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Real friends, isolation at uni

Last year I made friends in unexpected places. I was introduced to and starting hanging out with a group with similar interests. They accepted me into their group, liked me for who I was and were overwhelmingly kind to me. We crack jokes about my weird obscure interests and the things I'm normally embarassed and insecure about. More importantly, we all had so much in common and just clicked like it was nothing. None of my shyness or anxiety got in the way of that.

 

Thing is, my new friends make all of my friends and relationships at uni look hollow and meaningless in comparison. I've met plenty of people through classes, extracurricular activities and volunteer work. My usual "group" at uni consisted of people from one of the societies I was heavily involved in, but I never felt close to anyone. I was always hiding who I really was and pretending to be someone I wasn't so they'd like me, I felt they did things that I found hurtful without realizing it, and I always felt like I was the last one to be included. There was a lot that went unsaid. 

 

I've felt alienated at uni since I got there. Now that I have friends who remind me what friendship actually is, I have perspective. And it sucks.

 

Over the summer I've hung out with the good group on a regular basis and they're the biggest part of my social life. I love spending time with them and I already feel like I've learned so much and become so much happier. But it's not ideal because geographically, we're pretty far away. When uni starts up again I don't think I'll have much time to hang out with them at all. 

 

I really don't feel like it's possible for me to make real friends at uni. I feel anxious and uncomfortable wandering around campus between classes. I can't seem to sustain a meaningful conversation with strangers for very long. I can't even seem to find people with similar interests most of the time. While I put on a facade of being laidback and outgoing, through a mix of impatience, social anxiety and pessism, I get the impression that most people just don't have any interest in me. I'm always used to getting paired up with randoms for group projects and having no one to talk to in class or hang out with afterwards.

 

I'm sure it's normal to have "best friends" that aren't necessarily at uni. But this entire situation bothers me. I want to make some decent friends at uni, I just don't know how. If I can't, I'm not looking forward to coping with feeling alienated until I graduate.

 

If anyone has advice or thoughts on this, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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Re: Real friends, isolation at uni

Hey @Ryuusei I can empathise with your situation. I didn't make any real friends at uni the whole time I was there, just acquaintances I'd be paired up with for assignments or see in tutes. I just didn't feel like I had much in common with them, other than the fact we were studying the same thing. I don't regret it though, I had good friends with similar interests that I met outside of uni (mostly through going to watch punk bands) and I'm still good friends with them today! I don't believe that everyone who comes into your life needs to be a lifelong buddy and it's not something you can force. Sometimes you meet people that you might not choose as a close friend but it's good just to have a chat with them when you cross paths. It might mean eating lunch alone every now and then but being comfortable with your own company is an important challenge! You sound pretty awesome (I'm intrigued as to what your obscure interests are!) so your own company should be good Smiley Happy

If you are keen on learning strategies to make friends and deepen your connection with people, there are some helpful info sheets here and here on Reach Out. Keep us posted on how you get on!

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Re: Real friends, isolation at uni

Hey Ryuusei!

 

Thanks for posting on the forums. There is always someone hear to listen Smiley Happy It sounds like you met some absolutely awesome people last year. Being able to completely relax and be you is brilliant, as is not feeling shy or anxious.

 

It does sound like things at uni with new friends hasn't been so great. It sucks to feel like you can't really relax around your friends. Sometimes I feel like I become friends with people just because of the situation- for example just because we are in the same class. And I've felt like you, constantly thinking about how I come across and not really being me, and I agree it kind of sucks. There are a couple of things I've done that have helped.

1. I try to make an extra effort to keep in touch with the people I really clicked with. My closest friend is in another country but we still try to text most days. Do you keep in touch regularly with the group from last year? It helps me a lot because it gives me a chance to just be crazy old me.

2. The second thing is trying to be more and more of myself around these new people. This is not so easy, and the self-doubt can definitely come in, but I'd rather risk it as the real me and risk losing a friend I never felt comfortable with or finding out that they actually like the same lame old jokes that I do! Win!

 

This stuff is definitely not easy. The way you feel with the group from last year is brilliant. I think the key, and I'm still working on this too, is to be yourself so that you can attract the same kind of people (craziness and jokes included!). RO has some good resources, I just think this one is adorable! http://http://au.reachout.com/making-friends

 

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Re: Real friends, isolation at uni

Hey guys, thanks for the replies. This reply is wordier than I'd hoped, feel free to ignore bits and pieces if you want!

 

@ElleBelle: It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one. That sounds like my situation, spot on... Acquaintances. Company, familiar faces, but not much else. By now I've figured out that, for sure, you can't force friendship. It's a shame, but it's also outside of my control. 

 

I'd rather not delve too much into my interests here, but you're right about me needing to be happy with my own company. I don't find it easy, but I'm trying to get better at it. 

