Loneliness at university



A student talks about their experience at university and how to combat loneliness.

One of the most common feelings experienced by students is loneliness. A very different set up to high school, university life leaves you not only with far more free time, but far more pressure to socialise. Depending on your course, you could only have 10 hours of contact time a week; which leaves you with countless hours left to fill. And while a fair few of these could consist of Netflix and sleep, eventually we all need to socialise. While, for some this may seem uber-easy for others, this is really not the case. And both are completely okay. That’s why, with this article, I hope to address the different types of loneliness felt by all kinds of student as it is important to know that this feeling is universal.

If you’re like me, you love being busy. Constantly on the go, I’m always off to a rehearsal, a shift at work or a seminar. Despite running around like a lunatic however, I am prone to experiencing loneliness and again, there are lots of different categories that affect this. It could be that with my busy schedule, I haven’t been able to connect with my family and friends at home and that can leave me feeling lonely and detached from home. It could be that, on a particular day, the same situation happens with friends here in Bristol and they’ve all either gone home or met up without me. Having a busy life at university leaves you just as prone to feeling lonely as those without a full schedule and it’s important to acknowledge this.


If I’ve needed to go to a rehearsal in the evening, or work has kept me late then I experience the common university phenomenon, FOMO (or Fear Of Missing Out to me and you). FOMO is a really difficult feeling to balance at uni so it’s important to learn about this feeling as soon as possible so you know how to cope with it. It’s very tempting to battle feelings of loneliness by cramming yourself with societies and meet-ups. This is fun, and it’s part of uni, but it’s important to know where your limit is, else you could end up overloading yourself to the point where you don’t have time for yourself.
This brings me onto the opposite end of the spectrum. For those students who maybe don’t feel like participating in societies, it is very easy to get ‘cabin-fever’ from sitting in your accommodation all day.

Now, my advice for you isn’t going to be to dive into hundreds of clubs all at once as this is most certainly daunting for anyone. What I am going to suggest, however, is that you just try one. If you’re a musician for example, there are so many different ensembles worth exploring, some of which don’t require an audition - which I know held back so many people from joining the music society this year. If you’re into sports, while the university teams have been decided, once again, there are much more relaxed teams that you could definitely use to meet new people. Of course, there are always course societies which I highly recommend everyone joins. Being a member of my course society has allowed me to strengthen the relationships I have with my course mates, and often they are more than enough to combat my loneliness.

Image / Marina Afzal-Khan

The stigma about university is of wild freshers and constant activity balanced with a healthy amount of school work. This is not the case. There are going to be days when there is nothing to do, and it is these days that bring out feelings of loneliness in every type of student so it is important to recognise this in order to individually learn how to deal with it.

My advice is to include the right amount of socialising in your day that suits you. Don’t overload yourself with societies and parties, allow time for yourself. Message one person every day and invite them out for coffee, and I promise things will spiral out from there. Loneliness is not a feeling that is often talked about and so, with this article, I hope I have kick-started a conversation into this very real feeling and encouraged others to tackle it.
Of course, I won’t be able to give you the ‘magic formula’ that will stop you feeling lonely because everyone does. But hopefully these few tips will help someone combat their loneliness even a little bit. Someone is always around you, even if you don’t notice it.

Featured Image: Marina Afzal-Khan

Do you feel that university can be a lonely place? How do you overcome this feeling? Get in touch!

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