As 17% of students reported feeling lonely often or always (ONS 2022), being at university can be a challenging time, so here are 6 tips to combat loneliness and find your community.
Loneliness is the feeling you get when there is a loss or lack of social networks and relationships. When lonely, our need for meaningful and rewarding connections may not be met which can have a negative impact on mental and physical wellbeing. To help tackle loneliness, here are my top tips:
Tip One - You don't have to reinvent yourself at university
You’ll naturally develop as a person throughout your time at university, but you don’t have to reinvent yourself as a completely new person to make friends. Go to events and activities that you want to go to and you will meet people with similar interests there. The anxiety of putting yourself in new situations can be overwhelming (especially if you haven’t found someone to go with.) Remember that you will meet people there and will often get more involved if you initially go by yourself.
Tip two - Remember that lots of students feel lonely
It is normal to feel lonely at some point at university. Whether you are living in student accommodation or commuting, your life, timetable and social networks change which can make it difficult to adjust to university life. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to engage with the experience.
Tip three - Be present on campus
Visit different areas on campus such as the library, faculty buildings, the canteen, or a café. Exploring the physical environment around you and being present on campus will naturally increase opportunities for social interaction (whether that is asking for directions or sitting with other students on a long study table).
If you live in student accommodation, it is quite easy to get into a habit of staying in your room (especially during these dark winter months) or if you commute to campus, you may have other commitments that make it difficult to schedule time to socialise. Finding opportunities that work around your schedule is crucial, like a society meeting that happens in the afternoon or volunteering for one hour a week.
Check out the list of SU events for January Welcome here.
Tip four - Avoid comparing your experience to others
This is much easier said than done but try to avoid looking on social media and comparing your experience to other people. Remember that people often only post the positive aspects! Fill your schedule with things that you want to do and be mindful of your physical and mental wellbeing.
Tip five - Get involved in social opportunities
These opportunities can fit around your university schedule and are a great way to make connections with other students and the local community. For example:
- Joining a sports club (e.g. mountaineering, taekwondo, watersports)
- Joining a society (e.g. gender equality, language exchange, craft beer)
- Becoming a course rep
- Getting a part-time job (e.g. bartender, shop assistant, student ambassador)
- Volunteering (e.g. British Heart Foundation, post pals)
Tip six - Self-care and communication
When you feel lonely, schedule time to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. This could be eating a nutritious meal, getting outdoors, exploring the city, or talking to existing social connections (such as a friend, family member, lecturer, course mate, or work colleague) about your experience. Opening up to someone can reduce the burden of feeling lonely.
If your feeling of loneliness is prolonged and impacting your everyday activities, here are useful resources for help:
Information about loneliness and how to access professional services through the National Health Service
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
A suicide-prevention charity which has a useful guide on loneliness and social isolation and a 5pm-Midnight helpline.
A mental health charity which provides local services including talking therapies, crisis helpline, drop-in centres, employment, training schemes, counselling, and befriending.
Let us know if you have any campaign or event ideas for tackling student loneliness by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Your SU Community Officer, Catherine.