‘I didn’t talk to anyone’: Notts students on how they got over first year loneliness

It’s hard.

We are told that university will be the ‘most exciting time of our lives’, but for many students it can be a difficult period of adaptation.

A global report by Sodexo in 2017 found that 46 per cent of UK students admit to feeling lonely at university.

To find out more about the subject, The Nottingham Tab spoke to students about their first year experiences with loneliness:

“[Being 17] I couldn’t even go clubbing”

As an international student, Sana found it particularly hard to adapt to her new lifestyle in Nottingham. Unlike most university students, she began university at the age of 17 after finishing school in her home country, Jordan. This prevented her from attending many of the club nights during freshers week—making it even harder to socialise with her new friends.

Sana told the Nottingham Tab: “I’m an extremely shy person which made it very hard for me to make friends. I felt lonely at the start, what helped me most was going to as many events as I could even if I couldn’t go clubbing.”

She has since been elected as events coordinator for her hall, which has enabled her to get to know the people living with her. Sanas advice for future freshers is to “step out of your comfort zone even if this seems hard.”

“I didn’t talk to anyone in my accommodation”

Some university students just don’t get along with university life straight away and this was exactly what happened to Nina. Describing how she didn’t enjoy her first term at university, Nina said: “I didn’t talk with anyone in my accommodation and I couldn’t find a society that interested me.” This left her feeling alone.

Her feelings of loneliness persisted into the second semester but, after gaining a 2.1 in her first exam, she found herself gaining “some sort of motivation” as she realised that she was a capable student. Then, she “came out of her shell” and this enabled her to meet new people. She has since become more friendly with students on her course and has been enjoying her first year more.

“I wondered whether I ever would find a group of truly like minded individuals”

On coming to Notts, Tom was able to release himself into a new wave of opportunity and live independently without being under the watchful eyes of his parents. During Freshers’ Week, he became friends with a group in his hall, however, half way through his first term, he slowly became “isolated from certain activities” and he split from the group. “Coming to the end of first term I wondered whether I would ever find a group of truly like minded individuals,” he said, noting that he was left feeling disheartened.

In the second term, he found someone with common interests and they invited him to a society event. He hasn’t looked back since.

“My only regret is that I didn’t join the society in Freshers’ Week.”

“Friends pressured me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with

One of the most demanding experiences of university is the challenge to get Freshers’ right. Sam* eagerly awaited his first year—the moment he could finally experience independence. But the reality of it was not what he expected.

“Drink your body weight in alcohol? +5 points, choose not to go on a night out? -1 point,” Sam recited, reflecting upon his less than perfect first week.

Although Freshers’ was not what Sam expected, he still found other ways to enjoy his first year. He believes that not conforming “to an industrial image, in which you are expected to throw away sensibility,” doesn’t mean you should have to feel lonely; you’ve just got to find different people.

“One of the consequences of getting first year ‘right’ is that you can often make friends with the wrong people in Freshers’ Week,” Sam said. “And don’t feel pressured to do something you are not comfortable with.”

“Living without any friends from uni made it hard”

Moving to university is hard for any student, but, for Archie, living in private accommodation made this particularly difficult. He describes how exams were an exceptionally lonely time for him. “Living without any friends from uni made it harder to revise as there was no one to test me on what I had learnt,” he said.

He says that “meeting up with my course mates and doing group study sessions is what motivated me. Since making more friends on my course I have felt less lonely and enjoyed my first year more.”

Feelings of loneliness at university are very common, especially in first year. Students who feel lonely are able to reach out and use multiple university resources, including their personal tutor or the university counselling service. Students can also join new societies via the Students’ Union and Facebook groups, such as communi-tea—‘a student led initiative for students of UoN to meet new people without the formality of an official sport or society’.

*Name changed to protect the anonymity of the student.