Loneliness is something we have all felt. We have all experienced moments where we have felt isolated, as if we were invisible to everyone around us. The transition to college is not easy; it is a terrifying experience to start over and form new relationships and routines. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. You enter an unfamiliar territory and are surrounded by people you don’t know. That is enough to scare even the bravest of us!
So, what can you do? Unfortunately, there is no “quick fix." It takes time and patience to get through the discomfort and sense of unease that comes with a large-scale transition. With that in mind, these are the things I have learned from starting over, twice, after transferring.
When I first transferred to Furman, I was overwhelmed. The idea of having to navigate my way around another campus and trying to meet new people seemed impossible. I tried to take it one day at a time, as hard as it was. Every day, I tried to challenge myself to do something new, whether it was exploring a different building, walking a different path to my apartment, or saying hi to a new face. And frankly, it was hard to muster the courage to do so.
But with each and every day, it got a little bit easier. My mom would tell me not to “eat the whole elephant in one bite.” What she meant by this was to not overwhelm myself by taking on more than I could handle. Instead, take every day as a “small bite,” like saying hi to someone new or wandering around campus to familiarize myself with different areas. Whatever you choose to do, try not to let yourself get overwhelmed with the fear of the unknown.
Take it Slow
It can feel so discouraging when you see other students making friends (seemingly) effortlessly while you’re struggling to find your place. As wonderful as Furman is, it can be a rather cliquey school due to its small and intimate nature. All students live on campus in close proximity, making it easier to see the same faces and form close connections. Not to mention the number of clubs and organizations which have exclusive membership. After transferring, it was difficult to make friends when groups were already established from the year I wasn't here. At times, I felt isolated, but eventually it got better. I joined clubs and tried not to get discouraged when things did not seem to be going well. It was by no means an easy process, and there were days when I was convinced that I would never find friends, my people. It took a long time, and a lot of attempts, but I eventually got there, and I know you will too.
Theodore Roosevelt is often attributed to the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and he was right. Most of us have probably had a moment where we felt good about ourselves and then we see someone we think is in some way “better” than us, and we lose all the confidence we had before. This is especially true when you’re new to college.
At this point in the semester, you may have a large group of friends—or, you may not have any. If the latter is the case, it can feel like you are the only one, but you’re not; you never know what is going on in the world of others. That huge group of girls laughing together as they walk to the dining hall, for instance, may not be as happy as they make it seem. Those guys you always see at the gym together may not be as close as you think. Even if they are, that closeness doesn’t negate the possibility for you to have high-quality friendships yourself. If I had to impart some advice, I would say to remind yourself that people often portray happier and more connected versions of themselves on social media and in real life. Instead of comparing yourself to what you are only assuming is true, focus on your own progress and invest time into the things and relationships that make you happy.
There is no easy way to start college, that is safe to say. Even those of us who have transferred and already experienced college in some capacity have had trouble adjusting to a new school and meeting new people. Taking small steps like these every day can make it a little easier. And so I will leave you with this: whatever happens this year, remember that you are not alone.