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Support and Wellbeing

How to Deal With Loneliness as an International Student

PG student Isabella shares how she's learned to cope with loneliness as a student abroad.

Students sitting together in duke of york bar
Duke of York Pub with my friends

Everyone talks about how wonderful it is to be an international student, and it is. Being away from home, enriching yourself academically while getting to know new cultures and making new friends, really makes this opportunity unique and unmatched.

However, there are other aspects that many of us don't like to talk about, for fear of being seen as weak or ungrateful considering the adventure we are living, and yes, it is about how lonely as international students we can feel when we live abroad.

Luckily for us, Queen's has always been a safe space where we can talk about everything we're going through without feeling judged, and that's why I encouraged myself to share some things I've learned to cope with loneliness as a student abroad.

Be open to everything

For this experience it is essential to change our mindset, we must accept that we are no longer in our cities of origin and comfort zone and that therefore the people, cultures, food, and everything may be very different. Belfast is quite a diverse city, so we must have a receptive attitude to be able to learn new things about it and from those who inhabit it. You can face many surprises and be fascinated by the new things you know.

Two students drinking guinness

Trying my first Guinness

Talk to other international students in your classes

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that our emotions are unique to us, and we find it hard to believe that other people are going through the same thing as us. In my experience, I have met other international students who have also gone through that feeling of loneliness while in Belfast. It has been wonderful how we have been able to build support networks to avoid feeling this way, and we are always making plans outside of class such as going for a walk in the city, having a drink, and cooking together to spend some time enjoying our company. Don't be intimidated to approach them, they will understand, believe me.

Group of students hiking

Going for a Hike with other international students (Italy, Belgium, Colombia and Germany)

Extracurricular activities

Get involved in other types of activities beyond academics. Queen’s offers a variety of student clubs where you can join, practice a new discipline, and meet new people. In addition, these types of activities are perfect for relaxing your mind and body from academic stress and at the same time performing better in everything you do. If you are not so much into group activities and you like to have more control over your time, you can also try doing solo activities, like me, who loves to go for a run and set new challenges as a runner. The more I run, the less I remember that I'm alone on a different continent.

Student taking selfie after gym workout

On my way to a yoga class in the city centre

Activities in your accommodation

Activities in your accommodation will always be a good option to avoid feelings of loneliness. Go ahead and take a look at the calendar of activities in your accommodation and sign up for those that catch your attention the most. I understand how tricky it can be sometimes to get out of the comfort of your bedroom and take off your pajamas to get ready to go to an event. But you won't regret it, you will always get to meet amazing people with whom you can make future plans, distract yourself in a new activity, and best of all, enjoy free food.

Explore the city

One thing I've come to realize is that the better I get to know Belfast, the feeling of being an outsider fades away. Go ahead, take sporadic walks between study sessions to refresh your mind, visit new cafes or pubs, go to museums, parks, take trips to the countryside. Your best friend during this international adventure will always be Belfast, don't forget that. It is important that you strive to establish a harmonious relationship with the city, and accept how variable its weather can sometimes be, and enjoy how beautiful it is to have all the seasons in the same day.

Belfast castle

A Sunday walk to Belfast Castle

Keep in touch with people in your country

Even if you're away from home, keep in regular contact with friends and family through calls, messages, and video calls. Feeling connected to your loved ones can help combat loneliness.

If feelings of loneliness persist and affect your well-being, consider seeking support from mental health services offered by the Queen’s, your accommodation or local professionals. Remember that adjusting to a new environment takes time, and it's normal to feel lonely at first. Over time, if you think these recommendations are worth following, you'll likely find yourself building meaningful relationships and feeling more connected in your community.

Find out more

Information for students from Colombia

Welcome and Orientation at Queen's

Student Wellbeing Service

Isabella Barros De La Rosa

Violence, Terrorism and Security | Postgraduate Student | Colombia

Hello, my name is Isabella Barros, I am 24 years old and I am from a beautiful city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia called Barranquilla. I am currently pursuing my master's in Violence, Terrorism and Security at Queen’s.

I am very into running and outdoor activities. That's why Belfast is so amazing to live in, because of the landscapes, and the spaces for this kind of hobby.

Besides running and studying, you can find me in any bookstore, wandering around the city, or enjoying a pleasant coffee in a cute cafe!

Isabella Barros De La Rosa