Managing loneliness as an international student

Credit to Author: Geneviève Beaupré and Susan Qadeer| Date: Mon, 06 Feb 2023 23:33:40 +0000

Whether you have two friends, twenty friends or no friends, you may or may not feel lonely. If you do feel alone or isolated, in other words if you don’t have adequate social support or have too few meaningful relationships, you may want to take steps to change it. Post-secondary students, especially first-year students may struggle to find friends, feel homesick and unsure of their ability to initiate new relationships. The nature of a new life chapter almost makes the experience of loneliness inevitable. And, this phenomenon is not only true for new students; it can apply to any newcomer to this country.

What to expect

Schools and departments have orientation sessions for new students to encourage social interactions. Some are virtual and others in person. Given the choice, you may want to attend in person so you can meet face to face with others. Remember, that this is an excellent opportunity to meet new people and help find support to manage the challenges of being a student. Living alone or studying exclusively online may make this social adjustment more difficult. While it is important to invest some time in making friends, maintain a balance between having a social network and making sure you have enough time and energy for your school, work and family obligations.


Open to making friends?  Start by putting yourself in a position where you are available and seen. It could be frequenting the same coffee house or gym, and sitting in class or cafeteria often. One thing is for sure, you will usually not be discovered sitting alone in your room!

Join organized school activities, volunteer for class or school positions. Even if attending one or two events helps you meet people, that is a success. You may have to take that initial step by starting conversations with someone you recognize or happens to be next to you in line. You could invite someone from your class to join you for lunch, coffee or a walk. You could join clubs or events that you have an interest in, particularly those that result in some interaction with others such as a sports club, debating, political, environmental groups or charity work. These opportunities you may very well increase your acquaintances and eventually help you find meaningful friendships.

Post-secondary studies are not just a time for education and career preparation. It is also the time for personal growth, meeting new people, and expanding your circle of friends and contacts. Being open to others who may be different from you may help you develop your tolerance and appreciation for differences, clearly an asset in a multicultural environment like Canada. Post-secondary school is one place where there is so much diversity under one roof.

Enjoy your own company

Despite your best efforts, you may have difficulty connecting with others. Plus, the ups and downs of friendships can’t be predicted. Plus, attempting to alleviate feeling lonely by being in constant company that you find boring, upsetting or time wasting is also not a good feeling. It can actually be lonelier spending your time with people who don’t share any of your interests or values.

There are some things you can do to enjoy your own company. Take stock of what you like to do and find important. This could include maintaining your physical and mental health through exercise, exploring new places, catching up on your favorite authors, making things or staying up to date with world events. Besides, if you are doing things you like to do, you are more apt to meet others who like that too.

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