Moving to a new city when starting college is something which is quite common now. For most youngsters, this marks the first experience of staying away from home. After several years in the comfort of home surrounded by one’s family, the change definitely feels huge at least for the first few months. The change is felt stronger if the new city is in a different geography where culture and language are different.
Statistics indicate that more than half of the students in their first year who are out of home, experience loneliness or depression. The feeling of loneliness is quite commonly felt as the usual support groups that one is used to, are no longer within easy reach (family, local friends and other support networks/activities). The same happened with me.
I remember calling home in the first week to tell my parents that everyone around me seemed to converse in local languages and that I felt extremely left out.
Also, at the college campus, diversity and competitiveness are higher. One can feel like a fish out of the water and might feel that others seem to be sailing along fine, thus wondering even more if there is anyone like them at all in this new setting.
How do you adjust better?
According to psychologists, one of the first steps that help in adjusting to a new environment is to search and find activities in the new campus which interest you and allow you to meet and interact with more people. If you enjoy writing, walk up to the communications and journalism department or find someone in charge of the college newspaper and volunteer to do an article. Sign up for sports, music or other activities that will keep you engaged and will also open up avenues to meet and interact with more peers.
Research indicates that for first-year students, involvement in extracurricular activities can lead to a decrease in loneliness.
In the classroom, even if others are speaking and engaging in conversations in a different language, look for a friendly face, begin with a smile and focus your effort on trying to strike up a conversation.
I remember the first time I spoke a sentence in Hindi, which was never a language used in my hometown, some people burst out laughing, but others helped me, corrected me and encouraged me to talk more. With time, I found myself fitting in and today I can recall those years as some of the best in my life till date.
Don’t try to minimise or deny the feeling of loneliness you have. Acknowledge it and move ahead, focussing on what is making you feel less open to overcoming this. Everyone may not feel the same comfort level in sharing the new events with a family member or a friend back home and in some cases, one may not find time to talk and share with people around them due to their busy schedule. In such a situation, write it down, think about it and overcome it one step at a time.
You will be surprised to find as you meet more folks that even the noisiest fresher you encountered did feel lonely at some point. With time, you will form beautiful friendships that will last a lifetime.