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10 July 2018

The forgotten art of pen pals! Why they are important

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Living far apart from your friends and family can be an exciting adventure, but it can also leave you feeling a bit homesick and missing your loved ones. If you’re a parent with a child who is living and studying abroad, you’ll experience similar feelings. In an age when communication has increasingly taken the form of “likes” or the briefest of comments on social media, the forgotten art of pen pals is a fun and meaningful way to stay connected across the miles, as well as to meet new friends.

What is a pen pal?

A pen pal is someone to whom you regularly write, traditionally by postal mail, though emails are also an option. Writing thoughtful letters or emails to your friends and family lets them know that you care and are thinking about them. And when they reply, their words can help lessen any feelings of homesickness that you might have.

Becoming pen pals is also a fun way to meet and stay in touch with new friends and even practice your skills in a foreign language. Making friends with those from different cultures to your own will expand your worldview, and communicating in writing will help you learn more about each other’s way of life.

Handwritten letters

Computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices have taken a toll on the art of handwritten letters. There’s something to be said for receiving a letter in the mail and knowing that someone cared enough to sit down and write to you by hand.

If you’re studying at the Australian International School and your friends and family are far away, they will certainly appreciate opening their mailbox and finding a handwritten letter from you. Seeing your writing can help them feel like there aren’t so many miles between you, and a letter is something tangible that they can keep and read again whenever they are missing you. Handwritten letters also often become cherished items that your friends and family will look at years from now to see how much you’ve grown and achieved.


While less personal than handwritten letters, emails are also an excellent way to stay in contact with your pen pals, particularly those who live in far-flung corners of the world. There are also websites that can connect you with new pen pals in any number of countries, which can be a great way to explore and learn about new cultures and share your own.

The key to writing a thoughtful email to a pen pal – whether it’s a friend, family member or newfound acquaintance – is to strike a balance between talking about yourself and asking questions of the other person. Ask them what’s going on in their life and in their part of the world and avoid “yes” or “no” questions. Let them know that you’re interested in what’s going on with them and that you’re looking forward to their reply.

Parents: Think of your children as pen pals

If your child is living or studying abroad, you might not be able to speak with them on the phone every day. While hearing their voice is perhaps the next best thing to seeing them in person, staying in contact through handwritten letters can give you a sense of closeness. Sending them handwritten letters in the mail will let you know that they’ll be holding a small piece of you in their hands. And a letter is something that they can hold onto and revisit when they’re feeling lonely or missing you.

For children studying at international schools in Singapore, sometimes communicating via email might be easier than sending letters back and forth. Seeing your name pop up in their inbox can be just as comforting as receiving a letter.

Consider thinking of your child as a pen pal and write to them about what’s going on at home. Let them know who has been asking about them, what events and holidays they have to look forward to once they’re back, and that you miss them but hope they’re enjoying their time abroad. Ask them how their classes are going and how their friends are, and tell them you’re looking forward to their reply.

Staying connected is key

At the Australian International School, we encourage students to foster new friendships, maintain their existing friendships, and remain in close contact with their families. Breathing new life into the forgotten art of pen pals can help them do just that.

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Australian International School, Singapore

The Australian International School is the only southern-hemisphere international school in Singapore that offers an Australian curriculum-based global education for students from the age of 2 months to 18 years.

This truly international education begins with the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) from Preschool to Year 5, Australian Curriculum for Years 6 to 8, Cambridge IGCSE in Years 9 and 10, and the Higher School Certificate (HSC) or International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP) for Years 11 and 12.

Australian International School has a vision to be known internationally as an institution which represents educational excellence in all aspects of its operation. Our school philosophy commits us fully to the notion of a holistic, rounded education, which cherishes the arts and sports as well as academics as essential dimensions of each student’s education. We are equally committed to teaching our students to have a moral commitment to making our world a better place as reflective, caring, knowledgeable and principled people. At AIS, each child is special, each is important.

Where to find us

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1 Lorong Chuan Singapore 556 818
Tel: +65 6517 0247 (Admissions)
Tel: +65 6664 8127 (General enquiries)