Being alone at uni doesn't have to mean being lonely

March 04, 2016
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Stroll around campus on any given day and what do you see? Some people chatting in small groups, others hanging out in pairs, and a number of people on their own. That’s right, alone.

If you’ve been at uni for a while, you know it’s no big deal to see people hanging by themselves on campus. There are loads of reasons you might find yourself alone: maybe all your friends are holed up in the library trying to finish some last-minute readings; maybe you’re the only one with an early morning lecture; maybe you haven’t made any friends – yet.

But for first-years, it can be pretty damn confronting. It’s one of the big differences between school and uni. At school, you’d rather die than eat lunch or walk to class on your own. At uni, there’ll be many moments when you’re flying solo.

Grasping that it’s OK to be alone on campus can be immensely freeing, if a little daunting. It’s going to take some adjusting after all those years of believing that being alone is synonymous with having no friends. Here’s how to embrace the transition and lose those fears about being on your own.

Walk with confidence

There will be many times when you have to get somewhere on campus by yourself. So here’s our advice: walk with confidence to your destination. Look purposeful; don’t slink along, all sheepish and timid. Who’s to know whether you’re Nigel No Friends or simply confident in your own company? Fake it till you make it, we say.

Look busy

If you find yourself waiting outside a lecture theatre all alone, this one’s an oldie but a goodie: pull out your phone and look busy. Checking your messages or Facebook updates will help you feel less self-conscious. It’ll also remind you that you do have friends out there.

The same goes for eating lunch on your own. Bring an engrossing book to read and pretty soon you’ll forget you’re eating solo.

Find picturesque spots

As you make your way around campus, keep an eye out for picturesque spots that you can return to when you find yourself on your own. Eating your sandwich in a pleasant little nook will make it something to look forward to.

Perhaps your campus is scarce on fancy quadrangles and shady green spots. Look out for cosy corners in cafes, or benches where you can sit in air-conditioned comfort instead. It’s about finding a place where you can feel comfy.

Enjoy those solo bathroom visits

Maybe it’s a girl thing, but I was so relieved to find that at uni it’s considered perfectly normal to go to the bathroom by yourself. This eliminates all kinds of awkwardness associated with high school, where we only ever went to the toilet with a little gaggle of friends in tow.

Gone are the days of trying to pee really, really quietly so your friends won’t hear. Now you can go in comfort, assured that the person in the next stall is most likely a stranger. Savour your solo bathroom visits on campus. You can take as long as you need.

Choose when to be alone and when to socialise

Don’t worry, we’re not saying that you’ll be totally alone from now on. Uni really is a great place to meet people, and hopefully you’ll be doing your fair share of socialising in the coming months. It’s just that now you actually have a choice about whether to hang out with others or by yourself, because you know you’ll be OK either way.

And one day you might even find yourself looking forward to that gap between tutes when you can drink your coffee in peace, alone in a sunny spot on campus. And that’s when you’ll know that you’ve finally made it. You’re all grown up now. 

Melinda Cooper

Melinda loves reading on rainy days, drinking cups of tea and making things. She is doing a PhD in English at the University of Sydney. 

Image: Justine ReyesFlickr Creative Commons license

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