A Revival of PenPals During the Pandemic

Nancy Vazquez writes about one of their hobbies, penpalling, usually writing letters to someone you don’t initially know, often in a different country from yours, that has become trendy again. During the COVID-19 era, it has also meant writing to friends you can’t meet in person.

A Brief History of Penpalling

Penpalling was first created in the 1930s when a society called Student Letter Exchange was created. It was meant to help connect students from different countries. Back then penpalling companies would charge for their services to match people up based on their interests. Nowadays, people can find their own penpals through sites like Facebook and Reddit. Originally penpalling was a way for people who would never have met otherwise to communicate via the mail while in the present it has become more of a hobby.

Above, a favorite postcard I received. Photo taken by Nancy Vazquez.

Benefits of Penpalling

Some of the benefits of penpals include improving writing skills. Autocorrect has become too relied upon so writing a good old-fashioned letter is a great way to only rely on your brain for spelling. It also allows you to think of someone else’s perspective especially if they are in a country different from yours.

One of the obvious benefits is it teaches patience. Receiving a letter from your penpal could take a few days, or more, compared to texting and phone calls. It is extremely slow. It also allows you to be creative. Usually these letters are very decorative and colorful. They allow you to be artistic. You can also create long-lasting friendships all over the world. Finally it simply gives you something to look forward to other than bills and spam mail.

Personally I enjoy receiving beautiful postcards to hang on my wall and extra goodies penpals send like stickers. During the time of the pandemic it was a great way to have something to do when the city was shut down. It ended up becoming another one of my hobbies. It also helped me keep in touch with friends I couldn’t see in person anymore.

Postcards Nancy Vazquez has collected to send to penpals. Photo taken by Nancy Vazquez

How to Get A Penpal

Usually penpals are someone you have never met before, the most common being someone in another country. But it could also be a friend you don’t talk to very much who even lives in the same city as you. All you will need to do is ask for their address. If you would rather have a penpal much farther away from you a simple Reddit or Facebook search opens thousands of forums of wanted penpals. There are also lots of websites dedicated just to penfriends that can match you up.

Personally I love penpalling friends I don’t text a lot. We don’t constantly keep in touch so by the time a postcard arrives it’s the perfect timing. It also makes me feel more secure knowing it’s not a stranger who has my home address.

Video posted by Nancy Vazquez on their Tik Tok account explaining how to write a penpal letter.

How To Write A Penpal Letter

Writing a penpal is really no different than writing a regular letter. In fact it is much easier to write, since it is not as formal and you even get to decorate your letter. This Tik Tok video above explains in detail how to do so. I even add my own touch and show you how I like to decorate my letters, the supplies I use, where I get them and what extra goodies I like including with my mail.

Reynolds Sandbox reporting by Nancy Vazquez




The Reynolds Sandbox showcases innovative and engaging storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab.

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Reynolds Sandbox

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Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.

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