Sunday, 1 April 2018

Loneliness at university

There seems to be a huge issue surrounding the university experience that no-one ever prepares you for. I feel that no-one ever sat me down when I was about to go off to university and said “at times, you will be lonely. There will be times when you hate that you don’t come back and have a routine of having a family dinner. There will even be times in which it will seriously affect your mental health. Although there are of course ways to combat this like joining as many societies as possible, there is and will always be times in which you are lonely. It’s just one of the harsh lessons of life.” Even if someone had said this to me, there is a very big chance that I wouldn’t have listened anyway. For most people, they spend their lives growing up around people. To go from that to having to suddenly create your own family is scary and take a lot longer than I would have every expected.
It was only until a year into my degree that I finally asked home friends if they felt the same way. Whether they had also been affected by loneliness. While some who had plates stacked with mountains of things they had to do and were luckily placed in accommodation with people that they could find that uni family with quickly replied that they found it at times, the overwhelming majority said that they had it experienced it to greater or lesser extents.
I personally found the first year hard because I am someone that always needs to have people around. This is partly from deep psychological issues and partly from the fact that I’m extroverted, I get my energy from being around others. I know many introverts may read and think that being extroverted is easier in this life and while it has perks because socialising comes easily, it does mean that time alone can be difficult. Because time alone seems to be in greater quantity as you get older just from the fact that you parents aren’t there looking over you every move. It’s a horrible feeling. It truly is an awful feeling. I personally can’t tell if my anxiety and depression made it worse or whether those mental illnesses got worse because I was alone so much. Then it would be this horrid cycle of feeling depressed because I wasn’t seeing anyone then not seeing anyone because I was depressed. This is without a doubt the biggest lesson I have learnt about myself: without other people, I can’t be me.  
I know that others have a different relationship to the loneliness experienced at university. Of course, depending on the type of university and the culture surrounding this, you will experience similarities or differences from me. No one experience is the same, that’s for sure. I go to university in Australia where many people stay at home and commute to uni rather than do what I expected people do which is move to where the university. I expected people do this because in the UK, this is what is expected. Most people do this. This meant that the culture at uni was fitted in around family life, a concept I found incredibly strange. It was incredibly awkward to fit in with people who already had home friends and didn’t have the desperation to make pals that I did. Similarly, because people still lived at home they had jobs that kept their time busy. This meant time for socialising was few and far between for a shy girl that had made a couple of good friends.
This was another vow I made to myself going into second year. I would never let myself get as lonely as I was last year. I will reach out to people, even if the anxiety tells me that they will think I’m sad for doing so, I will. To my credit, I’ve done that. I’ve forced myself to get to know my housemates better and have been able to completely be myself around- a quality it too me nine months to achieve with my previous set of housemates.
I guess my main message with this blog post is that loneliness comes to all, no matter where you are in life. Uni, for me was a platform for me to learn about how to cope with it. I think that people ought to take off the rose-tinted glasses they put on the past and warn younger people that loneliness may come so that it wasn’t the shock it was for me. 

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