When it comes to starting university, it is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Unless you know someone from home who is going/goes there, you will pretty much have a blank slate in terms of friends. This is hugely different to the school environment, where there’s a mix of people that you went to nursery with, people you have worked with, and your auntie’s friend’s son in the year below who you’ve seen at a couple of birthday parties. There are always people you know, even when joining a new school. In terms of change, it’s not that big a step, despite what it feels like at the time.
Starting uni this year, I was a whole mixed bag of emotions. School had been a mix of up and down for me, between some great years, intermingled with bullying and bitchy friendship groups. It had definitely been a ride. The idea of university half scared me to death. Although I wanted to become more independent and move away from home, I also didn’t really want my life to change how it currently was. I had a not-too shabby group of friends and a job that I enjoyed. Two weeks before I was supposed to start, my anxiety got worse. I was scared I would make no friends, and fail everything. But I made myself go. I was at least curious enough to witness freshers week. However, I was still also extremely excited about this new chapter in my life, finally getting to study the subject I’ve always loved, so I get my degree and go into my dream career. In London, I could make my connections, in the place I hope to live and work in after university. The city for many is a symbol of hope and opportunity. With a population of approximately 10 million people, how could I ever be lonely?
At the start, I felt like this opportunity would be the best decision I ever made. My first impressions of my flatmates were that they were some of the loveliest bunch of people, and I was so grateful. The first couple of weeks, the flat mingled quite a lot, and I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time. Things seemed… great, actually. I think a big problem for me was that I struggled to make many friends on my course. So I was limited to the flatmates that I had gotten pretty friendly with. However, after a while, they all seemed to dwindle off. People that I had been close to suddenly weren’t interested in my company at all. Slowly, I’ve become isolated, despite being surrounded constantly by people. In this big city, I feel completely alone.
In all the introductory things they put on in freshers, and the open days, they never mention loneliness. They don’t mention the fact that, although you’ll love your course with a passion, you’ll come to feel so alone that not even your course seems worth it anymore. That you’ll be crying yourself to sleep on a Friday night while you watch everyone going to the pub and having a jolly good time. That you’ll eat your dinner in your room because you can’t bear to be ignored and left alone by the other people in the kitchen. Because when you get right down to it, the people and the experience that you have matters just as much as getting your degree, in making your memory of uni something good to remember.
I am sure there are so many other students in the same position as myself. Unfortunately, in our isolated states, we can’t all rally together into a little Lonely Kids Club. In an age of social media, this feeling of loneliness is made worse by the constant feed of seeing everyone else having a good time. It can make individuals feel like they’re on their own, when they don’t have to be. Don’t get me wrong, I have honestly had some great times here, and the people that have stuck around are the most amazing humans I’ve met. They’re people that still want to be friends with me even when I don’t drown myself in booze, and can understand that I am a non-smoker that will never touch ketamine with a barge pole. My only regret, is not joining some more social societies.
I think it is such a shame that students, like myself, are so lonely at university, and there is nothing being done. We’re a nation whose natural instinct is to always look the other way. This time, I don’t think we can afford to.
(If you are someone who has been affected by this same issue, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a comment below, because I would love to hear a range of opinions on this topic.)