Freshers is often painted as a never-ending party on TV shows and films. (Unless you’re watching Fresh Meat of course). But nobody really tells you what to do when you’re feeling lonely. That quiet evening when you realise, you’re in an unfamiliar city, living with people you’ve known for two weeks at most.
This feeling can be daunting and frightening. You feel guilty for not appreciating this newfound freedom from home that you’ve been wanting for so long.
University is a completely blank slate for most people. You feel as though you must start again and make a whole new group of friends.
The reality is sometimes your first-year flatmates aren’t always the perfect fit for you. Those people randomly selected to live with you won’t always end up being bridesmaids at your wedding. Or it may take time. You’re not always going to be best friends with someone after one night out at Deansgate and hungover morning chat. Even if it was a particularly hilarious night.
When you feel as though the connection isn’t quite there with your flatmates, you can feel like a stranger in your own home. Nervous to go into the kitchen for that forced small talk with your flatmates having pre-drinks while you wait for your pasta to boil.
This may cause you to isolate yourself, feeling like your room is the only space you truly have that is yours. Because being alone in your room is better than feeling lonely in a living room full of people.
Then there’s the loneliness even when you get yourself involved in every social event possible. A flat party tonight? You’re already there. Every night you’re having alcohol fuelled chats with new people across the country. You ARE living that university is a never-ending party stereotype. So why is this the most alone you’ve ever felt?
This constant bombardment of new people and experiences gets draining for so many people – so don’t question yourself if you’re one of them. Though the parties are fun at first, sometimes after a while when the nightlife starts to quieten down, you can feel like the only connections you’ve made are a few more snapchat friends in the area. The regular drinking and forced friendships can make you feel burnt out. They might make you romanticise your hometown, your school friends, and a time when everything just seemed more stable.
You start visiting home more and putting less energy into university friendships. This reduces your chance of forging real connections with people at university even more and you become detached from the experience.
Then there’s the people that just haven’t been lucky enough to meet their crowd yet. Their current university friends feel like acquaintances.
All these scenarios are so much more common than you might think, and as a third-year student I can vouch for this. My first-year experience certainly wasn’t how I expected it to be, and I found myself feeling quite isolated much of the time for many reasons. This is not to say that the first few months of university will always be lonely. I know plenty of people who were lucky enough to find their type of people on freshers’ week and had a brilliant time. But this period can also be the most challenging time you will have at university.
The good news is thousands of others are feeling this way and those people have a habit of finding each other. I know this from experience as luckily for me, a few weeks before the first lockdown I met someone who I consider a lifelong friend now. Through her, I also met a whole new group of people who I clicked with faster than anyone I’d ever met before.
It was at the point where I was about to despair over university, that everything fell into place. This is often the case, and it is so rare for someone to go through the whole university experience and not eventually find people they are comfortable around. It will happen for you.
I always find the freshers experience to be quite unnatural. You throw thousands of 18-year-olds into halls and hope they get on. But once you get over the first term hump, university is a great way to meet people from outside your usual circle of friends. In second year, you’ll still be going to the flat parties, but you’ll also have movie nights with your house. You will go into the kitchen or living room because you genuinely want to have a conversation. You won’t feel like a stranger in your own home, you’ll feel at home.
It can be so easy to feel lonely at university, especially with all the lockdowns over the past two years. But the feeling won’t last forever, it is completely temporary.
My name is Katherine Dinsdale, I am a third-year broadcast journalism student at the University of Salford. I have always had an interest in writing and hope to be in the media in the future. I love to write human interest stories along with presenting my own show on the radio.
Note: 'Student Blog' articles highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.