Being Lonely: The Part of College No One Talks About

By Callista Accardi on September 22, 2014


Despite what we’ve hoped for during the first 18 years of our lives, college is not always an endless parade of fun and frivolity enjoyed over a musical montage of upbeat pop hit singles. It is, of course, a newfound freedom that many of us have only dreamed about; we can stay up as late as we want, go out whenever we want, and be whoever we want to be.

But with that freedom comes a high price, one that I was certainly not prepared to have to pay: loneliness.

People warn you that you’ll be homesick once you move away to go to school; as I was told, regardless of whether you move across the city or across the country, you’ll have at least one emotional breakdown per month caused by the sheer intensity of missing home.

But surprisingly, even for a homebody like me, homesickness wasn’t the part about going to college that got me. I had prepared for what it would feel like when I left my family behind, so when I actually left them standing in the middle of the PDX airport as I went off to find my one-way plane, I was fine.

No, the part about going to college that took me completely by surprise is how lonely it is when you actually get there.

Granted, I moved to the middle of nowhere and left all my friends and family behind on the West Coast, whereas the rest of my friends went to school at the same college or at least in the same state. Once I arrived in Lincoln and began my classes, I expected to find a group of friends that I could fall back on. Sadly, that was not what happened.

I spent the first half of my freshman year completely isolated. I knew no one, and no one knew me, so I stayed in my room and binge-watched Netflix for the first few months of what I thought was going to be a whirlwind of epic collegiate experiences. I was completely alone, and what’s more, “How I Met Your Mother” only had eight seasons available on Netflix.

So here’s what I learned during my long walks around campus and multiple-hour-long study sessions in the deserted library:

  1. There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. Being alone is when you’re studying or relaxing in a space by yourself, because you prefer it that way. Loneliness is when you don’t have any other choice.
  2. Being alone is OK. I’m a huge introvert; I like being alone, and I don’t do well in large social gatherings. I prefer to watch Netflix and drink a ridiculous amount of coffee over going out and socializing with a lot of people. If you are content being alone like me, that’s great. But being isolated and helpless to make new friends certainly wasn’t what I would have preferred.
  3. If you are lonely—alone not by choice but because you haven’t found your niche yet—that’s OK too. During the long months I spent watching Netflix, walking around campus or studying in the library, I realized that the situation I was in was not what I had envisioned for my college experience. But I also learned that it’s important to be comfortable when you are by yourself; because if you don’t like your own company, who else is going to?

But I can tell you one thing for certain: it gets better. You’ve probably heard it before, but speaking from experience, it’s true. Everyone and their mother told me that the second semester of college was a lot easier than the first, that the second semester is when you will start making friends.

I didn’t believe them. I am one of the most introverted people I know, and based on how the first half of freshman year went, there wouldn’t be any drastic changes in my one-woman social circle anytime soon.

But, like magic, it happened. I started playing volleyball again, and joined a sorority. And suddenly, by the end of the year, I had more friends than I knew what to do with.

The thing is, though, I was grateful for that first half of freshman year. Being completely isolated and cut off from others was a difficult experience, but it showed me that you shouldn’t have to depend on others to make you happy. Whether it is in friendships or relationships, you must be comfortable with yourself first before you’re comfortable with another person.

All in all, the beginning of freshman year was terrible. It was probably the hardest six months of my life, and I felt more alone than if I were to be stranded on a desert island with nothing but two coconuts to clap together.

But moving halfway across the country to find that making friends in college was not as easy as Hollywood claims it to be taught me something important: life is not composed of endless partying and dozens of close friends always by your side. And, contrary to my naïve pre-freshman belief, that’s OK.

Sometimes you will be alone, whether it is by your choice or not. It is an inevitable truth, and in order to be able to make new friends in college, you must first be content to listen to your own silence.

English Major at UNL.

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