Words by Grace Dawes
Making the move to university is never a straightforward process. Whether it is admitted or not, everyone is vulnerable to the reality and fear of loneliness at university. Regardless of gender, sexuality, the amount of friends you have, or your relationship status, loneliness can still creep up and consume anyone. It’s easy to let the fear of potential loneliness ruin the experience of starting university.
Despite whether this feeling of loneliness is emotional, physical or presumed, it can be hard to free your mind from the spiralling staircase that comes with it. Before I moved away from home to university, I had multiple moments of feeling the dreaded fear that I wasn’t going to make friends at university and I would be feeling lonely and wish to go home. It happens to us all. But, there are ways to combat it. The most key thing to remember as a new student is that independence and loneliness should not be confused. Although you may spend more time on your own with studying, running errands and having some quiet nights in, it doesn’t mean that you are lonely. Making independent choices that don’t involve socialising with other students is not isolating yourself. Although making friends and meeting new people is a big part of the university experience, it is not crucial in combating loneliness. It is far better to make meaningful and genuine friendships with a small number of people than having half-friendships with lots of people. Choosing to focus on your own well-being is far different from the isolation of loneliness. This is not to say that choosing to be alone continuously is the healthy option however. Everyone needs a type of company in their life, whether that be a friend, partner or companion. It differs with each individual. As long as you are happy and confident in being on your own sometimes yet still enjoy the company of others, that is independence not loneliness.
There are so many other ways to help adjust to a more confidently independent lifestyle at university. As a fresher, the easiest place to start is by joining a society. Although this will help with meeting new people and making friends, it actually provides a multitude of opportunities that will increase well-being and self-confidence too. By choosing a society that you are passionate about, or even choosing one to make new passions, you are able to boost your mental well-being whilst engaging with people who share the same interests. This way, making friends becomes more natural, and less forced, as you share a mutual interest that can be bonded over. In turn, you are able to embrace something of your own interest and meet others without compromising your own happiness in order to be accepted by others. This is not to say that trying new things that your flatmates or new friends want to do is going to compromise your independence, because it is healthy for your well-being to try new things. However, in order to build your independence, it makes sense to embrace your own goals and intentions at university with people who share the same ones, rather than embracing those of others just because you don’t want to be lonely. It is healthy to find the balance between trying new things with new people, and embracing the things that you know will make you happy. You may even find a new passion which in turn will help you grow your independence and self-esteem at university.
Like I said, loneliness can become a reality to anyone and everyone at university. But it is important to combat that loneliness and it is even more important to not confuse it with independence. Don’t let the fear of missing out stop you from embracing your intentions and hopes for university. Loneliness will only become a reality to those who choose to do nothing about it. This is the time to start growing your independence whilst making new friends, you will in turn learn so much more about yourself as a person. Don’t be scared to start living independently, every fresher is in the same boat. Good luck!