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Health Center: Battling Loneliness in a College Setting
The beginning of the school year is often filled with excitement, challenges, and new experiences. Classes begin and routines are established, and before you know it, it’s Thanksgiving and you haven’t done anything but eat, sleep, and study. While studying is a key to having a successful academic career, one needs to be mindful of maintaining a balance between classes and having a fulfilling personal life. Freshmen, non-traditional, international and graduate students may find it especially difficult to preserve the balance between school and socialization, often finding themselves isolated and feeling alone. It often seems like a contradiction that one can be surrounded by people and feel lonely; unfortunately it is all too true, and all too common that one can feel lonely when in a crowd.
Loneliness is common in a university setting for many reasons including:
Being away from friends and family, and can miss them
“Starting from scratch” and making new friends after being away from a school setting for some time
- Having high expectations that college is the place where you will make friends for life, or are feeling disappointed in the number of people you have initially met
- Being anxious about work and feel in conflict about spending time on social activities
That being said, how does one prevent isolation and feelings of loneliness?
Remember that loneliness is common, almost everyone feels it at some point in their lives, and it is something that can be changed. Think of ways to change your situation. This may involve finding a new circle of friends or activities, and it may also mean finding ways of learning to enjoy your time alone, and using it more constructively and pleasurably.
Do not wait for other people to visit or speak to you. Try to initiate conversations of meetings with the people you sit next to in class, or the people who live close to you.
Try to put yourself in new situations where you will meet people with similar interests, or look for ways to include others in your daily activities, such as eating with others, sitting with new people in class, or finding a study or exercise partner.
Make use of campus resources. Find out about organizations and activities on or around campus such as part-time jobs, clubs, or churches.
Do not deprive yourself of things you would like to do just because you don’t have someone to do them with. It may seem awkward at first, but go for a walk, to a concert, or to a movie alone.
Try not to be critical of your efforts. Friendships take time to develop, and do not disparage friendships in the belief that only romantic relationships will relieve your loneliness.
If you find you are struggling with loneliness and need help developing ways to cope, individual counseling services are available at the University Health Center. Call 503-943-7134 for an appointment.