Counseling Services Self-Help on Loneliness
Many people describe their college years as some of the best times of their lives. Exposure to new freedoms, new experiences, new friends, and new intellectual challenges can add a sense of adventure to life and can open up a world of possibilities. It is a time for considering questions about what to do with your life, what kind of intimate relationships you want to establish, and how you will chart your future. But many students also experience a sense of social isolation and loneliness during these years that can seem overwhelming. Ironically, this seems to be more common on large campuses, such as at UT Arlington, where the typical enrollment is often over 25,000 students.
The period of adjusting to a new environment can seem daunting. Learning the layout of the campus, adjusting to college-level academic expectations, assuming more financial responsibility, leaving family and friends behind, and forming new relationships with roommates, classmates, instructors, and work colleagues is a lot to deal with all at once. And it is sometimes easy to begin to wonder "Will I fit in here? Will I ever make any friends? Am I the only one who feels anxious or overwhelmed? Am I the only one who feels lonely? Everyone else looks so busy, and popular, and happy."
The more unfamiliar the new environment is, the more challenging the adjustment can be. This can be especially challenging if you are a "first generation college student", since you may not have a support system of people to call upon who have had these experiences before. You may begin to wonder if you are the only student on campus who isn't sure how to contact a professor or how to apply for financial aid.
If you have had thoughts like this, you are not alone. Loneliness is a common experience among first-year students, for all of the reasons mentioned above. But there are some ways to help you feel more connected, more in control, and more confident about who you are and how you fit into the university environment. Try some of these ideas:
Get a mentor by signing up for the UTA HOSTS! program. New students are matched with experienced students in the same academic discipline who are interested in helping you with the transition to college.
Locate a student organization that reflects your academic major, your recreational interests, or your spiritual interests. There are over 250 student organizations at UT Arlington and most people report that it is easier to connect with others in a smaller group of people with similar interests. See Student Organizations.
Reveal something about yourself to others in casual conversation. By mentioning that you sometimes get lost on campus, you love Harry Potter, were on your high school swim team, or miss your dog like crazy, you are giving others a chance to find something in common and are inviting them into a discussion.
Start a study group with classmates. Suggest that a few of you meet for coffee to review class notes and prepare for exams. This is also a great way to share class material that you might have missed due to absence.
Be patient with yourself. Accept that it is normal to feel uncomfortable and lonely in new surroundings, and give yourself time to develop new relationships.
Understand that others are often as lonely and concerned about finding their place as you are. Even though they may appear to be confident and unconcerned, remember that loneliness is a common experience in new surroundings.
Stay connected with friends and family from home to keep your spirits up as you engage in new relationships.
Be yourself Understand that it isn't necessary to be like everyone else to fit in. UT Arlington is an institution that values diversity and the unique contributions that we all bring to this campus.
Use available resources when you need them. UT Arlington has provided these resources because we care about your well-being. Getting clarification on assignments from your professor, working with a tutor, consulting your RA about roommate issues, or going to the health center when you are not feeling well will help reduce your anxiety and help you feel more confident and in control.
Engage in healthy activities such as working out at the MAC, making healthy food choices, and getting a good night's sleep. Avoid smoking, over-indulgence in alcohol, and abusing drugs, including prescription drugs.
Seek counseling if you feel overwhelmed, feel urges to harm yourself or others, or just need to talk to someone in a safe and confidential environment. There are several resources on campus for UT Arlington students. Counseling Services (817-272-3671), offers individual and group counseling, as well as informative seminars on a variety of topics. Mental Health Services (817-272-2771) offers confidential assessment, counseling, and referral services.