“I’m very lonely. I didn’t think university would be like this because I have so many friends at home, but coming here has been so weird because I genuinely cannot make friends. I don’t know how to approach people, much less talk to them. All I do is just sit in my room and pray that the time to go back home comes quick. I don’t know what happens, but I just instantly close up and get so nervous when talking to people and that’s contrary to how I am. I love going out and partying, but I just don’t know what I can do to make friends and do it here as well. I can’t feel so pathetic all the time, it’s unbearable.”
I remember coming to university with ambitious expectations for the friendships I would make, like they would be fresh off a pinterest board: group sunset pictures at Arthur’s seat, nightlife at Cowgate and study dates at coffee shops. The day I arrived in halls, it set in that I knew no one, not to have dinner with, not for a night-out. It was the loneliest I had ever felt in my life. I was so willing to do anything and everything to have the best time of my life but there was no way to make a start. I felt stunted in my potential, very early on.
I understand that you are feeling alone and lost right now. As someone who is naturally used to being an extrovert, a lack of regular connection with people can leave you feeling insecure with who you are as a person. I am so sorry you are feeling this way, it can be so isolating. A large reason why pursuing people for their friendship at university is anxiety-inducing is because everyone’s on a unique path. As a final year, I periodically feel a familiar loneliness that I am taking up space, when meeting someone new. In school and early friendships, our bonds form out of shared routines, our worlds controlled for the externalities which come with university life.
Most people at university are trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of their life, that is of course going to differ from person to person, so the security of a ‘team spirit’ vanishes. And I think you miss it. We are never taught social skills which is why it is so understandable to feel lost in pursuit. Adult friendship is probably something you’ll be unravelling throughout your life. Sounds lonely but is exciting. You can filter through people, learning so much about your needs. However, running to the familiarity of the past (your home life) is not going to let you explore the abundance of the future. Your life at home with the people you love is so special, its arms outstretched, prepared to catch you when you fall but it can’t hold your hand and steer you.
My advice to you is to find a starting point, a small step or a big leap, there is no right or wrong way/time/place to make friends. I don’t know you but it is easy to tell you value old friendships, so let them ground you and I think we both know that you see in yourself the potential to have fun with new friendships. Joining a society like this paper helped me form my closest friendships at university. When it comes to practical things, joining a society, volunteering, knocking on your neighbour’s door, Bumble for friends, community events are all on the cards for you!
Cultivating confidence is not linear, but there are certainly things that help. Initiate conversation, send the first text, go to an event you’re interested in alone, even if it is terrifying! Take the time to reflect on these connections as you go, all your fears and insecurities, write them down, it will make you feel a lot more at ease with yourself and understand what it is that you are looking for. Ease yourself in, people can oftentimes surprise you but most importantly you will surprise yourself. There is absolutely no shame in actively and intentionally pursuing people for their friendships, because most of the time, they appreciate a genuine connection more than you think.