Since I started studying at the university, I’ve been feeling lonely quite often. Although I meet a lot of different people, conversations are often superficial. Compared to other students, I’ve a different way of life. My upbringing was a multicultural one. Now, every day I’ve to switch from being in a multicultural environment to an environment that lacks diversity and feels mainly “white”.

Making connections and feeling like you belong!

At first, I really tried to put myself out there. I’m quite an outgoing person, you know. However, I soon noticed I couldn’t always connect with people. My sense of humor was different, and I didn’t have any stories about going out on the weekend. Sometimes, I‘d go to student happy hour, but I felt lost and like I didn’t belong. I wasn’t raised that way, and in my culture, we just don’t do those things.

Being alone is different than feeling alone.

Sometimes, I really like being alone; it makes me feel relaxed. But when I “feel” alone, it is different. “Feeling alone” is unpleasant to me, and I feel misunderstood. There are days, that I feel alone while being in a large group. I notice that people don’t understand me, or I don’t feel connected to them.

From high school to university.

High school was fun. Everyone there was like me. I could just be myself. I always looked forward to going to class; it was such a wonderful time. University is a lot more formal: you work hard, get good grades, and then you move on to the next subject. And you do this three years in a row! I do meet with students during certain classes, but we mostly talk about course-related topics, projects or deadlines. This makes it a lot more difficult to chit-chat.

Talking about loneliness.

When something is bothering me, I can always count on my friend with whom I’ve been friends for a long time. However, we’ve actually never talked about loneliness in particular. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I feel alone” or “I’m lonely”. I didn’t even Google information about loneliness, which is strange because I’m someone who Googles everything. I even Googled my own feelings. I’m hoping to find more information about how I can deal with them.

Finding the right counselor.

When I was suffering from burnout, I had the feeling I needed support. I reached out to a psychologist for help. I explained some of the differences in expectations within the Moroccan culture compared to the Dutch culture. For instance, in my culture, you are expected to help out at home, especially if you are the oldest child. At first, I didn’t tell my parents about suffering from burnout. It was hard to explain to my parents why I didn’t help out at home. My first psychologist misunderstood my family situation, and she advised me to do things which felt selfish. That is why I switched psychologists. I think it’s important that you click with your counselor.

Being an outsider at the university.

If they had asked me, “How do you like it at the university?” I would’ve given an honest answer and said, “I don’t like it, and I feel like I don’t belong here”. I think people knew how I felt. I’ve noticed that a lot of other students with a different cultural background feel like an outsider too.

I feel misunderstood.

Talking about mental health issues seems to be a taboo for a lot of people. But I honestly think it’s more like a lack of understanding. I felt lonely because I felt misunderstood. It’s also hard to talk about it at home when I don’t feel well. It can take a lot out of you trying to explain. So it makes you think, “never mind”.

Doing sports together and cooking together.

I would love to get together with people who understand how I’m feeling because they are feeling lonely too. I like sports, for instance, an outdoor bootcamp workout. Cooking is something I like too, not that I’m good at it, though. It’s just always a lot of fun to hang out in the kitchen and prepare food together!