Feeling… lonely? Top tips.
As the end of my time in Australia approaches, it is appropriate to say that I have been experiencing a mix of emotions. I’m excited to go back home! See what has changed. See what is the same. Equally though, I will genuinely miss Australia. It has in many ways become a big part of my “maturing as a person”. I accept that to an outside reader this may sound incredibly cliche, but just trust me. I’m sure my family are looking forward to me completing all of the house chores…
The big time difference between Australia and the UK has made it difficult to keep in contact with home. This has, however, meant that the people I meet here are the ones who I rely upon without even realising. Whether it is to talk to them about my studies, or a deeper conversation, I am grateful to have so many people around. So why would any study abroad student even experience loneliness?
Behind those exciting stories, you hear about the life-changing experience of being so far away for a long period of time, is a word that you won’t hear, yet is probably part of everybody’s story. Lonely. The reality is that it doesn’t matter how many Facebook or Snapchat friends you accumulate. How much travelling you do. The variety of foods you try. It is inevitable that you will at some point experience that feeling of emptiness as if something is missing but you can’t pinpoint exactly what.
Being forced out of my regular routine, away from my family, away from my hometown, miles away from my main interest: British politics I am a Politics student…, has led to some very real feelings of loneliness. Sure, I am really grateful to have many incredibly friendly people around me. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, I just feel completely out of place. Ironically, that is usually during the moments where I want to be alone. Sometimes, my brain will tell me that it is time to have some downtime by myself, yet seeing everybody else carry on with their groups makes me feel like I am missing out. In a sense, it is like I want to be here and there at the same time. Hypocritical I know, but when everybody tells you to make the most of every single day, every moment, in fact, makes me question why I feel the need to just sit in my room and binge watch Netflix for a change.
Whilst I have shared my best attempt at explaining what loneliness actually means for me, I want to stress that everybody will experience something different and that’s okay.
Here are some tips which may help you if you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel alone in a group of many.
1. Remember that you are not alone.
This really does deserve to be a top tip. It is so so easy to forget that this is an emotion that everybody around you is probably either facing or at least at some point has during their study abroad period. Don’t compare yourself to the people around you, but do remember that they will understand. Let others know what you are feeling, and I promise there won’t be any judgement involved.
2. Create your own support network.
Keep in touch with your family and friends back home, sure. They will love to hear what you are doing. However, one of the biggest challenges I faced in studying abroad was creating my own support network. Finding the people I feel comfortable enough with to trust with absolutely anything. Try to find a mixture of other international students and domestic ones. It has been incredibly lovely having a group of Australian friends who have shown me around the country and helped me really get a feel of it from a ‘locals’ perspective.
Equally though, your international friends will be experiencing similar things to you and will probably want to explore more of the city, so it is completely okay to spend time with them too. Something that I struggled with at first is knowing what balance of Australian: International friends I want. I concluded that even just giving it thought is unnecessary, and at the end of the day, I am going to be friends with the people who I feel most connected to, wherever they are from.
Particularly at Monash University, there are so many events that you will be able to find something to do easily. Last week I attended a comedy show which was a nice change of scene, and this week there is a cultural festival taking place. There are other things you can do too. Go for a walk around the campus, meet up with people in the many social places on campus. Keep yourself occupied as much as you feel comfortable doing.
This is likely to be the first thing you hear if you ever ask somebody for tips on how to tackle loneliness. Which is why I have placed it towards the bottom, whilst it is really important, it is easy to forget that there is so much you can do at the university you are studying in itself!
Nevertheless, this is a really important tip because it will help you explore new things and ultimately adjust faster. Exploring is the best way to make a city your home, and finding things to do will also keep you productive and occupied. Things like the Urban List and the Lonely Planet Guide are good starting points, though there is absolutely nothing wrong with just getting out and being completely spontaneous!
5. Embrace it. It’s okay to be alone sometimes too!
Contradictory to the above two points, remember that it is okay. Acknowledge what you are feeling and give yourself time to identify why you are experiencing these emotions. Not every day will be a stereotypical day abroad. And anyway, who says that watching Netflix all day isn’t cool?
Shanita 🙂 xo