“Man Cannot Discover New Oceans Unless He Has the Courage To Lose Sight of the Shore.” – Andre Gide
Loneliness can be a crippling cycle: students feel alone and isolated so they withdraw from their social lives, making them feel more alone and isolated. As of last February, loneliness accounted for nearly 5% of all spills…Loneliness can feel very isolating.
Most anyone can and does experience loneliness, and we have found that it is often accompanied by difficulty making friends, homesickness, feeling alone around others, or having too few meaningful acquaintances. It is no wonder then that many first years in particular feel a sense of loneliness.
During my first few weeks of college, I remember calling my parents to tell them that I would never possibly make the quality or extent of friendships that I’d had back at home. I was crying and very upset (they often remind me of this in a teasing manner to remind me of how quickly things that seem negative can turn around and become a positive experience. For the record, I did make many meaningful friendships in college, and I still keep in touch with many of those people today.)
It is actually surprising that some people may not experience loneliness at all in college. I mean, think about it: I had lived in the same place, with many of the same people, in the same community, for seventeen consecutive years. I had three brothers, and I went to the same high school as them, so I was already plugged in to some connections with people before I even started high school and junior high!
Don’t get me wrong; I was lucky to have had the upbringing that I did. I grew up in a safe, warm community, surrounded by many positive relationships and loving people. But those positive experiences also made the shock of going away to college even more difficult.
Sure, I love meeting new people, going to new places, and trying new things. So college was an exciting and awesome place for me! But it wasn’t without its rough patches. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s natural to feel alone homesick or feel like it’s hard to make friends. Most people would agree that it is! Here are some things you can do to feel less alone:
- Set a goal of making a new friend per semester or year. Go at whatever pace feels comfortable.
- Ask an acquaintance or friend to hang out. You could watch your favorite movie, go for a walk, or grab a coffee or an ice cream.
- Call a good friend and ask about their day. Maybe they will have some stories to share about when they’ve felt lonely too and what they did to turn it around.
- Take some time to sit and think or write about what makes you YOU. What do you love about yourself? Don’t hold back. It’s a useful skill to be able to acknowledge and talk about your strengths. Having a hard time thinking of something? Call or email someone you trust to ask them for feedback. Ask them what drew them to you and what makes them want to be your friend.
- Go talk with one of the counselors or use another resource on campus. Sometimes talking about what you’re going through can make you feel a whole lot better. If you feel like hearing from peers, check out spillnow.com.
- Write a letter to someone you care about, and express what you miss about them or about home or wherever you met them originally, and share what you love about school and even some of the challenges too. You could even reminisce about fun times you’ve had together in the letter, and this will get you feeling some of the more positive emotions of spending time with that person.
- Take pride in yourself for going away to college. Remember that it takes a lot of courage to go away and do something new, but that any positive growth will lead to some bumps along the way.
The easiest way to get over loneliness is also the hardest thing to do: take a step outside of your comfort zone and reach out to someone new. If you keep doing so, eventually you will have a rich social network of support.
Lonely young woman photo available from Shutterstock.