At the end of my senior year of high school, I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed incoming college freshman. I was graduating high school with some of the greatest friends I had ever made, and I was headed off to my dream school. I expected college to simply be the continuation of all my happiness, but boy was I in for a shock when I started my first semester.
College did not turn out to be what I had imagined. I thought that even though I was living off-campus my very first semester, I’d have no trouble making friends. I was wrong. I made one friend last semester, that’s it. I was miserable almost my entire first semester. I missed my family. I missed my friends. I missed feeling like I belonged. I even started to doubt whether I had chosen the right school.
Over the last few months, I’ve made some progress in these areas and am enjoying school more. Today I want to share my tips with anyone else going through the same things. Here are my three best tips for combating loneliness in college:
1. Find What Makes You Happy
Before returning for this semester, I did a little soul searching. I started by thinking about activities that I really like to do. One of the best ways to meet new friends is by joining a club or activity – you have shared interests built in!
I know I enjoy exercise, particularly classes like yoga and pilates. So I decided to join exercise classes at my school. In addition to being fun, they could potentially lead to the formation of new friendships on campus. Win-win.
Now, this in itself posed a challenge for me. I have never been much of a joiner, so I understand the anxiety some of you may feel about becoming a member of a club or becoming a regular at a gym class. I find the best way to ease this anxiety is by telling myself that it isn’t important whether or not I meet people as long as I’m doing something I enjoy.
The most important takeaway here is finding what makes YOU happy. Everyone is different, so explore your options; don’t just join something because that’s what everyone else is doing.
2. Keep Busy
I know it may seem a little odd to tell you guys to keep busy, especially because you are probably thinking “How am I supposed to keep busy? I don’t have friends to keep busy with? That’s the problem!” Hear me out, though.
Memorize this sentence: It’s 100% okay to do things by yourself. Go to local events or even events on campus, solo. You can even go to the mall or go ice skating by yourself. Almost any activity that people do together can be done by yourself. And who knows – you might meet new people while you’re there. Or not! Either is fine. It’s about YOU getting out there in the world instead of hiding in your room.
For me, this felt a little weird at first, but I have actually grown to really enjoy time by myself. In the month of February, I plan on going to three concerts at Universal Studios, and I’ll likely go to at least one of them alone, but I’m still very excited. Just try it out; you can start small and see a movie alone first; it’s not like you can talk to anyone during a movie anyway.
3. Open Yourself Up to Different People
This last tip is probably the most important for actually finding friends. We all want to fit in and belong to a group. Usually, though, we get stuck on this idea that we want to be friends with certain types of people.
I thought the cliques would fizzle more with college, and they have, but they do still exist in a way. I’ve found that we tend to gravitate toward the same types of people we’ve always been friends with simply because those are the types of people we are used to. This isn’t always a bad thing, but college is a time of exploration, so branch out a little.
If you have always been friends with a big group of girls and now that you’re in college it doesn’t seem to be working anymore, maybe try becoming friends with a few of the guys. Trust me, being friends with a lot of boys isn’t so bad. They’ve always got your back, and they may just surprise you and become your very best friends. (Shoutouts to Kevin and Clark!)
You can also try getting to know a different types of people from a variety of groups. Get to know a few jocks, a few sorority girls, a few studious types, etc. People are more than just their stereotypes. Sure, you might not like everyone you meet, but if you open up to new possibilities, you might just find your lifelong friends.
How do you deal with loneliness in college?
Have any of you ever felt lonely? How long did you feel that way? What did you guys learn about yourselves while dealing with loneliness? Just remember it will get better, and I’m always willing to hear your stories in the comments section.