For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Nov 07 2017
by Neeti Joshi

The Difference Between Being Lonely and Being Alone in College

By Neeti Joshi - Nov 07 2017

How does it sound to eat every meal alone? Study for every test alone? Go to parties alone? Experience college alone? It might sound miserable, but it also might sound liberating, at least in the beginning.

Making friends in such a big place might not be easy to do in the first place. As a result, you may find yourself doing most things on your own, but that’s not such a bad thing. Getting to experience things and go on journeys by yourself takes off all the pressure of trying to impress other people. It’s also nice to get alone time to self-reflect and discover who you are and how you fit in when first entering college.

Sometimes I look around and see everyone with their respective friend groups and become a little envious. I can’t help but wish I could find someone that I connected with. But putting myself out there can be a little scary. As a result, I tend to stay away.

It sounds nice to have someone always a couple minutes away whenever you need them. It sounds nice to be able to have a deep conversation with someone. But it sounds less nice to force yourself to do that with someone that you don’t have any sort of connection with.

At the same time, it also sounds nice to do whatever you want and go wherever you want without consulting anyone else. You can live on your own schedule and focus on yourself and what you want, without feeling pressured to bring someone else into the equation especially if you’re an introvert, like me. College is really the only opportunity you’ll ever get to do that, so you might as well take advantage of it during your first year.

At first, I didn’t take my own advice. Before middle school and high school, I would always start out the school year worried that I wouldn’t make friends. But as the year progressed, I would always find myself making friends naturally. I never needed to force it like I thought I would. After six years of this, I stopped worrying about it, because as always, I figured it would happen naturally. I decided that I wouldn’t stress myself out about making friends in college because that stress had always ended up being unnecessary in the past. I decided that, as always, I would just let it happen naturally. 

What I failed to consider, however, was that it was different this time. I was no longer in middle school or high school. I was no longer in my hometown, surrounded by familiar faces. I was halfway across the country, in a place where I knew absolutely no one. On top of that, I was in a place that was 15 times bigger than my high school, where I probably wouldn’t see the same people over and over again in my classes.

I forgot that college is very different from any experience I’ve had in the past. As a result, making friends in college would be very different from any experience I’ve had in the past. It didn’t really hit me until classes started, and I found myself not being naturally drawn to anybody. After a couple weeks of this, my panic began to set in, and I convinced myself that I would never make friends while in college, that I would be alone forever.

Then, I took a step back and realized that maybe it’s not just the new school or the new environment’s fault. Maybe it’s also because of me and my desire to spend my time alone. Maybe I wasn’t finding myself naturally drawn to people because I didn’t want to be.

I had always been the kind of person who never approaches people – all of my friends in the past had been people who approached me first, which doesn’t really work in college. I soon understood that deep down, this was what I wanted. I even found myself feeling a bit guilty about that fact, but then I came to the realization that I shouldn’t be apologizing for who I am or what I want.

While my mom and family members continue to ask me about my friends and who I’m hanging out with here, I continue to tell them that I’m doing just fine. Because, really, I am. Sometimes I feel like I may even be letting my mom down by not doing something she wants for me, but I know that I’m doing what’s best for me, at least for right now.

As I said, it isn't easy to make new friends when you first get to a new college, but on some level you may not want to, at least not right away. You might want to explore your newfound independence and take advantage of the freedom you have to figure out what you like and don't like about your college, without always having another person doing it with you, and sometimes even distracting you from being as authentic as you can.

This is definitely the case with me — I think I've been unconsciously finding ways to avoid hanging out with people because I want this time for myself. I want to be able to live life on my own schedule, at least for a bit, before bringing other people into the equation and having to consider them as well.

Sometimes I'll see people who have already formed tight-knit groups of friends and it might make me a little nostalgic and remind me of my high school friends. Ultimately, though, I just haven't really found anyone yet who's worth sharing my time with, so I prefer being alone over being with others because I need these first few months to figure out what I want for myself, by myself. I’m okay with eating alone, doing homework alone, going to new places alone and exploring my new life alone. I’m not worried about making friends yet, because really, I'm not lonely yet. I'm enjoying myself.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Neeti Joshi - New York University

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