When I was a spring chicken facing the concept of adulthood, the thought of walking out of those school gates after graduating year 12 with my Senior Certificate and Diploma of ‘congratulations kid, you survived’ before walking into another 4 years at university, I thought it was purely a time to party, have fun and immerse yourself head first into embracing the nights you probably will not remember alongside the best friend you made five minutes ago. Instead, I decided to go into the real world and work for a couple of years before returning to study a Bachelor of Nursing.
Unlike my thoughts as a teenager regarding university and the social scene surrounding the bright lights and hard hours spent studying, I discovered this wasn’t the truth as the complete opposite happened. Instead of socialising, joining groups and developing lifelong friendships (I did make friends eventually), I found myself struggling to form friendships with peers in class. As a result, often found myself eating alone because I knew no one would want to have lunch with me. Although I spent the rest of my first degree with my head further into my textbook and spending more hours visiting the Botanical Gardens or GOMA, I can vouch the loneliness will fade slowly and if you are in a bit of a pickle, here’s four steps and ideas that can keep the loneliness at bay.
1. Be involved
I find by extending your comfort zone a few hundred metres beyond your front door allows you to meet people. I have recently started talking to a majority of my classmates and have discovered that a few of them grew up in the Darling Downs, a rural and remote area located roughly a three hour drive from Brisbane, Queensland. Finding common interests such as sports, social activities or branching out and joining different clubs will allow you to find like-minded people who have similar interests with yourself.
I have also recently discovered my college has a ton of different clubs that you can be part of, ranging from engineering to paramedicine clubs. If you are interested in joining a club, check your blackboard (if your campus uses online Blackboard) or go to your student service desk and ask for information. There’s no harm in trying for a semester and seeing what might tickle your fancy and you might even come away with a lifelong friend.
2. Randomly pick a table in the cafeteria and ask to sit down.
There has been more times than we would like to count where we have found ourselves standing on the cusp of the cafeteria, looking at everyone who is pair off into groups or walking past us, laughing before sneering a lip at you. We, as humans, find it uncomfortable to step out of our comfort zones and walk up to someone before saying, “hey, is it okay if I sit here next to you?”
In my case, I would always been the girl who would find herself standing on the outskirts of the cafeteria, staring at those groups and wondering if I would ever find the encouragement to leap out of my comfort zone and sit down at a table. There would be times where I’d end up sitting by myself, eating my lunch and by sheer luck, another person would walk up and sit down at my table. We would have a wonderful conversation spent discovering if we had any common interests and what Bachelor Degrees we were doing.
These were the moments I would leave happy and feeling content because I would not only have spoken to someone but I would have discovered interesting facts about other Degrees being offered. While it is scary and somewhat thrilling to step out of your comfort zone, it is a chance that you should take as you are bound to meet some wonderful, interesting and colourful people. Simply by asking him/her if you could sit down at their table and have lunch. If you are feeling lonely in college and don’t know where to start, take a step and put yourself out there!
3. Call your parents or guardians
Like many of us, we reach a certain point in our lives where all we can think about is the legal age to voting, drinking and gambling as well as the day we would firmly close the door to our family home, before shipping off to college. Before we know it, the big day has arrived and we are giving our support team their final squeeze, kiss on the cheek, warm thanks for buying everything to make our apartment/dorm room feel like an ounce of home alongside the final promise of, “yes. I will call and skype you.” But with homework, weekly readings, 2500 word assignments and exams building up as well as social commitments, we often tend to forget our support team back home and with this, here is your friendly reminder: don’t forget about who raised and provided for you.
While we find ourselves wanting to escape from that slightly too emotional and lingering hug that feels like it’s killing your social status as a small part of you thrives; our support team is only wanting the best for us. Although they appear to be rubbing their hands in excitement as the prospect of turning your bedroom into a gym or a hobby craft room (or in my case, an extra bedroom for my sister’s cat to lay about in the sun), they are saddened about the prospect of you having grown up, becoming the adult they had always dreamt and spoken about as well as being concerned about what your health and wellbeing while away at college. Even though we struggle to find those extra five minutes in our day to dial a number or press a screen button for activation, our amazing support system is waiting to hear about your college experience.
Even though your parents or guardians send enough food to rival the British Army, you have to admit to yourself that you are missing them. So if you are missing your parents/guardians or want advice on a particular topic, give them a call. Explain the situation because while we tend to think our parents/guardians are embarrassing or prehistoric because they couldn’t have gone through what we’re going through at the moment, just remember they were young once and have a world of knowledge. This means, they will be able to support and comfort you, provide those hidden answers to questions you don’t even realise you have in that wonderful head of yours and remind you, just how daggy our support team can be.
I can honestly say, Dearest Reader, my parents and family members were my lifeline and constant crash support team throughout my first degree. This support didn’t go away when I moved out of a home several times before ultimately coming back and when I graduated from college. Instead, now as I work as a Registered Nurse while undertaking further studies to become a Registered Midwife, my parents alongside my brothers, sisters and now, my partner, have all had an influence on supporting and encouraging me. I cannot thank my family enough for their support and time and for it to be simply put, with them and their constant support and encouragement, you wouldn’t be who you are today.
Last but not least:
4. It’s okay to be alone by yourself.
Firstly before I begin, being alone and being lonely are completely two different things. Being alone is the purposeful form of isolation that we impose on ourselves while being lonely, is unintentional and results in a form of isolation alongside the overwhelming desire to be around others. Although, being alone can be beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing, especially after dealing with people who frustrate us beyond all brain capacity; it is also perfectly okay for us to take some time out for ourselves whilst in college.
While college is a time where we find ourselves being surrounded by other highly anxious and equally as stressed students, taking a break is something that will help us maintain our sanity, lower the amount of stress we have on our shoulders and gives us a fresh perspective to look at something in the long run. So if you are feeling like your head is about to explode because you’ve got a 2500 word assignment due in three weeks (that would be me), by going for a walk or finding a relaxing spot on campus to let those creative juices become unblocked can be beneficial for us. Although I am not stating nor encouraging you to leave your assignment to the last moment because trust me, it’ll only result in you hysterically laughing, crying or screaming as you type like a maniac, spending a couple of minutes to yourself is important.
We, as a human being, need to recharge their batteries and need to do so every once in a while. Having grown up in a household that defined the difference between loneliness and being alone, I was able to discover many long and short friendships while maintaining a healthy balance as I recharged my own body and mind. Just remember, at the end of the day, loneliness in college is not uncommon and college is meant to be a lifetime opportunity to experience many things.
Have fun and be safe.
Until next time,
~ Scarlett xx
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