How to deal with loneliness on your study abroad year
Your study abroad year is a time for making new friends, learning new things and evolving as an individual. Moving away from everyone and everything can be daunting, but also brilliant too; and remember, there’s not a lot of people who can do it. However, often it can be quite lonely – after all, you’re moving across the globe, so you’re bound to feel lonely or homesick at some point. The majority of students experience loneliness at some point in their uni life. This is an issue that no one wants to admit to themselves; however, it is very real and not talked about enough. Luckily, there are ways to combat this.
This is probably the most important factor in ensuring loneliness doesn’t consume your time abroad. Staying in contact with family (who may also be on their own year abroad), friends, significant others, from home can be helpful in staying grounded. Hearing about the everyday, mundane and familiar happenings back at home can really help in making the change as easy as possible.
Make connections with other students and keep those connections, you never know when you may need a friend. This may be someone you met in orientation week, a neighbour, or someone in your study group. Try to make a point of making a connection with at least one person every day, even if it is the barista in your local coffee shop. Speaking to someone new every day can boost your mood and make you feel more settled in an unfamiliar environment.
Search for a club or society to join at your university or in your local area. There will most likely be something happening every day, and once you join, you will have something to go to and look forward to regularly. Also, take advantage of the surrounding countries and cities that you’re near and plan a trip, or meet a friend from home who’s in another country. This is a great way to feel connected to your friends at home while also experiencing a new place.
This is key, even if it may be the last thing you want to do. When you feel lonely and down you’d rather curl up in your duvet binging Netflix, but don’t, as this will just make you feel worse. You have to force yourself to do more activities and when someone invites you to something, say yes. Just doing something else other than wallowing in self-pity is guaranteed to make you feel happier whether that’s going for a walk, getting a coffee, or going to the gym. These small things will take your mind off the fact that you’re far away from home.
Put yourself out there
Instead of waiting for an invite from a friend to hang out, make the first move; chances are they’re feeling just the same as you. A friendly message can make a world of difference to someone’s day, and yours too. It can be scary to take the leap, but the worst-case scenario is they will be busy and re-schedule or invite you to something another time.
Setting a goal every day will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Talking to a new classmate or exploring a new place will give you a sense of achievement, even if it’s only small. These small goals will add up though, and as irrelevant as you think they may be at the start, by the end of the week you can list all the things you managed to do.
Being comfortable on your own isn’t sad, it’s important for your independent growth and self-reliance. There will be lots of times where you will be surrounded by friends having a great time, but there will also be a few occasions where you will be on your own, and that is okay.