Going to university can be one of the most exciting times in anybody's life. Moving away from home, making new friends, discovering a new city, gaining new world perspectives and the freedom of doing as you please sounds like a dream come true.
But for many new students, university can be a stressful time. With university comes change and with change comes feelings of insecurity, vulnerability and loneliness. In fact, according to a new university survey by Sodexo, almost half of UK students (46%) admit to loneliness during their time at university, compared to 32% globally. The findings support data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency that shows a record 1,180 students left courses in the 2014-15 academic year due to poor mental health – a 210% increase from the 2009-10 period.
Loneliness at University
There are many reasons why students feel left out at university – finding it hard to socialise or simply finding adjusting to uni life a little harder than expected. Despite the thousands of other students around you daily, life at uni can get lonely. Loneliness is common at university for many reasons, including:
- Being away from friends and family
- Making new friends can be a struggle
- Feeling isolated from groups or events
- Missing old friends and your hometown
- Having high expectations of university life
- Being in a relationship with someone from home
- Anxiety about balancing studies with an active social life
- Having no trustworthy person to share your feelings and experiences with
- Feeling disconnected and alienated from your surroundings
Nipping Loneliness in the Bud
Whatever your reasons for feeling lonely, it is important to realise that it is not going to be like that forever. Here are some tips to help you curb your loneliness, get out there, meet other students and make the most out of your uni years.
Join a society – While this may seem like an obvious option, joining a society when you start university can quickly introduce you to like-minded peers. What’s more, a society is perfect for you if you are not into the uni party scene. You don’t have to have a specific talent or interest to join a society either – there’s everything from cultural societies to volunteering and everything in between. Whatever your fancy, there will likely be a club or society for it on campus, just look around and see what grabs your attention. Maybe even take up something completely new.
Part-time jobs – There is really no downside to taking up a part-time job while at uni. Not only will you earn some money, but there is the potential to meet new people, which could help if you are feeling lonely and isolated. Working different shifts, like in a restaurant, café or bar means you get the chance to meet different people and chat to customers throughout the day (or night). Also, your colleagues would probably be keen to hang out after hours.
Mix up your seating arrangements in lectures – No need to sit in the same seat during every lecture. Try to sit somewhere different to surround yourself with new people. Ask if that spare seat is free and start chatting to your neighbours. Perhaps there is a social coming up worth attending, or you get invited to hang-out after class. You never know where a conversation might lead, but you have to start talking.
Hang out in your student accommodation social spaces – Whether you are studying, reading or just watching TV, try to get out of your room and instead spend some time in the common areas. Many other students will be hanging out there as well, and it is a good way to start interacting, especially once you start recognising each other. You will also familiarise yourself with students in your hall, making it easier to strike up a conversation.
Talk to someone about your feelings of loneliness – Sometimes, your feelings of loneliness could stem from something other than finding yourself in an unfamiliar place with none of the people in your comfort zone. If you feel like you are in a bad cycle and feeling isolated from your peers, talk to a friend or family member from home, or even a tutor.
It may not feel like it, but hundreds of fellow students are in your position as well, and there could be lots of resources available to help you. Someone else may also be able to spot if the problem is bigger than simply feeling lonely and would be able to point you in the direction of a helpful contact to improve your mental health, especially if it relates to depression or anxiety.
Recognise that these thoughts and feelings are common and normal – It is important to remember that for most students, uni is hard, especially the first year. Remember that dropping out or transferring is never a cure for your loneliness.
There is Some Good News…
According to research by the One Day University Love League, 20% of British students 'meet the loves of their life on campus.' This means that while uni can be a lonely time, the potential to meet someone special is high, with the most relevant example being the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who met while attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.