,” Riffel said. “This kind of friendship with culturally different individuals is truly one of a kind and just what we need in the modern day.”

Like Riffel, Kim said she enjoys being able to write to people much older because they have varying insight on life experiences.

Kim said, “I think for Seikyo, I would believe that because the students are at the same age range as me, they have the same demographic that they are looking for and they consume the same media that I do so I would be more comfortable, but with these senior care homes, I feel like I can connect to so many grander perspectives on life that I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to read about prior.”

Through the strive to revive the creation of personal handwritten letters, Riffel said she would love for these types of relationships to spread further across the community. 

Riffel said, “I would love to see more of these types of friendships being encouraged and to grow through such a simple act of writing letters as seeing the smiles on these senior citizens’ faces truly warms my heart.”



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