THOUGH some might not like to admit it, one issue many international students face when studying overseas is loneliness. Trinity College Foundation Studies students Bulathsinghalage Minuri Perera, Lijiao Shan and Mengyan Kong explore this concern among overseas students.
Not many people like to talk about it but it’s natural to feel lonely when you’re moving to a new environment for the first time without much proper support. It’s an issue that international students often face and can affect them academically, socially and mentally.
Using the data obtained from a survey conducted with a group of 30 Trinity College Foundation Studies (TCFS) students, it was established that 83 per cent of students admitted to being lonely.
The survey asked TCFS students to select a reason as to why loneliness seemed to be an issue for them. The most common response was that it was due to being in an unfamiliar environment.
When asked about how to deal with loneliness, a majority said they would talk to their peers about it while several others said keeping in touch with their parents was preferable. A smaller percentage of students preferred to keep the issue to themselves and no one said they would seek professional advice if they were suffering from loneliness.
According to Noam Perl-Gurovich, a student counsellor for TCFS, there are different categories of loneliness that a student might suffer from. Some suffer from one, however there are exceptions for students who have unfortunately suffered from multiple categories. The most common are:
- Cultural loneliness: When you belong to a different culture and don’t seem to fit in with a new culture.
- Social Loneliness: When you are being left out or actively rejected by a group of people.
- Geographic Loneliness: Being in an unfamiliar environment and trying to figure out everything by yourself.
- Personal Loneliness: The feeling that you’re not good enough, or being afraid to speak out in fear that you might not be understood.
How to look beyond the immediate environment?
Often students do come to the realisation that they suffer loneliness but do not wish to express their condition to a professional. If you are one of them, Mr Perl-Gurovich recommends the following:
- Form a strong peer-support group: Sometimes it can be hard for a student to talk to their family about certain issues as they do not wish to worry the family. So what you keep from your family you can reveal to a friend.
- Develop better social skills: This will allow you to understand what is appropriate and inappropriate to say
- Join student clubs: By keeping yourself occupied you are distracting yourself from the fact that you feel lonely.
- Engage in volunteer work: Volunteer at a local shelter or organisation so that you can meet new people and do beneficial work.
- Hit the gym: It’s a great place to meet new people and keep yourself healthy both mentally and physically.
- Keep trying different things: Keep doing things for the first time until you find your own means of happiness.
- Build self-esteem: Be patient and take the time to build up your confidence.
Students don’t need to become prisoners within their own mind – there is help available both within school and outside of it. Don’t feel ashamed in searching for assistance.
At TCFS, for example, there are mentoring programs, student counsellors and a vast array of opportunities to socialise. Speak out, speak loud! You need to want to be helped in order to be helped.
This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collab. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch us via firstname.lastname@example.org.