Feeling lonely while studying abroad? Here’s how to cope

how to beat loneliness
Leaving home to study abroad can leave you feeling alone and homesick. Source: Spencer Platt / AFP

If you’ve ever been an international student, you’ve most likely asked how to beat loneliness.

Far away from home and our parents, studying abroad can bring about many new and exciting experiences. The first state of living life on your own is sweet — until it’s not.

Being away from our family and friends is not as easy as it sounds. Settling into a new country comes with a set of culture shocks that can be unpleasant. 

Many feel they don’t fit in. Whether it’s how we speak, eat, move, or relate, everything we do seems to stick out sorely.

Pair this feeling with the stress and rigours of university life, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. 

Based on a study done by the University of Minnesota, 60% of students experienced feelings of loneliness and stress during their time studying abroad. 

Universities can play a big part in reducing these feelings in international students. This includes providing support to new students by assigning a mentor or buddy to help them settle in. 

While universities can do their part, it is also up to the students to make an effort to step out of their comfort zone and learn how to beat loneliness.

how to beat loneliness

Joining clubs is a great way to meet others with similar interests as you. Source: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP

How to beat loneliness: 5 tried-and-tested ways to try

Staying on campus 

Learning how to beat loneliness is a lot more fun when you’re doing it with others in the same boat as you. 

By staying on campus, you can do this.

Instead of living with strangers, dorms and halls are places where you can find people going through the same things as you are

Here, you will be able to meet students from many different cultures and backgrounds. This is also a great way to connect with students from the same country as you. 

Many universities even organise socialising events during orientation week to help students meet new people.

You’ll be able to bond with people over movie nights, game nights, trivia, field trips, and arts & crafts sessions. 

Once you’ve settled in, you can always move to an off-campus accommodation in your second year.

Join clubs and organisations 

The best way to overcome loneliness is to find like-minded souls. And the easiest way to do this is is to join clubs on campus. 

You’ll not only meet new people but even learn new skills.

And if you still can’t find one that suits you, you can always start your own club based on your hobby. 

We recommend volunteering too as what better way to feel better than to help those in need, like the elderly or the homeless who often suffer from lack of connection.

Knowing the effects of being lonely first-hand, you’ll know what it’s like to be in their shoes and offer the right type of comfort.

Get a job on campus 

Although balancing work and school can be difficult, jobs are a terrific way to meet people and get a feel of campus life.

There are many opportunities for jobs on campus, such as working in the student centre, the library, or the admissions office.

All these offer a chance to socialise with new people, as you will connect with other students working part-time.

The best part is you will be expanding your social circle while earning some extra pocket money.

how to beat loneliness

Participating in class can help you to make friends in your course. Source: Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP

Get active in class

While many may not consider the classroom the most conducive place to socialise, tutorials and workshops are great spaces to spot people who vibe with you. 

Make the effort to participate in classroom discussions and get to know your coursemates.

This will not only help you feel less lonely, but you will also be able to form study groups and get help for assignments

If you feel shy, know that others are likely just as nervous as you are.

Stay connected with family and friends

If you’re figuring out how to beat loneliness, going to the source of that loneliness — i.e. the absence of friends and family — may seem counterproductive.

Won’t seeing them so far away and moving on with their lives make you miss them more? 

While nothing beats going out and connecting with real people, phoning home can help temporarily while you learn how to beat loneliness in ways that work for you.

Plus, your parents and grandparents always love to hear from you. Do it for them and you might even feel better yourself.