University is meant to be one of the most exciting times of your life – learning independence, experiencing freedom and meeting interesting people who will become lifelong friends. It’s a time of many changes and if you’re not ready for them, it can lead to feelings of vulnerability and loneliness.
When you start asking yourself “why am I not happy?”, or “why I am not excited about my life right now?”, you may think there’s something wrong with you. You may start to fear what others will think of you and so you become quiet and keep to yourself. These are completely normal feelings. Not everyone is going to be happy all the time. These changes aren’t confined to first year students either. As you transition from year one to two or into your final semester or year, you may experience loneliness, too.
Hiding away can exaggerate your isolation and increase the risk of high stress and anxiety levels. We need you to act on these feelings by doing something about them.
It’s important to ‘normalise’ the feeling of being lonely. Why? Because it is normal. Talk to someone you trust, your flatmate, someone in your student accommodation, a classmate, or contact us.
Here are some practical ideas that you can implement immediately. They have the double benefit of helping you address homesickness, which is often linked to loneliness.
Sometimes loneliness is magnified because you don’t feel like you fit in anywhere. The social norms in New Zealand are likely to be different from what you are used to. Speak with AUTSA (AUT Student Association) and find out what clubs are available at AUT. Also look outside of AUT, as there are great clubs and societies in the community too.
The act of making someone else feel better can make you feel better. Plant a tree, cook for the homeless or for more ideas speak with the staff in the Employability Lab or join the Volunteer Team at AUTSA. It is also a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people.
We encourage you to find a balance between doing well in your studies and being well physically. You need to put the same effort into sleeping well and eating well as you would to study well. The opposite can lead to bad health habits, and tiredness can increase your worries.
You may find the more you are prepared, the less anxious you will be if a sudden invite to coffee, or a movie, or concert or fun activity lands in your lap. Have a study plan that has breaks or time off from study so you can have guilt-free fun and limit stress.
Start with saying “hi” to at least three people every day and extend your conversation to “how are you?” or “how are you doing with our latest assignment?”, or “how was your weekend?”. Once you start talking with others it becomes much easier. Soon you will work out which people you would like to be friends with, and you can ask them to join you for a cup of coffee/tea, or for lunch. Don’t forget to smile – you'll find that smiles will come back to you.