Talking Points

lonely student sat on a bench

How to feel less lonely at university

You’re at university and have been repeatedly told that these will be the best years of your life, but you’re not having much fun. In reality, you’re missing your friends and family back home and wondering why you ever decided to move away.

Perhaps you’ve not met anyone you enjoy spending time with yet or you’re part of a group you’ve not really clicked with. Socialising with people who aren’t on your wavelength can make you feel lonelier than spending time alone.

You are far from alone in feeling lonely at university, and it’s time we all opened up and talked about it.

Almost half (46 per cent) of UK students feel lonely at some point during their time at university. This is compared to 32 per cent of students globally, meaning loneliness is more prolific amongst UK students.

So, why are UK students more prone to loneliness, and how can we tackle the problem? If you’re struggling to find your tribe at uni, there are many ways to work on rectifying this.

We have some suggestions for you below. Firstly though, what is loneliness?

What is loneliness?

Feelings can be confusing and being alone isn’t the same as feeling lonely, so we wanted to delve into this a little further. Some people, for example, feel perfectly happy spending long periods of time in their own company.

If you’re not sure what you’re feeling right now, it could be loneliness if you agree with one or more of the following statements:

  • I don’t have much in common with the people around me
  • I don’t have many friends to spend time with
  • I don’t have someone I can confide in or who confides in me
  • I don’t have someone who understands me or who I can fully be myself around
  • Nobody asks me how I am or how my day was
  • I feel different to others and it is impacting upon my social life (this could be related to all manner of things, such as disability, age, money, etc.)

You may not agree with any of the above statements but you may still be feeling lonely. It’s hard to define because it’s a feeling, but it’s always important to make changes in your life if you are lonely and it is making you unhappy.

Reach out for help if you need it

Loneliness usually passes, but if you need help, reach out for it.

If there’s a family member or tutor you feel comfortable opening up to, try that.

Otherwise, you can always talk to your student union’s support and advice team.

If you feel like you might need to talk to a GP, please do — mental health is just as important as physical health.

There are many mental health helplines just a just search away too if you would like to talk to someone there, including Mind and the Samaritans.

As you can see from the above, there is plenty of support in place for you if your loneliness is getting you down.

How to feel less lonely

You’ll no doubt be wondering how can you work on combating your loneliness. Follow the tips below to get started.

Join a university society

Firstly, consider joining a university society or club. Not only will you be meeting a bunch of new people, but you’ll also be meeting new people you automatically have something in common with — something you are passionate about, too. If you want to find friends, a society or club is a perfect bet.

Attend university

university lecture

Secondly, it’s essential that you attend your lectures and tutorials! Attendance is crucial for the sake of your education, but also so you can interact with others on your course.

You have something in common with every single person in the room — you all chose to study this particular module — so why not start a conversation with the person sat next to you once the lecture is over? Maybe you could grab some lunch? You’ll have plenty to talk about as you’ve just sat through an hour or so of learning together!

Even walking around campus, if you spot someone wearing a band t-shirt for a band you love or someone with a tattoo you admire, take your opportunity and let them know you share their passion. The worst that will happen is that they don’t feel like talking. There’s really nothing to lose!

Find your true friends

You may already have a group of mates, but are they right for you? Perhaps you all met on day one and stuck together for fear of not making any other friends. Or maybe it’s your housemates or neighbours in halls.

Good university friends will support each other through the highs and lows of student life, but if you’ve not found the right tribe, you won’t feel fulfilled or supported.

Being lonely in company is a really unpleasant feeling, and you deserve better. Make it happen by reaching out and finding people who are more you.

Put effort into friendships

university friends

University life is tough, and when you’re feeling tired, the money starts running out, and the deadlines begin to loom, you may be tempted to lock yourself away for night after night.

Lying in bed eating junk food and watching Netflix might seem alright for the first two evenings, but it can soon lead to feelings of isolation — especially if all your mates are out having fun and sharing their exploits on social media.

Don’t let a lack of money make you feel lonely

If you’re skint and it’s stressing you out, talk to your parents about it — they won’t want you to be living off 14p tins of baked beans and hiding away in your bedroom for weeks. They may be in a position to offer you a one-off payment or a loan to tide you over.

Also, if your student loan is now to be referred to in the past tense, it may be time to consider earning some extra money by getting a part-time job to top up your funds. This will also help you to feel less lonely as many student jobs involve serving customers.

In the meantime, invite mates over or visit them so that you can all chill out together. It’s hard to feel lonely when you’re in good company. Also, make sure you budget better next time to avoid ending up in the same situation again!

Don’t let tiredness stunt your friendships

If you find yourself feeling worn out from a hard week of studying, make an effort at least once a week to go out and see a friend or two. After all, friendships blossom through bonding experiences.

You don’t need to go ‘out out’ — if clubs aren’t your thing, you do you. Head to the pub, the bowling alley or the cinema. Making memories doesn’t need to cost the earth. It’s just important to spend some time with those who you enjoy spending time with.

Don’t let coursework make you feel isolated

If you’re feeling stressed out by impending university deadlines, create a plan on a calendar and stick to it. Divide the time up into time for working on your assignment, time for other university activities, and time for you to relax.

When deadlines creep up, it can be tempting to hide away and pull all-nighters, but that won’t do your mental health any good. If you genuinely feel you don’t have the time to spare to see friends, then why not study together instead?

Explore our student blog for further tips and information on student life.

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