Some of us face bouts of loneliness when moving to college, either to complete an undergraduate degree or at graduate school. This is not unusual or surprising. You are moving to a completely different location and having to start over with making new friends and connections. This can be incredibly tough when you have strong social networks in other locations and are simultaneously missing your friends and wondering how to start making new connections.
I experienced severe loneliness during graduate school. I had always had friends throughout my life. I was the type to have a few close friends that I consistently hung out with, so every weekend there was always somebody to hang out with. If I wanted to grab lunch, I had someone to call. Even during times I felt lonely, I knew that I had available friends to spend time with if I chose to.
For graduate school I decided to choose a location about 1500 miles away (Iowa) from where I was born and raised (California). This seemed fine since for my undergraduate degree, I attended school about 3000 miles away (New York) and made plenty of connections, formed meaningful friendships and enjoyed living in a location that was entirely different from my hometown. During this time, I was able to maintain my friendships both in California and New York. I felt traveling to Iowa for school would be no problem and I would have to make at least one close friend.
Sadly, I was very wrong. The first couple of months went alright. I kept hoping that eventually I would make some network but that never happened. At the same time, I kept trying to plan ways to visit California or NY and visit some of my friends. I eventually did plan a couple of stints to go visit friends but I was unable to form any meaningful friendship in Iowa and felt very isolated and alone. The only person, I ever talked to consistently in Iowa was my roommate, whom I was not even good friends with.
Loneliness can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have, how extroverted you are, or how variable your interests can be. Many people face loneliness and these things just happen. Fortunately, this does not mean we just have to sit back and take it.
I had to develop ways to cope with that loneliness and learn to be social. You can also do various things to help battle against the lonely environment you may be in. Remember, loneliness is not a permanent state and it’s not something unusual. Everyone experiences loneliness at some point or another.
Loneliness is alterable, temporary and can change at any moment!
- If you live in a dorm, then consider just asking someone to hang out. Many of my friends made as an undergraduate were by just asking to tag along. You’ll be surprised at how many connections you make through this method. If you have a roommate, let him or her know that you want to meet some new people. Ask if you can join in on some activities he or she does. If both you and your roommate are in a similar situation then take this as an opportunity to learn more about your roommate and to make a new friend. This can be done by inviting your roommate out to lunch or dinner or doing some shared activity at your place.
- Also, if you live in a dorm, then keep your door open. Allow people the opportunity to stop by and chat.
- Eat meals with other people if possible. See what other students are doing for lunch or dinner and ask to join along!
- Join a club you are interested in. Joining a club will help surround you with people who share common interests. If you are in graduate school, and have a tough time consistently going to club meetings, try and take time to at least go to one or two. Even going to a few will be better than going to none.
- Participate in a school event. If you really have no time to devote to a club, then consider participating in an event. You’ll meet tons of people and create more opportunities for networking.
- Get a part time job. Only do this if you know this will not come in the way of your schoolwork. It’s easy to develop friendships while at a part-time job, just make sure it’s a job where you are interacting with your peer group to some degree.
- Organize a study group with your classmates. Not only will this help you do better in class, but you’ll be able to spend more time with your classmates.
- If religious, join a bible study group or start attending church services. Try joining religious ceremonies on campus so you can easily meet more of your peers!
- Join a sorority or fraternity. This may not be for everyone but this is a good way to make tons of friends very easily.
- If you like sports then consider doing sports at college. There are generally activities such as intramurals that allow you to regularly meet up with people to play sports.
- If you enjoy volunteering then join a volunteer effort while at school. Not only will you be doing something to help others out but you’ll make connections with other volunteers.
- Consider going to some events alone. There’s no reason you have to sit around by yourself missing out on opportunities. Go to events and take advantage of opportunities. You may be surprised at how many new people you can meet this way.
- If you feel lonely then consider studying at a coffee shop or a diner. Being around people will help with that feeling of loneliness. Avoid spending too much time locked in your room, by yourself.
- Remind yourself that loneliness is temporary and it will not last forever.
- Work at developing your social skills. Sometimes we may be inhibiting ourselves by lacking the necessary skills to open up to others.
- Be patient. Friendships take time for you and the other person. Remember, relationships develop naturally and cannot be forced. Wait awhile for the friendship to develop naturally.
- Try to keep busy with other activities and not dwell too much on your loneliness. Do school work, read a book, play a game, watch a movie or any activity that will keep you busy and take your mind off the loneliness.