Lonely at university? Here’s what to do

Apr 2, 2021

Whilst many people associate university with meeting new people and partying, for many it can be a lonely experience at times. This is completely normal, as almost half of UK students (46 per cent) admit to feeling lonely at university, and 37 per cent consider dropping out. 

The effects of loneliness

We are social animals and being in contact with other people is vital to our wellbeing. Without good relationships, mental and physical health can decline.

Loneliness can evolve into anxiety and give you a hard time sleeping. This will reinforce a negative cycle and affect your ability to study and pay attention, which will impact your education. Tackling your loneliness is therefore important, and it can be done.

There are many causes of loneliness at university and the severity can differ. There are steps you can take however to tackle your loneliness. Here are our top tips for what to do if you feel lonely at university.

Why do students feel lonely at university?

Students, tend to feel lonely at university as a result of:

  • Moving away from home – Students who move out to live on campus, or in student accommodation can experience loneliness as a result of moving away from their family and friends who live nearby.
  • Finding it difficult to make new friends at university. Making new friends is not easy for everyone. Some students begin to feel lonely at university, due to not making new friends that they can study and socialise with.
  • Being a mature or international student. Some students who come from abroad or mature students may feel out of step with their peers and therefore, find it more difficult to make new friends, resulting in them feeling lonely at university.
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1: Remember to take care of yourself

When experiencing feelings of loneliness, it can be easy to retreat into yourself. Sometimes you can blame the loneliness on some personal fault and beat yourself up about it. This will not help you cure your loneliness. It is important to go easy on yourself and care for yourself.

This can mean doing things that you enjoy. Keep up with whatever hobbies you might have, whether that is playing sports or reading or going to the cinema.

It is important for your mental health in general to eat well and give yourself plenty of sleep. If you are well rested and feeling energetic due to a good diet, it will be easier to socialise and build relationships.  

2: Keep going to classes

Make sure you continue to attend lectures and classes despite your loneliness. Cutting off social contact will not help. Also, you do not want to fall behind as this will add to your problems. Maintaining your attendance will give you opportunities to interact with your classmates and gradually build relationships.

You and your classmates are all there for the same reason, so try starting up a conversation about a particular topic that interests you. You could also ask to see if they want to study together.

Even just taking a walk around your campus will give you some fresh air and perhaps leave you feeling better.

3: Join a society

Joining a society is a great way to meet people that share your passions. There are societies for every kind of interest imaginable, from languages to films. They are great for introducing you to new social groups and getting you out and about.

If you are into sports, joining a sporting society is obviously a good idea as it requires teamwork which is great for building relationships. Whatever you are into, societies are always a brilliant option to combat loneliness. Here you can read about other ways to make the most of your first year at university.

4: Don’t feel like you’re stuck with one group of friends

The relationships you build at the beginning can often feel a bit forced. Do not feel you have to stick with one group of friends just because you live with them. If you feel like you do not quite fit in, then try to meet new people, whether they are classmates or people in a society.

5: Exercise regularly

Exercise is good for your mental health. Whether you prefer going to the gym, running, yoga, or playing sports, it is all good for your brain and releasing endorphins. It will also get you out of your room and interact with the world.

6: Don’t let tiredness affect your friendships

Perhaps you are studying too hard and burning out. Try to maintain your relationships by regularly seeing your friends. If you are tired from studying all the time then this will likely add to feelings of loneliness.

It isn’t necessary to go clubbing or partying if that is not your thing. Even if it is just to study together, human interaction will make you feel better.

7: Get out of your room

Try not to dwell in your room too much. This will not help you get out of a negative rut. If you sit alone in your room too often you will end up feeling even lonelier. 

Try venturing out, even if it is just for a walk around the campus. You could also try studying in a café or the library, somewhere with people around.

8: Part-time jobs 

A part time job at university is always a good idea. You will earn money to help with the costs of university life and you will meet new people.

 This will help you feel less isolated and might lead to meaningful relationships with your colleagues. If you get a sociable job like working in a restaurant, you will have the chance to chat to different people every day.

Here you can read more about tips for working part time at university.

9: Change your seat in lectures 

Do not feel just because you have sat in the same seat every day for two weeks that you have to stay there forever.

 Try switching up where you sit to be able to chat to new people. You never know who you might click with and what events you might get invited to.

10: Hang out in the communal areas

If you find yourself spending a lot of time in your room, consider hanging out in the communal areas instead.

 Even if you don’t feel like being social, it is a good idea to force yourself once in a while to maintain contact with people and practice socialising and getting to know your peers. This will help you build relationships with the people you live with and make the experience more pleasant.

11: Friendships take time

When you get older, there are no shortcuts to making good friends. Genuine friendships take time to form and effort to maintain. However, in the long run, it is always worth the hard work.

It would be nice to make close friends in freshers’ week but you need to be realistic. The more time you spend out and about and interacting with different people, the better chances you will have of meeting people you get on with.

12: Take breaks from studying

Studying to educate yourself is of course the main reason people go to university. However you don’t want to neglect the other aspects of it and miss out on opportunities and experiences. Spending all your time studying will not help you feel less lonely.

Give yourself a schedule with breaks that will allow you to go outside and visit your friends. Try to regularly attend a club or society and other social events. Socialising is good for your mental health and may help clear your head so that when you return to studying you find yourself retaining more information.  

13: If your loneliness does not pass, reach out to someone

Feelings of loneliness at university are completely normal and there are many others who feel the same as you.

If you find that your loneliness is persisting and getting you down, try reaching out to a close friend or family member to talk to. You can also always visit the campus support centre as well.

Do not put off visiting a GP either if you feel you need to. Your mental health is very important.

If you feel like you need extra help, and are really struggling with feeling lonely at university, there are many mental health helplines including Mind and the Samaritans.

Feattured photo by Jeswin Thomas from Pexels

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