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Transitioning from high school to university was very lonely for me. In high school, I already sometimes struggled with friendships. I had a few close friends but many of them were planning to move interstate for university, so I was excited to make more in university. Whenever I struggled with friendships in school, I would always be reassured that university was different. You’d be studying with people who chose the same course as you, so would be more similar and interested in the same things, and could also sit next to whoever you wanted unlike a classroom and hang out more than just afterschool. When I thought about the fun I’d have meeting new people who were more like me and having more time and freedom on my hands to hang out with them, I felt optimistic about the future.

Graduating from high school was a huge transition. I no longer saw the friends I’d known for years and saw almost every day. Out of the few close ones I had, all but one moved interstate. I was happy for them. We called occasionally but not as much as I’d hoped to. When I got to university too, making friends was still difficult. Course units and timetables didn’t always line up with other peoples which made it hard to see the same faces regularly. Sometimes I’d make friends, but they’d communicate and get closer on apps I didn’t use. Sometimes I’d make friends and it would go well for the semester and we’d have good chats during classes, but we’d fall out of contact after the semester finished. I didn’t feel like I had people I could connect with or rely on long term. This made me feel even more alone. My hopes of a better university experience were crushed.

Sometimes, I didn’t want to go to my tutorials. It made me anxious to walk into a room of strangers. I felt nervous and out of place. I liked university more than high school, but I missed the familiarity and comfort of my high school friends. Even people I wasn’t as close with in high school were at least familiar. The fear of not knowing anyone and the pressure to make new acquaintances each semester often made me want to just watch the lecture recordings at home, which only made me more isolated. COVID lockdowns were a whole other issue that magnified how isolated I was and made me feel so much worse. Eventually, I worked up the courage to join clubs at university and found one that was super welcoming. Finding friends who communicated on apps I used and trying to check in with my high school friends every now and then to keep a connection helped too.

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The challenge

We are inviting people who are eighteen to twenty-five years old to share stories about experiences of loneliness after high school during times of change and transitions such as starting...

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