Loneliness can be experienced at any time in many forms by both domestic and international students. It can emerge after a change of geographical or social environment (new city, new course), following the loss of a significant relationship or be present in a chronic manner. Boldero & Moore (1990) found that Australians students had the same level of risk of loneliness as their American counterparts (Schultz & Moore, 1986). Sawir et al. (2008) found that 65% of international students in Australia had experienced loneliness or isolation at some point during their university years.

Loneliness differs from aloneness and isolation and while spending some time alone can be a deliberate decision, loneliness is seldom a choice. When separated from usual friends, support networks or family, students can feel both isolated and lonely. One may feel lonely when surrounded by people and experience a sense of disconnection from the rest of a group.

Loneliness can be a sign that some important emotional needs are not met. It may be experienced as a lack of:

To overcome loneliness some will focus on extending their social network while others will prefer developing closer bonds with a lesser number of people. Depending on your personality and cultural of origin, your needs may differ.

While Stokes (1985) suggested that the loneliness of college students could mainly be improved by increasing the size of their networks, further research underlined a more multidimensional approach (Rokach & Brock,1998; Ernst & Cacioppo, 1999). For instance, Sawir et al. (2008) observed that international students experiencing loneliness reported less close friendships and more casual friendships showing that both the quantity and the quality of relationships matter. Furthermore, addressing individual obstacles that could prevent students from engaging socially with their peers or enjoying their time on their own would also be of importance.

Here are a few strategies to consider that may help alleviating loneliness.

Extending your network

Be proactive and reach out to people both within and outside of the university community.

Get involved in your community life:

Community Links

Deepening relationships

Relationships where you can share personal, private parts of your life and feel understood can significantly ease loneliness.

Reducing personal obstacles

Awkwardness, shyness or anxiety can get in the way of interactions with others. Many students experience some level of discomfort when meeting new people or interacting in group settings.

Spending time alone in a meaningful way

Among other mechanisms used to cope with loneliness, Rokach & Brock (1998) named the frequent use of self-reflective and self-development strategies. Spending time alone offers the opportunity to discover more about oneself and practice individual creativity. Being mindful of how you spend your time alone helps insuring those activities will be pleasurable and fulfilling for you.

If loneliness is of concern to you, counsellors at Counselling and Psychological Services are available to discuss your situation with you.


Boldero, J., Moore, S. (1990). An Evaluation of de Jong-Giervaid's Loneliness. Model With Australian Adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, VoL 19, No. 2, 1990.

Ernst, J. M., Cacioppo, J. T. (1999) Lonely hearts: Psychological perspectives on loneliness. Applied & Preventive Psychology, 8:1-22.

Moody, E. J. (2001) Internet Use and Its Relationship to Loneliness. Cyberpsychology and Behavior, Volume 4, Number 3, 393-401.

Rokach, A., & Brock, H. (1998). Coping with loneliness. Journal of Psychology,132, 107-127.

Sawir, E., Marginson, S., Deumert, A., Nyland, C., & Ramia, G. (2008). Loneliness and International Students: An Australian Study. Journal Of Studies In International Education, 12(2), 148-180.

Schultz, N. R., and Moore, D. (1986). The loneliness experience of college students: Sex differences. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 12: 111-119.

Stokes, J. P. (1985). The relation of social network and individual difference variables to loneliness. Journal Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 981-990.

Wang, Hui-hui; Wang, Meng-cheng, Wu Sheng-gi (2015). Mobile phone addiction symptom profiles related to interpersonal relationship and loneliness for college students: a latent profile analysis, Chinese Journal of Clinical Psychology. Vol.23 (5), pp. 881-885.