Combatting Loneliness in college

When I was leaving for college my freshman year, I clearly remember everyone around me having something to tell me about what I’d experience there. Whether they were giving me advice on picking classes, or asking me about my plans for those next four years, I was constantly surrounded by a community of people who wanted me to succeed. My high school was constantly preparing us for the heavy college course load by piling on the schoolwork and encouraging us to push ourselves in our extracurriculars. Informing us about the academic side of school through college counseling, speakers, and college fairs made me feel adequately prepared for the academic transition to college. However, amidst the advice about dorms and research papers, no one ever told me about the mental health side of preparing for this new life.

My freshman year, I was shocked by the loneliness I felt. After living in the same town for my whole life and coming from a high school of 350 students, it’s easy to feel alone and as if you don’t have a connection with the community around you. The whole time while I was initially preparing to leave, I kept hearing “these will be the best four years of your life” and two months later, when I was feeling disconnected and isolated from Rhodes, I found myself wondering when those years were going to start. Almost constantly, I wondered if anyone else was feeling this way: disconnected, quiet, and just straight up lonely. All around me, it looked like everyone else was having the time of their lives.

Throughout the year, I began to realize that my feelings of loneliness were not an anomaly. Especially now as I reflect on last year, I realize that everyone else on campus was feeling the same way that I did: uneasy, unsure, and a lack of a sense of belonging. It’s easy to give off a sense of happiness and perfection, but unhappiness in college is a real thing, and not something that happens alone. Even a year later, after getting plugged into jobs and clubs in Memphis and the Rhodes community that I love, feelings of loneliness still come up. 

One of the best ways to combat loneliness is to get plugged into the community around you. Doing this creates a familiar place, and gives you something you can belong to, and something to do. Loneliness in college is one of the most prominent things that happens to everyone, yet no one will talk about it. Making the new community around you feel like a home is a way to find familiarity. The biggest thing to remember, for any college freshman wondering if they really belong at their school, or wondering why no one else seems to be struggling, is to remember that your feelings are valid, and along with that, you are not the only one with these feelings.