Loneliness Abroad

Emma Hughes square headshot
Emma Hughes
October 18, 2022
Loneliness Abroad

People talk a lot about homesickness while studying abroad. I was warned about missing the familiarity of home, or little things from home like food or brands. I was also warned about the stages of culture shock; that I would have a period of euphoria, then struggle for a while dealing with my new environment. Honestly, I haven’t struggled much being in a new, unfamiliar place—my bigger challenge has been forming an entirely new social circle. 

I’ve always considered myself an extrovert. I love meeting new people and making new connections, so the idea of not knowing anyone in this program never bothered me. However, I find myself missing the dynamics I have with my friends at home. At my home university, I have a small, tight-knit group of friends that I feel very close with. We don’t spend every waking moment together, but I know I can rely on them if I need comfort, advice, or just some company. They are the kind of friendships that are so secure, I know they will tell me big news or invite me when they make plans. 

When I first arrived in London, I met dozens of new people in the first few days. I was meeting someone and getting dinner with them on the same day, making new friends with every new class and activity, and was constantly welcomed by people who wanted to get to know me. I didn’t need to worry about loneliness when everyone was putting so much effort into building new relationships. This, in hindsight, was the euphoria period—I was ecstatic to meet new people and have new experiences with them.

Over the past few weeks, the people in the program have started to build their own social groups. Through social media, I’ve seen other students traveling, going out, and studying together. I’ve made a close friend since arriving here, and I have other people that I have fun with and feel comfortable asking to hang out, but I don’t have a friend group the way others seem to have built, and definitely not one as close as I have at home. I can’t expect to have a friend group like that so quickly, but with everyone else I know being an ocean away, it’s difficult not to miss that kind of dynamic. But I still find myself with a fear of missing out—not of missing out on activities (I’m actually very comfortable going on solo excursions), but missing out on the friendships and group experiences that others seem to be having. I also grapple with the fact that, like me, the other people in this program are still finding their footing in their new social dynamics. I can’t blame my friends here for going out with new people and trying to build new relationships, because it’s exactly what I am trying to do, but I can’t help but miss the reliable company of my friends back home.

I’m trying to teach myself how to be the host, rather than the invitee. Everyone knows that plans are made when the group is together, so if I can’t get my foot in the door on one day’s activity, I’ll likely miss out on anything the group is planning there. I also realize that if I can’t rely on the people around me to make plans or follow through, I have to rely on myself to find the right people and make the plans. I felt so ambitious pursuing my study abroad experience, but the ambition has to stretch into and beyond this trip, in all parts of my life. Building a new social circle for a semester isn’t easy. I’m learning now that, even if making friends and having a social life will be harder here than at home, I am capable of doing it if I put in more effort than I’m used to.

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Emma Hughes

Hello! My name is Emma Hughes, and I'm a junior studying Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. I'm visiting London to study public relations and explore the arts and theatre communities in the UK. I love theatre, creative writing, game nights, and movies. This fall, I hope to have lots of new and exciting experiences in London, and that sharing them with you helps you get the most out of your time abroad!

2022 Fall
Home University:
University of Iowa
Davenport, IN
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