Graduate life in residence: Isolation and loneliness

Hande Gur - 05 November 2021

Graduate students often suffer from isolation and loneliness. Aside from their demanding academic studies, they work longer hours than most of the other full-time students and have less time for social activities.

There's another factor, too: graduate students often see academic belonging as more important than social belonging. I have to say that this is partly because they often find more support in their departments rather than in their social environment. Yet we know that their sense of belonging is still deeply affected by social relations. It is never nice to feel isolated or lonely. Unfortunately, most of us do feel that way, at least from time to time, during our time in graduate school.

Starting grad school in Canada

I remember the first time I moved to another city, Ankara, for my undergraduate degree. It was not easy as I did not know anybody there and had no social support to rely on at first.

It was even harder to move again for graduate school because this time I was moving to another country, Canada. To tell the truth, I expected to feel lonelier since this time people would speak a foreign language and COVID-19 isolated us even more but surprisingly that was not the case. Let me tell you why. 

Building connections in residence

In terms of social belonging, the main barrier for graduate students appears to be the lack of opportunities for building social relations. There is simply not enough time to go out or meet new people. And most of the people we see are the ones we share a course or an office with, which leads us to a social dead end.

For me, creating a social life through where I live was the answer—and it was quite easy to do.

Living in residence helps graduate students overcome the feelings of isolation and loneliness without creating extra burdens. Living in a community of students often encourages you to spend time in common places and meet other people.

Residence life also offers lots of great social events for when we've got the time for them. All we need to do is just step outside of our rooms.

Realizing that it is possible to have the freedom to be me and to be alone in my private space while still having the opportunity to share my space with people I want to spend time with? Total game changer.