How I dealt with loneliness at university
Student life can be hard, especially during your first year. Learning to budget, cook, make friends, and adjust to your workload can feel overwhelming. However, one experience that rarely gets talked about is loneliness.
I certainly didn’t expect to feel lonely at university, but I think it happens to most of us.
Independent living is fun. You choose when you go out, when you eat, clean, sleep, work, party, and so on. But it also means you spend a lot of time alone, particularly in the evenings once lectures finish. All that free time can make you feel a bit isolated, and it’s during these times we start scrolling through social media. When we see photos of people we know out with friends, it’s easy to think we’re not doing enough, and those feelings of isolation increase. I find this often impacts my productivity and motivation to do things, but I have to remind myself that the vast majority of social media isn’t a true reflection of reality, with many people posting just to show off.
I struggled with loneliness quite a few times during the first year of university. I went from living in a house with my family to living with flatmates I didn’t really get along with. It was even tougher when the country went into a lockdown, as most of my new friends lived in different accommodation blocks. When lectures moved to being fully online, I felt trapped; I was hardly leaving my room and only ever saw my flatmates. I’d lie in bed for hours not knowing what to do, until I realised all the benefits of having free time alone. I started painting, put a lot more effort towards my university course, video called friends and family every day, binged many tv series, did a lot of baking, and went on long walks. Essentially, I learned to embrace the alone time rather than dwell on it.
Another big part of overcoming loneliness for me was making friends, which I’m aware the pandemic hasn’t made easy. I find it’s about having a few close friends you can rely on and have a laugh with, rather than a huge group of acquaintances. To make friends, take advantage of the services your university provides for you; join a club or society, go to the gym every now and then, visit the student union, or offer to help with services like peer mentoring. Even getting a job allows you to meet new people while earning money.
Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed about feeling lonely - I’d hazard a guess that most students like me and you are going through it too. If your loneliness starts to take a toll on your mental health, remember to reach out to your university’s wellbeing services - they’re there to help.