I have always been incredibly introverted and being alone never really scared me - I keep to myself most of the time. But over the past two weeks, I got to know a different kind of being alone - you see, I usually chose to be alone for sometime but I always knew that I could just knock on my friends’ doors to have some company. Having moved to a new city for my exchange year and with most social contact being prohibited by covid restrictions, I was not just alone but also lonely.
I spent most of the past two weeks pretty much just sitting in my room and it honestly started to become difficult for me to just sit there everyday all by myself. Trips to the supermarket started to become big events for me. My mom and her boyfriend visited me yesterday for a few hours and it made me realise how much I missed having people around me and how lonely I was actually feeling in that room. I guess it also did not help that I do not yet feel at home in my new room since I have only been there for a short time and so it was kinda extra difficult to be in this room pretty much all the time.
Please do not get me wrong - I’m not here to say that the corona restrictions, which have reduced social life at uni to pretty much almost nothing, are bad. Health comes first and I have adhered to the guidelines from the beginning since protecting potential high-risk patients in our society is important. But I have also realised that these rules can easily take a big mental toll on you when you live alone in a new city and have absolutely nothing to do (our classes haven’t started yet and our orientation course is finished and now it’s basically a one-week waiting period until lectures start).
That is why I decided to go home for a week - back to an environment that I know and where I also know some people. I left Regensburg at 8:27AM this morning and leaving honestly felt like a weight falling off my shoulders. I’m really glad that I listened to myself this time - prioritising my mental health is not exactly my biggest strength but I just realised that staying probably wasn’t the best for me. And so I sat myself down yesterday afternoon, booked a train ticket back home, and started packing.
I honestly think that it will get easier once classes start and there is something to do. But since many of my classes may go digital anyway, I am also considering to maybe do my first semester at home and then come back for the second semester (for now, that is a big ‘maybe’ since it isn’t clear yet whether some of my classes will actually take place as in-person classes or whether they will all go online).
I guess if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this post, it is this: listen to yourself and respond to how you feel. I know that I am in an incredibly privileged position where I can just go home for a week and not everyone can do that. But if you are feeling lonely, you do not have to keep feeling lonely. Here’s a few things you can do without leaving your room to be a little less lonely:
1. Ask a friend to Skype with you. Just catch up. They may have been sitting in their room feeling just like you. Or just send them a text to check in on them. Or send them a meme that made you think of them.
2. If you do not know who to talk to, you can reach out to the Samaritans (116 123), your university’s Nightline if your uni has one (Cambridge’s Nightline can be reached under 01223 744444 from 7PM to 7AM during term time), or you can write to your university’s counselling service to get some help from a professional.
The most important thing is that you share how you feel and that you ask for help if you need it. I did not do that when I struggled with my mental health in my first year until things had gotten pretty bad, but I really wish I had done something about it earlier. Listen to yourself.
Lots of Love,
P.S.: The title picture of this post was taken by Simon Hinger - he is an amazing photographer from my hometown and you can check out his photography here. (Unpaid aid)