Everyone dreams about their university experience. What it will be like, how many friends you will meet, the adventures you will have, and how much you will love your course and spend as much time as you want to learn about your chosen subject. But something that is not often spoken about is loneliness. Especially for university students. This is the lonely student guide to surviving university.
During the pandemic, loneliness in students naturally increased. But, the statistics still show that more than half (53%) of university students say that they are lonely and 47% have concerns about feeling isolated on campus. Despite the opportunities to socialize, many students are finding it difficult to make new friends and are spending too much time on social media. A recent study shows that only 38% of students spent time with their friends in person up to 16 hours a week. Students are spending more time on their phones and as a result, they are suffering from anxiety and depression. An even more recent study shows that over 60% of students feel overwhelmed or anxious and 47% of those don’t know what to do other than isolate themselves and work on their studies.
Why do students feel lonely?
There are many reasons why you may feel lonely or isolated as a student. It’s a tough time of your life and the transition from one form of education to another can be challenging for some. Many students will be learning how to be independent as well as learning, studying, and balancing it all and it can feel overwhelming. Who has time for friends when you have three essays to complete before the end of the week? But don’t underestimate the power of social interaction. There are other reasons why you may feel isolated as a student, you might be a mature student and older than your peers, or an international student with a language barrier.
The effects of loneliness
The biggest effect of loneliness is how it influences our social interactions. If we are feeling insecure and detached from the people around us, we are more likely to feel anxious and overwhelmed in social situations. When we feel lonely, we seek connection. Humans are social creatures. But sometimes, seeking can be the scariest part.
If loneliness persists, it can deeply affect your mental health and wellbeing. If this happens, you should seek out support from student services or a loved one or friend. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up, if you are feeling isolated and alone, find someone to talk to that you trust and know that you are not the only one to ever experience loneliness.
Ways to combat loneliness
So, how do you combat loneliness? The best way to begin is to meet some new people. As daunting as it sounds, many students are in the same situation, especially if you are in your first year and you are living away from home for the first time. Universities offer a lot of clubs and organizations to help students socialize for the duration of their studies. There is everything from language clubs to choirs to sports. Maybe you can continue with something you are already familiar with or if you are feeling brave, why not try something new? You can start a society yourself if there isn’t something on offer at your university.
Another way to combat your loneliness is to nurture your relationships. It’s important to maintain the relationships you have, even if they are long-distance. Speak to your family and loved ones regularly. In-person connection is important, but it isn’t always possible during semester time at university. So make sure you use your phone to connect with those who are far away. Maybe start a group chat or have a weekly phone call?
It’s also important to look after your wellbeing. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and plenty of exercise. The combination of all these things will help your mental and physical health and help you feel happier and more settled in university life.
And a final reminder in this lonely student guide to surviving university is to take a break from your studies from time to time and have fun! Although it can seem daunting at first, the years you spend at university will be ones that you remember for the rest of your life and it’s okay if you don’t warm up to it straight away, it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes, starting university is a big change and change is scary! But don’t let your loneliness be what stops you from embracing every moment of this pivotal stage in your education journey. Seek support if you need it and most importantly, be kind to yourself, you’re doing great!