why is it so hard to eat alone?
So, it’s your first year on a college campus and you’ve quickly realized that your meal plan is geared more towards your school’s dining hall and not the “to-go” spots on your campus. Now the question is: How do I go to the dining hall by myself?
Don’t rush yourself, the dining hall can be an incredibly triggering space for individuals with anxiety. It’s loud and it can be hard to understand the service workers from behind the glass. You don’t always know where everything is, and there are social norms that you might not understand yet, tray returns, line etiquette, what is self serve and what need to be served to you. What about the areas where you customize your food? Pasta and omelet bars can be terrifying if these are services you’ve never used before. So start slow. An easy way to become more comfortable with eating at the dining hall alone is building it into your schedule.
For example, say you have a class on Monday and Wednesday that gets out at 11:45 am and you have to walk past the dining hall to get to your dorm anyway. Or your next class isn’t until 1 pm. Make a deal with yourself to stop and eat at the dining hall on those days when it is easily accessible and already in your path.
Pick the Right Meals
All college students know cafeteria food isn’t always the most crave-worthy. However, every college dining hall has its perks. Does your dining hall’s wing night slap, or do they do a killer Sunday brunch? Check out your dining hall’s meal schedule and find foods that excite you. Ask people who have lived on campus before when it’s the best time to visit the dining hall. You might even find that lunch is secretly the best meal of the day.
Bring A Distraction
There must be some uncharted phenomenon of college dining halls that amplifies insecurities. We all know that no one cares if you are eating alone. We all need to eat and the dining hall is literally a designated place to do that. However if the simple knowledge that no one cares sometimes isn’t enough, this is when headphones can become your best friend. Bring headphones and watch a show, or bring a book or homework and double task. Try and treat eating at the dining hall like eating in your dorm. Watch your favorite T.V. show, scroll through TikTok, do your class reading, or even call your mom. (We both know she misses you.)
DOn’t Give Up
Becoming comfortable in a new environment takes time. Soon enough, you will find that all of a sudden you are the sophomore that knows the forks and spoons don’t go in the same return bins as the plates and that Tuesday’s Lunch is always grilled cheese.