The lonely student: dealing with feeling alone at university

As you sit here reading this, are you alone?


BBC News has reported that one in four university students feels lonely most or all of the time. With all the issues that moving to university poses, this one gets a little lost in all of the noise. Once the chaos of freshers’ week dies down and uni becomes University with a capital U, it can be easy to slip into a feeling of loneliness, as you become responsible for keeping up with your newly found friends or putting yourself out there to meet new people.


Perhaps you love your flatmates, or perhaps you battle for space in a fridge with 7 different bottles of milk. Maybe you have found the friends you always wished you could have, maybe you haven’t. The thing about living at university is that, either way, you will feel lonely at some point, and it can feel like you have done something wrong.


The advice for students feeling isolated is to put yourself out there, join new societies and go out of your comfort zone, but this doesn’t acknowledge that being alone sometimes is part of university and part of life. Even if your friends are your found family, they won’t be in every single lecture, tutorial, or with you every second of the day.


‘Uni’ as an idea is a powerful one, built up over years of anticipation, and an idealised vision presented in books, tv shows and films. We all come here with an expectation of what our lives should look like, but the fantasy doesn’t take into account the filler moments that make up real life.


In my first year, I felt a strange intense loneliness when I came home from meeting up with friends, as though I felt that it wasn’t enough to go out, have a good time and come home again, as though I should be having the best time, all the time. I think this comes down to the difference between the expectations and the reality of university living.


Social media is a key driver in keeping these expectations and idealised versions of university life going. Take BeReal, an app created to try and bring some authenticity back to our online lives. Each day there is a random 2-minute time slot when you must take a photo of whatever it is you are doing at that time. But how many times have you seen your friends posing on a night out, 7 hours after the 2-minute deadline? Even on an app designed to help with these problems, it seems we cannot help ourselves but feed into these unrealistic expectations, even though they make us feel so vulnerable. As a generation, we know that pictures and videos are posed, filtered and edited, but it is almost impossible to avoid that initial reaction of feeling left out and isolated.


So, how can you feel less lonely at university? The most important thing is to accept that being alone is a normal part of life. It is when you think that you are the only person who spends time alone that loneliness sets in. Take a look around you and you will notice just how many students are going about their day on their own. Life is not a teen movie, you will not always rock up to lectures with 5 friends and sometimes you will need a quiet night in, all of this is perfectly normal. Loneliness can be a hard one to solve because it mainly comes from our own perceptions of ourselves, which have been so wildly distorted by social media. However, if you are feeling lonely, hopefully you can see that you are not an exception to the rule.

Featured image: By Abby Chung from Pexels

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