by Kaitlyn D’Souza, Staff Writer
There comes a point in every lonely first-year’s life when music gets boring, silence becomes aggravating, and the longing for human connection intensifies.
Part of me wouldn’t consider my first-year self to be lonely. After all, my high school friends were simply a bus ride away. Yet, deep down, I knew that no bus route could take me to a library with an awaiting study buddy, the dorm of a new friend, or a campus gym with a motivated fitness pal. And while there is no deficit of libraries, dorms, and gyms in this university, there seemed to be one of people, of friends. Even with the tens of thousands of students who roamed the busy streets of Toronto, not one could I call my friend.
For the first half of the year, I didn’t deem my lack of companions to be an issue. Everyone was freshly beginning university and was so caught up in adjusting to this drastic change from high school. I didn’t need new friends at this time. I had headphones, Spotify, and a seasonal playlist perfect for back to school! I took pretty notes and wore my favourite fall sweaters. I spent my evenings in Robarts watching the leaves fall and the sun set. I would sit in the library for hours, working through readings and responding to fellow classmates’ discussion posts on character development in The Talented Mr. Ripley. I was in the zone! My concentration was unbreakable. Nothing could distract me. I-
There’s noise. Talking. Who is talking?
A group of friends, first-years. All sitting together in the student commons, sipping Starbucks drinks and discussing an upcoming essay. When did they have time to develop friendships? Weren’t we all still adjusting to university life? At the time, I couldn’t fathom that others around me were developing strong friendships, a scary reality I only became more and more hyper aware of as time passed. Suddenly, all my counterparts in my First-Year Learning Community and English tutorial were friends, grabbing lunch, working on essays, and going to parties together. When did this happen? Did I miss an email reminder to make a friend?
When I processed the reality of the situation—that those around me had found friends—I was upset. I was upset that time didn’t stop for me. It didn’t wait until I had someone I could call my friend before giving the already popular students even more buddies. When reality sunk in, the silence of the libraries was no longer comforting or peaceful, it was aggravating. I wanted my silence to be abruptly broken by a friend telling me about her favourite artist announcing a new album or her campus crush finally texting her back. I was annoyed that the silence which once allowed me to concentrate now served as a reminder that I was simply lonely, friendless. That the silence which prevailed wasn’t by any choice of mine.
By second semester, my longing for human connection really intensified. No high grade or validating comment from a TA could make up for what I emotionally lacked. While I enjoyed my Winter break which allowed me to reconnect with many high school friends, January cruelly reminded me that those friends wouldn’t be in my lectures or tutorials. I wouldn’t run into them in The Buttery or Hart House. They couldn’t join me after class in the library to work on an essay. They were living their own lives in other universities and colleges, making new friends, while I sat in my lecture hall reminiscing about the high school days and winter-break skating trips.
At some point during second semester, I began getting added to group chats and grabbing lunch with classmates. Maybe this was the start of some new friendships? Maybe my anger towards time was unwarranted? It simply worked in a different way for me, a way I didn’t understand. So many maybes, so much hope. Yet somewhere amidst this newfound hope and excitement it became hazy. Once school ended, these potential new friends went awol. It hit me that to them, I was simply a classmate who they could occasionally study with or grab lunch with. But to me, they were my hope for companionship and new beginnings personified.
So, I unfortunately finished my first year the same way I started, with no new friends. Part of me feared that this was how my university experience would be forever; that I’d simply come to class, go to the library, and then head home. That the only human interaction I’d get would be telling a Baritsa my coffee order. Luckily, my faith was restored when I ran into an old classmate from elementary school on the TTC who also happened to attend UofT. She was a year older, and as we discussed how lonely and isolating university can be, she remained reassuring. She told me that my loneliness is a common phenomenon among first-years, sharing that in her experience, she only made friends in her second year once she was officially in her chosen program. Her testimony stuck with me, keeping me hopeful as I entered my close-knit, 75-person program this year.
Building strong, lasting friendships is no longer a secondary concern; it is now a priority of mine. As for how my story ends, only time will tell. The year is definitely looking up, I finally have university friends who will interrupt my train of thought to tell me about their crush’s new message. I finally have companions whom I meet up with outside of school, whose dorm rooms I visit. Who I can listen to music with instead of using it as a means to drown others out. Now, the music is no longer boring, the rare silence is peaceful, and my longing for human connection is being satisfied!