Thursday 15 June 2023

Loneliness at University : Covid and online classes

I read a lot of subreddits from Australian universities and try to help where I can, as I have done a lot of university and had a lot of unusual circumstances happen to me as Student and Staff of universities. It also gives me an insight into what is happening on Australian students minds. 
Many of these students are lonely especially those having mainly online courses. I saw a recent poll where 1 in 3 students said that they didn't have a single friend from University, I always take these anonymous polls with a grain of salt, but it gives an indication, there are many students with no one to reach out to. 

I had the opposite experience at university. I met my first person at university within a few minutes of arriving. I was looking around for the administration office of my residential college with a pile of luggage. This guy called to me and said "are you looking for the office? "

I said "yep". We introduced ourselves to each other and he invited me out for a beer that night and explained to me how lunch worked so that once I got my key I knew where to go. We went out and had a few beers that night,  my first night out as a uni student. 

I signed in to college, got given my key, dropped my bag in my room and went to get  something to eat. 

I got some food and was pretty excited by the quality, quantity and selection of food. I looked around for the guy I had met earlier but couldn't find him so I sat at a random table. 

I was feeling excited and very free as I was no longer in a small country town where everyone knew me and my parents. My first steps into the new world where no one knew me. I sat down to start eating, this girl sitting across from me looked at me and said 'Do your parents have a beach house at ... Very specific location'. 

Me. Uh Yes they do.... How do you know. She then introduces herself and then I recognised and remembered her. She was my second cousin. We didn't meet at that many events as her family lived a long way away.

I had now been at University for about one hour. I have already been invited for a night out drinking, made a mate, moved into my first home, had lunch and run into a family member, and it was only 1:30 in the Afternoon and technically University didn't officially start for another four days when O-Week starts on Monday.

I have spoken with some of the students that say they are very lonely and many of them state that they started university in 2020, so got a few weeks of normal campus life and then before they could meet too many people all forced into isolation and online classes. Many of these students have graduated and feel that they missed out on the university experience, which I can understand. 

I am sure that in my day, there was some lonely students that didn't meet people or find their friend group, but it would have been a much smaller percentage that it was now. Some of my first year classes only had about 100 people in them, so it would have been pretty obvious if one third of them didn't have friends. 

This social isolation caused by so many online classes, definitely seems to be having an impact on the mental health of the more introverted. We need to look for long term solutions to this problem, what this solution is - I am not sure. There will always be some lonely people in a society, but when it is approaching 33% that is when we need to do something.