Content Note: Discussion of loneliness/homesickness
Starting university and moving away from home can be such an exciting experience, and perhaps for some, a moment that they have been looking forward to for a long time. Alongside the positive experiences of meeting lots of new people and having the chance to become more independent, entering a new environment whilst living alone may be a daunting thought. As freeing as it may feel, there is something very nerve-wracking about suddenly losing that physical contact with people (and pets!) who you have spent valuable time with.
Many people will start their time at Cambridge without knowing anyone else here. Some will find it more difficult to talk to strangers than others. You might feel that there is a sense of urgency to form a friendship group in the first few weeks of term and feel even more overwhelmed if you haven’t been able to do this. This is when you can start to feel lonely – when you feel as though you have no one to reach out to. I want to remind and reassure you that this is not the case. Trust me, there are so many other people who feel the same way as you, and there will always be someone to support you. You are not alone.
There is no universal solution to loneliness, and everyone will experience different things, but here are some of my tips to help you overcome this:
1) Let yourself feel your emotions
One challenging aspect of loneliness is the difficulty of admitting it, but an important thing to remember is that all of these emotions are completely normal. Feeling anxious and lonely is a common part of the whole process of moving out and starting a new chapter of your life. Rather than blaming yourself for feeling this way, tell yourself “I am allowed to experience all of these emotions.” Even as a person who values alone-time, I definitely experienced homesickness and loneliness when I first started university, and I didn’t beat myself up for it. Perhaps releasing your thoughts into a diary or speaking to someone you trust can take you a step closer to acceptance, and also help you process the different ways of addressing them.
2) Give yourself a break – socialise!
In a new environment, it is very easy to spend all day in your room without being able to interact with anyone. If you do find yourself trapped in your room for a while, try and take that brave step to go outside and speak to others. Amidst the homesickness or the high amounts of workload you may be tackling, just taking a small break and socialising with friendly faces is such a refreshing moment. You might want to have a catch-up with some of your neighbours, or even speak to someone new. No matter how small the interactions may be, that spark of courage can open up so many new doors, and at the end of the day, there is nothing to lose!
3) More socialising – societies edition!
Another way to reach out to more social connections is by making the most out of the many societies and communities offered to you at Cambridge. There is such a wide range of opportunities here, and I honestly think that there is something for everyone. You may end up finding yourself a new hobby, so give lots of things a try, however niche it may be! Having different communities which you can be part of other than your college and course means meeting even more people with similar interests as you. This also means that you will have more people to reach out to, if you do ever need that support. Although many societies may currently be running their sessions remotely, this is still a valuable connection for you to make the most out of!
4) Stay connected with loved ones at home
My last important tip is to keep in regular contact with your friends and family from home. That spontaneous phone call or scheduled facetime can really make a difference by reminding you of this lovely connection. We all know that feeling of reassurance when you speak to those who know you really well and can listen to what you have to say. If you’re into room decor like me, you can decorate your room with photos of your friends and family, or with things that relate to meaningful memories. Small things like this can remind you that you always have someone who you can rely on, and you are not alone.
Overcoming loneliness is not an easy experience for everyone, but I really hope that you will eventually be able to do so, and most importantly, enjoy your precious time at Cambridge! Once I passed this hurdle, I realised that starting in a new environment can help you find out new things about yourself and can be such a significant part of your life – I hope you experience the same.
Stay safe and stay happy x