“Alone, With All These People Around.”
That’s the line that encapsulates the “college scourge” Frank Bruni wrote about recently in The New York Times. I have to agree, of course. (I mean, who would disagree with @FrankBruni!?)
Moving to college means you get plopped down into a new life with no connections and no idea what you are doing for the better part of a year, if you are lucky. Combined with the constant refrain that college ought to be the best time of your life and surrounded by carefully curated digital images of friends’ lives, the going can definitely be rough. For many if not most students, it is the most difficult thing they have done to date in their young lives.
Here are some things students can do about it:
- Believe me and the hundreds of others who say that you are not alone. If they are being honest, all of the other students around you are feeling some degree of loneliness.
- See others’ social media for what it is: a carefully curated narrative that doesn’t resemble reality.
- Try posting how you really feel on your favorite social media feed. You will be surprised not only how many people will reach out to you but how relieved everyone else will be that someone is finally being honest.
- Admit your loneliness to an R.A., hall director, teaching assistant, professor, or advisor. They are all trained in how to help. Feeling lonely is nothing to be ashamed about.
- Confide in a peer who you seem to have felt a spark with.
- Instead of sitting in the dining hall alone, ask people if you can join them at their table. You might be shocked at how kind your peers can be.
- If you see someone else sitting along somewhere on campus, go up to them and ask how their day is going. They may need someone to talk to, too.
- Make an appointment to see a counselor in the health center. Many students are afraid to do this, because they fear that their parents or friends will find out. First of all, the services are completely confidential and protected by federal laws. Second, nothing will go on a record that anyone can access. Third, mental health counseling centers are filled with other students who are feeling exactly the same way as you are. That’s why health centers have to increase their staffing constantly.
- Seek out a church, temple, mosque, or other place of worship where you can confide in someone.
- Sign up for volunteer work at a local shelter for homeless people or abandoned animals, a community garden, food co-op, police department, or home for the aging. Not only does giving to others make us feel better, but you will surely meet like-minded people there.
- Keep in mind that this state of loneliness is temporary. There is nothing wrong with you. You are simply going through a transition in your life. Not that the transition is simple; it is not. You will go through many of them in your life. Each time we get better at them because we learn how to cope with the feelings and develop mechanisms for powering through.
The first September can truly be the cruelest month of a college career. Doing some or all of the things listed above can make a huge difference.