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If You Feel Like Giving Up At University, You Are Not Alone

I was the girl in high school who couldn’t wait to leave her small town where nothing ever happened and never look back. I was the girl who talked for years about going to university as far away from home as possible. I was the girl who planned and shopped for months, making sure I was as prepared as I possibly could be for this new adventure.

I am also the girl who arrived at university and seriously considered dropping out within the first two months of school.

I am a very shy person and I have never been very into partying, and these two qualities did not mix well with the university lifestyle. I tried to put myself out there and go to events to meet people, but I always felt so awkward and out of place. After the first week, when it seemed like everyone else was settling in and making friends, I started to lose hope. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be like them? Why wasn’t I finding people that I could connect with?

As the days and weeks went on and I still wasn’t meeting the people that I thought it would be so easy to find, I began to give up and resign myself to the idea that I would never make friends. I was doing all the right things – joining clubs, leaving my dorm room door open, introducing myself to nearly everyone I met – and nothing was working. I spent almost every night crying on the phone with my mom, and nearly every waking moment trying to hold back my tears. This was not the university experience I had signed up for.

Finally, after two months of near constant unhappiness, I decided to reach out to my fellow writers at Her Campus about what I had been going through to see if they could offer any insight into how to get passed this (what did I have to lose?). It was a good decision. So many girls responded with words of encouragement, saying they had gone through the same thing, letting me know they were here if I ever needed to talk, and offering some pretty good advice. So, I thought I’d share it, for all the people out there who are struggling with being away from home for the first time, fitting in with a group of strangers, and feeling like they won’t make it through another day.  

  • Stay in touch with family and friends from back home. This may seem like a no-brainer, but setting up weekly (or daily, for me!) Skype or phone calls can help a lot. Just being able to reassure yourself that you do have people to talk to, even if they aren’t physically close to you, can take away a lot of the pressure of feeling forced to make friends quickly.

  • Invite friends and family from home to visit. Showing them around campus and incorporating them into your new life can really help with that feeling of isolation from the real world (because, let’s be honest, university is in a world of its own). It’s also nice to show off what you’ve accomplished by getting here!

  • Don’t isolate yourself inside your dorm room. Spend time in the common areas, where there are probably lots of people hanging out for the same reason: to meet people! Leave your door open as much as possible so that people know there is someone in there who wants to socialize.

  • Try bringing your own spices and toppings to change up the dining hall food. You are going to get sick of cafeteria food quite quickly and will long for your mom’s home-cooked meals – which will only make you even more homesick. Try incorporating your normal foods to give off the illusion that you’re at home.  

  • Realize that you don’t have to be best friends with your roommate. This was a big one for me; I wanted to be so close with my roommate and, when I got here, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. My roommate and I get along well, but we have such opposite personalities and lifestyles – and that’s okay. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I can’t limit myself to being friends with people simply because they are always around.

  • Don’t limit yourself to one group of people. Reach out to people from different floors, residences, and programs. As awkward as you think it might be, start conversations with people. If you find someone that you connect with, ask them to introduce you to their friends. Quality of friends is much more important than quantity.

  • Keep a journal of everything you are feeling. Putting down in words what you are struggling with makes it easier to identify the problem and come up with a solution. Even just getting it out of your system can make those feelings seem less overwhelming.

  • Focus on your schoolwork. Ultimately, that is the reason you are here – to learn! So, if finding your place isn’t coming easily, turn your attention to doing well in your classes; not only will this take your mind off of feeling alone but, most likely, you will do much better academically.

  • Accept that everyone adjusts at different times. Don’t judge yourself for feeling homesick or lonely simply because everyone else looks like they’re happy. Chances are, they’ve felt the same things you are feeling at least once and, if it takes you a little bit longer than most people to adjust, that is okay too! If some or all of these tips don’t work for you, don’t get discouraged; I know it can be awful just waiting, but it will happen eventually!

  • Understand that your happiness comes first. Don’t feel like you have to go out every night just to “fit in” with everyone else. If you need to take some time to yourself and binge-watch Netflix all night, then do it. It is okay to put yourself first sometimes.

So, my own personal advice to you is this: reach out to people! I know it’s easier said than done (believe me, I know), but something amazing will come out of it. Don’t be the person who reaches out to one person and, when it doesn’t work out, gives up. Reach out to the next person you meet! I couldn’t tell you how many people I introduced myself to and tried to connect with before I finally decided to reach out to the ladies at Her Campus.

And, even though I now know I have this community of women who will support me and be there for me when I need them, I’m still not certain about how this adventure is going to end. I don’t know if I’ll make it through the next four years of school, or if I’ll leave university for a while and return when I’m ready. Maybe I won’t return at all. Maybe I’ll go right into the workforce or take some college classes or travel the world.

The point is: I don’t know where I’m going or where I will end up, and that is okay. It’s okay to not have everything figured out at eighteen years old. It’s okay to be unsure. It’s okay to change your mind. Everything is not perfect yet, and I still have some pretty lousy days, but I’m slowly getting there, and you will too. I promise.    


 

I am a freshmen at the University of Western Ontario in the Arts and Humanities program. I think I am going to major in English Literature, and after I complete my undergrad, I am hoping to go to Law School. Books have always been my safe place, my escape from the real world - I have always been more of a reader, but with this new phase of my life starting, I decided to try my hand at writing. I guess we're about to find out how that goes.
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