I have wanted to write this post for a while, if not since I actually began writing my blog a year ago (happy anniversary to me). I wrote in my first ever post that it was my experiences at university which largely drove me to begin blogging in the first place, and university life itself still remains a great source of inspiration to me. Much of what you see on my blog will reflect the positive experiences I have had whilst at university and currently on my year abroad. However as I discussed in my post ‘The Truth About University’ , it’s sometimes important to talk about the negative side to university life.
My interest in this discussion is derived somewhat from my own former embarrassment on the subject. During times at university, particularly in my first year, I had felt ashamed of my student experience. I was embarrassed that it didn’t live up to the standard that social media told me it should, and above everything, I thought I was alone in feeling this way.
Which leads fittingly on to the subject of this post: loneliness. Unusually unspoken about, and tainted with an element of shame, I wanted to break the silence on the subject. Because when it comes to loneliness, you really aren’t alone.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘to feel alone in a crowded room’? Funnily enough I find this cliché to be a perfectly apt description of the type of loneliness faced at university. You live in halls (in the majority of cases) with multiple flatmates, you meet new people almost daily, you spend your evenings in packed nightclubs, you are surrounded by hundreds of other students on campus at any given time, so why do you still feel lonely? Well I suppose the answer can be simplified to the quantity vs quality concept. The mere presence of lots of other people doesn’t necessarily equate to meaningful relationships, and this can often leave you feeling isolated.
In my first year of uni, I knew quite a lot of people. I’m not a shy person and I put myself out there to make friends. But despite this, I couldn’t shake this feeling of not belonging. Contrary to what Instagram would have you believe, it’s actually extremely unlikely that you’ll meet your best friends in the first week of university, but what else did I have to go on? Where else could I get my information other than the wonderful world of social media? (cue eye roll). Trust me, Instagram, Facebook and twitter will have you believing that everyone, and I mean E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E is having a better time than you are. But as I discussed in my Instagram vs reality post, a picture really isn’t worth a thousand words.
I began to question myself, question whether I was good enough, or likeable enough. It sounds sad to say, but I formed a belief that everyone around me was better in some way, and ultimately I watched my self-confidence dwindle as time went on. Unable to get through the day without face-timing my mum, I felt loneliness in a way that I had never anticipated. This is something that I kept very close to my chest. I did actually have friends at university that I saw regularly, and they really had no idea I was feeling this way. But I suppose that really encapsulates the point of this post: that loneliness is not always directly correlated to the amount of people you have around you, nor is it something that always even makes sense. Moving away to university is a big lifestyle change, and one that can leave you feeling isolated in ways that you’ve never experienced in the safety of your home life. Regardless for how many or how few friends you have, the new way that you are expected to live your life can be an unprecedented shock to the system.
As time went on I began to realise more and more that I wasn’t the only one who had felt lonely in one way or another during my time at university, and that, much like myself, others had also been reluctant to talk about it. It turns out that admitting feeling lonely in the face of constant underlying pressure to be having ‘the best time of your life’ is actually pretty difficult. So I suppose that’s why I wanted to write about it, because I feel that this is something I myself would have liked to have read during that time, as I swam amongst the sea of filtered perspectives of university life.
I wanted to give a few pieces of advice derived from my own experience for anyone who may be currently suffering from loneliness at university:
Don’t give up
You may feel like it’s taking you longer than wanted to form strong friendships at university, but realistically, you aren’t going to become best friends with someone overnight. I met some of my closest friends almost halfway through my first year, so don’t be disheartened. Keep on putting yourself out there by joining societies and going on nights out, or even just try talking to people from your lectures and seminars!
Nurture your friendships
Sometimes at university we have a tendency to spread ourselves too thinly, trying to become close friends with everyone we meet. But factor in time for sleeping, eating and going to lectures (or catching up on lectures you’ve missed because you couldn’t be bothered to go), and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Instead, try and work on the friendships that feel most important to you, the people who you click with the most- quality over quantity remember.
Don’t be ashamed
I spent far too long feeling embarrassed and ashamed about feeling lonely at university and not long enough talking about it. I promise you there are other people out there feeling the same way as you. Make sure you talk to someone about how you’re feeling, whether it be family or the university welfare service. Suffering in silence in your halls box-bedroom all day will only make things worse.
Take a reality check
As I mentioned, social media really isn’t everything. I mean it REALLY isn’t. Just take a minute to remind yourself that what you see online isn’t necessarily a real representation of someone’s life. You may think that everyone else at uni is having an amazing time but the reality is they could be experiencing the same problems as you are! So as hard as it may be, try not to compare yourself to an online persona.
So here marks the end of my unintentionally long post, congratulations if you’ve made it this far. I just want to make a little disclaimer that I am actually really, really happy at university right now and this post is simply a reflection upon my experiences as opposed to a discussion of how I feel right now. With almost half of UK students admitting to feeling lonely at uni, I think that it’s important that we open up the discussion about this issue. I hope that anyone reading this that is suffering from loneliness can be reassured that these feelings are completely normal, that things can (and surely will) improve with time, and that most importantly, you are NOT alone!
p.s. feel free to ask me any questions/ for any more advice if you’re going through this yourself x