If you’ve survived the extremely-hectic, anxiety-riddled gauntlet that is high school and you’re rocking up to your first day of university, you’ve probably discovered that school and uni are like apples and oranges. We mean, you’ve got a lot more freedom (read: classes aren’t back-to-back and lunch period isn’t A Thing). Alcohol and naps after class are allowed and even, dare we say, occasionally necessary. The work’s more interesting but no-one’s holding your hand.
But as you’ve probably also learned, studying is only one facet of the uni experience. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people and grow emotionally as well as intellectually. It’s a fresh start and you get to chill with people from all sorts of backgrounds, with all sorts of interests.
But something they don’t tell you about uni is 1) you’re going to spend a, frankly, ludicrous/Ludacris of money on coffee even tho it doesn’t always help with the sleep deprivation and 2) that it can be really hard to make genuine friendships at uni.
Unless you’re living on campus, actually connecting with people and building a social circle is more of a challenge than you’d like. (The lack of mandated food-eating period might have something to do with it?)
Of course, some people are lucky and fall on their feet, acing subjects and making mates left, right and centre, but it’s also common for people to feel socially isolated. It’s no surprise: people study wildly different things, class times and locations are all over the place, and the demands of uni study can make it tricky for you to turn a tutorial buddy into someone you’d hang out with outside of class.
A common suggestion to students who feel socially isolated at university is to join clubs or societies on campus. And while it’s true that this can be a great way to meet people outside of your course or who share a common interest, it’s not always super straightforward. Some unis require you to buy a club or society’s membership. Society events also come with a cost. Some faculty societies are so huge, it can be hard to make closer connections. On the other end of the spectrum, many smaller clubs only have a few meetings a year. And what if you can’t find a society that interests you? What if the event times don’t work with your schedule? What if transport is an issue?
Which is where we come in. Hi lmao.
The cost factor, size factor and varying activity levels of uni societies and clubs mean that they’re not a one-size-fits-all answer to the problem of uni loneliness.
ANTI- INCREDIBLY-SOCIAL SOCIAL CLUB
If uni societies ain’t your thing, another thing you could try would be joining a social club outside of the university system. Not only do you meet different people, but you’re not totally reliant on the university structure or location in order to have a good time. Running clubs, social sport, art collectives, even volunteering, are all great ways to meet people and build relationships.
The Internet is a really great thing. (Contro take, I know.) There’s a bunch of great apps and platforms that you can use to meet people worth hanging out with. You know how Bumble’s got a dating feature? It’s also got a friends feature, that connects you with people who are interested in actually Netflixing and chilling because sometimes you really just wanna watch a movie, you know?
WORK (WORK WORK WORK WORK)
Can you read that without thinking about Rihanna? Us neither.
Anyway, another way to stop feeling blue is to try and find a job where you’re in a team or you’re out talking to people. Make some coin whilst building some friendships —two birds, one stone, baby.
Work friends can be the best sorts of friends because only they can relate to the weird shit that’s unique to that job and they also generally keep to a similar schedule. Plus, having a part-time job while you’re studying can be a great mental break from academia. Distracting yourself with something productive that’s not camping out in a library is a great antidote to the stress of uni.
IF THE UNI LONELINESS IS STILL ALL TOO REAL…
If the making friends thing isn’t working out—for whatever reason—it’s important to talk to someone. Whether it’s family, friends, the dog or a counsellor (although dogs are, as we know, the original and best therapists. I’d recommend the dog option) sharing your anxiety is one of the best ways to move forward and make positive steps in the right direction. Most universities have counselling services you can access for free, and there’s plenty of other mental health services and resources like Headspace and Mindspot that are worth talking to if you’re struggling with feelings of social isolation.
But we’re not joking about that coffee thing. Caffeine is a poor substitute for sleep, fam. Don’t play yourself.
At the end of the day, while you’re at uni to get a degree, marks aren’t everything. If you’re feeling down and that’s affecting your marks–or if you’re too busy diving deep into the uni social scene or other things in your life, that’s not a big deal. Most students deal with this shit in one way or another and it’s completely normal. Arm yourself with the right expectations going in: making friends at uni can sometimes be a challenge, true, but it’s worth the effort. More likely than not, you’ll meet other amazing people like you and have the time of your life.