Hailey's Guide to Feeling Lonely

Hailey Neumann headshot
Hailey Neumann
February 15, 2024
A felt design on an embroidery hoop that says "Protect Your Peace" and is surrounded by flowers

I had prepared myself for a lot when studying abroad… not having most of my stuff with me, being in a foreign country and not knowing the language, really living alone for the first time, and all of the things you’d expect when studying abroad. But the one thing I didn’t think I would have to prepare myself for was being lonely. When I started my freshman year at St. Thomas, I went through a bad roommate experience, but quickly met a lot of new people, got my room switched, and became a part of a really solid group of friends. So when I left for Vienna, the last thing I expected was to struggle in making friends and meeting people. 

When COVID started I developed anxiety, with time I’ve learned to open up about my mental health and how it affects me, and while I try not to let it stop me from making friends, when things go awry from what I expect, it definitely flares up. And to make a long story short, I’ve been trying to make friends here in Vienna, but things have just been consistently going in the wrong direction. In all honesty that’s been really hard, but I’m here to tell you that it IS possible to be alone and enjoy your time, while not giving up and still trying to make friends.

  1. Reach out to multiple people. — If you’ve hung out with someone once, felt like you vibed, and you have a way to get in contact with them don’t be shy! Ask them to do something you may have in common or to just grab a coffee. Like a first date should always be(whether it’s romantic or platonic and a friend date) it’s no pressure, and can last as long or as little as you like.
  2. Take care of your body. Moving into a new time zone where everything is unfamiliar makes it easy to lose the things you do to take care of your body and mind. For me, taking care of myself  means making sure I work out in the mornings(when I have time before class!), and writing in my journal a few times a week!
  3. Find something to do in your free time. Is there a shelter near you where you can walk the dogs? Does your program have any volunteering opportunities? Whatever it may be, just having something for yourself to not only occupy your time, but your mind as well just once a week  is one of the easiest things to incorporate into your schedule!
  4. Find a library near you. No, not your study abroad program’s library, but one that is somewhere else. Finding somewhere new, to get you out of your building, out of your program, and in a good studying environment is such an easy way to change things up! Unfortunately the libraries in Vienna, do charge a membership fee, but if that’s the case for your location as well and is something you are willing to invest in, it’s definitely worth it. Especially if you can use a university’s library so that you’re still around other students!
  5. Spend time in community places! I’m living in a building with my own room, but I share a kitchen with 11 other people. So I like to spend time in the kitchen. Sometimes I make a big dinner, and offer to share with people who walk in. It’s such a good way to connect with people and even if they decline, often times they’ll start cooking their own food, and conversation can start from there(or not! Keep in mind that sometimes people aren’t in the mood for company, or you may not be in the mood! And that’s ok!) In Vienna, our IES Abroad office offers a cup of coffee for €1, and having a cup in the office is a really fun way to meet new people in the program!

Take this all with a grain of salt, because everyone is different, and what works best for me may not be the best option for you. But these are some really great starting points. It’s hard to feel like you’re alone, but I promise that things will get better. The best piece of advice I’ve been given is from my aunt, who said “don’t go into your study abroad experience EXPECTING to make your best friends ever, the people who’ll be in your wedding party, etc. Do expect to meet a lot of new people, and try to make as many friends as possible and include everyone. If these people do turn out to be close people for the rest of your life, then that’s wonderful, but putting pressure on yourself(and others) to make it happen right off the bat isn’t worth it in the long run!”

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Hailey Neumann headshot

Hailey Neumann

Hi guys! I'm a Junior at St Thomas(MN) and a dual citizen of the US and Luxembourg! I love to travel and learn the history of the places I go, and if I'm not outside with my dogs, you'll probably find me in a corner with a rom-com book or movie.

2024 Spring
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University of St. Thomas (MN)
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