 

Thanks for the articles! I read both of them, here are some thoughts:

How to make friends:

  • Big emphasis on being outgoing and social, and patient. I'd like to think that I put myself out there and meet a lot of different people, I just have trouble connecting with them. Maybe I'm not meeting the right people? Or maybe my intentions get lost in translation? Hard to say...
  • The point about staying true to yourself... Honestly, that's probably why I have the most trouble. When I read back over my first post I use a lot of words that dance around the fact that I'm not really being myself. I'm scared of people not liking the real me, or ridiculing me for it, but... When I put aside all of that fear, I really don't have much to lose. Maybe I can work up to letting down all my barriers one day. Before I graduate. 
  • Another thing is that I really need to work on cultivating my interests... I need to get out there and do more things. Draw more art, make more things, participate in activities instead of watching from the sidelines. 

Having a hard time with friends:

  • What strikes me about all this is the emphasis on "trust". I can't really say I ever got close to any of my uni friends, enough to trust them with really personal stuff. I can't say I've had a shoulder to cry on or anything resembling a support network when things have been tough. If anything they did stuff that I found hurtful and I felt like I didn't have a voice most of the time. 
  • What I take away from this is basically.... if you're not happy, find better friends. Without necessarily cutting off your old ones.

 

@rt262: Being able to relax and feel comfortable around people is nothing short of amazing. I'd forgotten what it was like.

 

1. I do keep in touch with people from the "old group", and we hang out every now and then. It's not terrible, but we've grown more distant than this time last year, and it just reminds me of how we were never that close to begin with. Some mutual interests, and they're nice people, but our personalities don't align well enough, I guess. To be honest, I'd rather be selfish and spend a day playing video games and chilling than force myself to organize something with them. 

 

2. Deep down, I do want to be honest about myself. I'm already working on it - I talk more freely about things I like, my interests, etc without stressing about people disagreeing or not liking me for it. Still got a ways to go.

 

That's a really cute video. And again, "be yourself" pops up. All I can think of while watching it how it lines up perfectly with the new group, but not really with the people I interact with around uni. 

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Re: Real friends, isolation at uni

Hey @Ryuusei  I know exactly how you feel

 

All through my first year at uni I would sit alone, go to the library alone, eat lunch alone...

I got great grades but I was kind of bored/lonely!

Im the kind of person who is shy until I get to know someone and then Im loud and crazy, Im usually too scared to make first moves and mostly leave it to other people

Towards the end of first year there were a few people who were in most of my classes and we started slowly talking, sitting together etc (lucky they initiated it)

Everyone kind of knew one other person and soon the group grew bigger and bigger. Now I have this decent sized group of the randomest people who I would of never thought I would of become such good friends with and it made me realise that maybe most of that year I was looking for the wrong people

 

I was looking for people that looked and acted like my friends outside of uni. People who were into all the same things as me.

This group that I am friends with now at uni could not be more different from me and eachother, and they are all so different from my friends outside of uni.

 

I guess my point is dont limit yourself or look for only certain types of people that resemble other friends you have, try and mingle with everyone and if you click then bingo, and if you dont then keep circulating

 

I know its easier said than done but the real key is to just relax and be yourself, let the real you out! Your awesome group outside of uni like it - why wouldnt others? You being yourself could show others who are scared to let loose that its okay to be real - they could be really cool people who are hidden too!

 

There are some good fact sheets on how to make conversation with strangers and story on being yourself and lots on confidence which might be helpful if you have a minute to read them

 

Let us know how you go Smiley Happy

 

 

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Re: Real friends, isolation at uni

@hartley_ My perspective on this has changed a little bit since last time. Labeling the new group as "the good group" isn't helping. Doing that is sort of putting them on a pedestal and not on the same level as other people. 

 

I'm glad I found people I like, and it means I'm a lot happier and have a lot of new opportunities I'd otherwise not. But at the same time, I'm still going to be spending a lot of my life interacting with strangers, and I'm still going to be spending most of my life with myself. 

 

I've got a ways to go when it comes to connecting with people. And honestly, I still do find hanging around uni challenging. I'm reminded of that every day I go there for volunteer stuff. Everyone around me seems so extroverted, so tight-knit, like they're on another level. And I don't feel like I belong, when see all that I really do feel alienated.

 

I'm not giving up... I'm stuck here till I graduate, I'm going to keep trying and putting myself out there. I've learned to cut my losses and I have a fallback if I'm feeling really drained socially. I don't think there is a magic solution, but I'll keep at it and see where it takes me, I suppose.

 

I read the articles you linked to - again, the biggest thing I take away from it is being yourself. Fair enough. I'm already a lot less inclined to stick to my barriers when I get along with people. I'll keep going down that road.

 

Thanks for taking the time to help me out. Smiley Happy