How to Overcome COVID-19 loneliness at University

Students across the world have had their university experience flipped upside down this year due to COVID-19. The platform ‘Top Universities’ spoke to Dr Meir Shemla and PhD student Hodar Lam from Rotterdam School of Management, whose research focuses on the phenomenon of loneliness.

There are two major sources of loneliness, Lam explained. The first is when you lack meaningful relationships. For example, having poor support networks or having shallow virtual interactions.The second reason is holding unrealistically high expectations of social interactions. Lam said unmet expectations are at the “core” of loneliness. Lam told the platform: “Sometimes individuals feel lonely because they expect too much of others or become cynical about others’ intentions when they approach or contact them.” 

Lack of everyday interactions

Lam said: “Students might see university as a setting a stage for their career, joining student associations, societies, and sports teams that define their identities and/or building a sense of independence, in terms of finances and leaving the family ‘nest’.” He added that students tend to feel frustrated when these expectations can no longer be a reality.Additionally, Lam explained that learning at home might not meet students’ anticipations of university life. They may miss the everyday interactions of in-person learning.

Inequality in loneliness

It’s also worth noting that there is an inequality in the way loneliness is experienced, with some groups of students being more likely to experience loneliness than others, explained Dr Shemla: “Male students and international students are likely to experience more loneliness than female and local students, respectively.” This may be due to the nature of their social interactions. On average, male students tend to engage less in self-disclosure and are less likely than female students to share information about themselves, he explained. 

Read the full interview on topuniversities.com

Associate professor
PhD student