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Is it normal to have no friends at university?

At university, you’re supposed to make lifelong friends. But many young Australians are struggling to make those connections.

Walking through campus, you’ll find students sitting huddled together at tables, chatting away while blowing steam from their food. Others walk side by side to their next lectures, coffee cups in hand. University friendships are nothing out of the ordinary, but are often not that easy to make. This leaves many students alone and left to wonder, is it normal not to have uni friends?

Student loneliness and isolation is common once students graduate from high school. A study by Iranian health researchers found that the jump from secondary school to higher education can lead to feelings of loneliness and difficulty adjusting to creating new friendships.

“This is a very common experience, especially for graduates fresh from high school as they have their own pre-established friends,” Edward Kwong tells upstart.

The fourth year Bachelor of Occupational Therapy student says making friends at uni is easy as he tries to make himself “look approachable until someone more extroverted takes pity”. But maintaining the friendships outside of classes can be difficult.

“After the 12 weeks, and a new semester begins, it often feels difficult to reconnect with these peers as you may not have aligning timetables or be in the same classes,” he says.

For some, however, the isolation is intentional. Media and Communications student Kayla Liwanag’s experience is very different because for her, having no uni friends is completely normal. The self-proclaimed introvert says she doesn’t feel the need to spend time with others outside of classes.

“I love talking to people and making friends, but…when it comes to uni, I’d rather just stick to myself,” she tells upstart.

Her description of an average university day is best described as succinct. “I’ll wake up, go to class, do the class, go home. That’s actually it,” she says. Liwanag attends one face-to-face class a week and for the rest, opts for online classes. “I don’t like to come in. I feel like it’s just easier for me. I’d prefer to be at home and do it.”

The Young Australian Loneliness Survey shows having less contact with friends and family is one of the leading factors of loneliness for those aged 18 to 25. According to Michelle Lim, CEO and Scientific Chair of Ending Loneliness Together, loneliness “can be difficult to recognise” in some students.

“People who are lonely are more likely to withdraw from others and not fully engage in activities in order to protect themselves from being rejected by others,” she tells upstart. “This occurs unconsciously even though they want to connect with others.”

While it’s important to gain the most from your degree, it’s easy to neglect the so-called ‘uni experience’. After all, if many young-adult films are to be believed, university is the place you’re supposed to meet new people and make lifelong friends. Lim says that trying new social clubs can help foster new forever friendships.

“It’s critical for our wellbeing to connect with people more generally. Even if you do not manage to find like-minded peers at university,” she says.

University clubs are one place for people to connect and find others who share the same interests. President of the La Trobe Cinema Club JD says the film screenings, and the breaks between them, naturally bring people together.

“We’re very much just come watch a movie, have a good time,” he tells upstart. “We do try to kind of foster that kind of community by the pizzas, and there are breaks between the first and second movie, and we notice people chatting and having a good time.”

“They just want to watch a film and eat pizza. It’s like a little introvert’s nest in there.”

But in the non-committal club, you can be as social or as unsocial as you want. To JD, it’s just about having a good time.

“It’s completely normal to not have uni friends,” he says.

While it may be normal for some, trying new experiences can help students figure out what’s socially best for them. Michelle Lim encourages students who are unsure about taking the first step to give it a go.

“Don’t be afraid to try new social experiences. It’s likely that people are just as equally nervous about these experiences as you are.”


Article: Isabella O’Brien is third year Bachelor of Media and Communications student, studying journalism and media industries. You can follow her on Twitter @BellaMaeOBrien.

Photo: by Keira Burton is available HERE and used under a Creative Commons license. This photo has not been modified.

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