Living thousands of miles away from home has made me fall in love with mail.
Last week, I slipped my tiny silver key into my own personal mailbox and pulled out a thin envelope containing a handwritten letter from my best friend at home.
Giddy, I raced into the elevator, already ripping open the seal. The girl I shared the elevator with sighed as I pulled the lined paper out.
"I wish I got mail more often," she commented.
I silently but emphatically agreed with her, already engrossed in the letter, reading each line of Jessica's neat and printed handwriting carefully.
Of course, I already knew everything Jessica wrote about. I communicate with her nearly every other day online or through email. So I guess, in that sense, letter writing has become obsolete. Someone could text me and tell me their entire life story in the time a letter took to arrive here.
I am in constant contact with my best friends through Facebook and Skype. My mom emails me throughout the day and my dad and brother are just a phone call or text message away. Because of that, sometimes I don't even feel like I'm on the other side of the country.
But man, there's something about a good old-fashioned letter, something about a "Dear Victoria, Sincerely Me." I just love the idea of it.
Funnily enough, it isn't until I actually find a letter or postcard in my mailbox that I remember how far away from home I actually am. I remember I'm not at summer camp or on vacation. I'm actually going to school. I'm living in Boston.
Similar to the arrivals gate at the airport, the wall of post boxes at Emerson College gives me hope about all the love that exists in this world. If you've seen the film "Love Actually," you get the reference.
Excitement and smiles break out across students' faces as envelopes, letters and postcards are discovered. Sighs can be heard throughout the hall when mailbox keys lead to nothing but dusty post boxes.
My friend Jake picks up a letter from his girlfriend in Virginia and tells me he'll read it later because it'll make him cry. My friend Kayla tells me she often drafts out her thoughts before she composes a letter to her boyfriend in Connecticut.
Students walk back from the mailroom grinning, large care packages in their arms. Everyone else looks on longingly.
Living thousands of miles away from home has also made me fall more in love with the boy I left behind.
Earlier this week, using much of my newly acquired directional sense and street smarts, I trekked over to the local post office in search of stamps and envelopes. The man behind the counter grinned, nodding toward the handwritten letter I had clutched in my hands and, in a thick Boston accent, said, "Going to California, huh?"
I nodded in response, scribbling down the address of a place I know too well.
"Must got someone special in California then."
"Yeah, I guess," I shrugged.
"If you're writing him a letter, kiddo, he must be something special."
He handed me a stamp. "I've learned a few things in my years at the post office and one thing is for sure: People will only take the time to write a letter to those they truly care about. That's why getting one means so much. You know it's sent with love."
I thought of all the letters I'd received in my lifetime. Letters from my mom, my nanny in England, best friends, boys and distant relatives.
Standing in front of the blue mailbox, I kissed the letter, wishing it a safe journey home to California.
Depositing it, I smiled, thinking how excited he'd be upon receiving it, and already I was looking forward to what he would write back.
Victoria Hulbert, a graduate of South High School in Torrance, writes every other Monday about her first year at Emerson College in Boston, Mass. She can be reached at email@example.com.