As post-Easter exams approach, Life and Style's Jess Howlett shares her tips on how to remain motivated over EasterWritten by Guest Author on 19th March 2018
Dealing with Loneliness at University
Phoebe Hughes-Broughton discusses her experiences of loneliness at university and how she dealt with it
“University will be the best time of your life!”
“You’ll make so many new friends!”
“My best friend now is someone I met at university!”
If your family is anything like mine, these are the sorts of things you were told constantly in the run-up to starting university. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure for many – if not most – people this is the case, but there’s definitely a large minority who don’t feel this way about their university experience. Especially not at the beginning.
“A survey of Canadian students last year found that almost 70% felt “very lonely” at university
A survey of Canadian students last year found that almost 70% felt “very lonely” at university – a problem that, contrary to popular belief, was even worse among females. In the UK, where the majority of students live in halls in first year, this issue is only compounded.
Last year, when I first started university, I lived in Tennis Courts, known by many to be the party place; one of the noisiest and friendliest halls on campus. And yet it was one of the most isolating years of my life.
Before starting university, I met my future flatmates on Facebook, and they all seemed so lovely. When I was faced with the reality, we were all too busy being stuck in ‘awkward small talk’ mode that I didn’t have the chance to decide if we could really be friends before we were thrust head-first into Fresher’s week.
I just about survived Fresher’s week, going out every night and partying the hours away with people whose names I can no longer remember – virtually every night I lost my flatmates within minutes of arriving at the nightclub – but after that, I was burned out. My flatmates powered through the rest of the year, partying all hours of the day and night, and although I was always invited, I just didn’t have the energy to keep up with them.
“Don’t worry yourself into a stupor that you’re wasting your time here, that you’re not achieving your dreams, or that you’re pathetic for being alone on a Friday night
Somewhere along the way, they stopped bothering to invite me. I would hear about events only through the leaflets pinned to our noticeboard, or photos posted after they had happened. I don’t blame them, but I also don’t blame myself. I am a very introverted person by nature, and eventually our paths just diverged.
This is where societies come in. As much as the university may try to match you with like-minded people in your accommodation, there is only so much they can do. Societies are where you’re expected to put in the effort to seek out people with similar interests to yourself, and provided that you regularly attend meetings and socials, by the end of first year you should end up with a group of people that just might become your best friends.
Unfortunately for lazy people like myself, the idea of attending meetings every single week might seem just too much. So far this year, the only society I have joined has been Redbrick and the only reason I have attended every meeting this term has been because I have friends in my house who willingly drag me along with them. At the end of the meetings, I am always so grateful that I got involved, but last year, without people living with me who were interested in the same societies as I was, my attendance at the few clubs I had paid membership for soon dwindled away to nothing.
In my first year, I regularly spent evenings alone, with nothing but Netflix and chocolate to keep me company – I’m starting to realise why I’ve gained so much weight since starting university – and I felt more isolated than at any other point in my life. But I’m here to tell you that if you’re feeling the same way, don’t panic. Don’t worry yourself into a stupor that you’re wasting your time here, that you’re not achieving your dreams, or that you’re pathetic for being alone on a Friday night.
“But just by feeling lonely, you are fitting in – with the hundreds if not thousands of other students who are in the exact same position as you; you just have to get out there and find them
Whether it’s in your flat, at a society, on your course, or even in a bar, if you want a friend at university I can promise you that you will find at least one. But, at the end of the day, that’s not really what you’re here for. You are here for a degree. If the loneliness gets overwhelming, bury your head into your books. Distract yourself with work and I can promise you that you will find a friend, when you least expect it.
But it’s equally as important to learn to be your own friend, too. No one talks about it, but becoming comfortable with being alone is actually one of the greatest skills that people gain from university, and my first year certainly taught it to me.
If you feel you’re really struggling to fit in, and just want someone to talk to, Welfare is always there for you. But just by feeling lonely, you are fitting in – with the hundreds if not thousands of other students who are in the exact same position as you; you just have to get out there and find them.