Adjustment difficulties and loneliness
Moving to a new country entails many changes that can be stressful and difficult. As well as getting your studies underway, there are many other challenges that require time and energy and which affect your well-being. Every individual is different and we each have our strengths and weaknesses. What is easy for some, may be perceived as difficult for others. One challenge is getting acquainted with new friends; many international students describe a feeling of loneliness and alienation at times.
At first you might find everything new and exciting, almost as if you were on holiday, but after a while, it is easy to let the challenges of daily life impact you in a negative way. Creating new routines, getting acquainted with new friends and understanding how everything works require a lot of energy.
It is easy to feel misunderstood and uncertain, which can negatively affect your well-being. People usually talk about culture shock to describe their experience of adapting to a new culture. The good news is that this period will pass for most people as they become more settled, but there are things you can do to facilitate the adjustment period.
Advice for successful intercultural adjustment
- Establish routines to structure your days with and take good care of yourself.
- Be active and explore your new surroundings.
- Make sure to exercise. If you for example played tennis in your home country, then consider joining a tennis club here as well. If you are not used to exercising, you can go for walks or perhaps try out a new sport.
- Try to get as much daylight as possible during the dark winter months.
- Create study routines; decide when, where and how you will study.
- Find a balance between studies and free time.
- Be aware that communication styles, learning styles and academic demands may be different to what you are used to. Learn to accept this without judgement.
- Lower your expectations when it comes to your initial academic performance. lt is normal to experience difficulties in terms of concentration, memory etc. during a transitional period and it takes time to get used to different teaching and examination styles.
- Meet new people and get to know them better.
- Create your own support network, for example by joining a 'nation', student union or other student association. You can for instance meet a large number of student associations at the beginning of your first semester by attending the Student Association Fair ('Hälsningsgillet').
About student associations at Lund University
- Follow the International Desk on Facebook for useful information about Swedish culture, news and student events.
Follow the International Desk on Facebook
- Remember that having ’fika’ (going for a coffee) is a good way to get to know Swedes.
- Stay in touch with family and friends back home and divide your time between old and new friends.
- Try to become aware of your own cultural background (values, traditions etc.) and how this affects you in your meetings with other cultures. Being more aware of your own cultural background can help you when you're trying to get to know and understand a new culture.
- Be aware that adapting to a new culture will likely involve some degree of culture shock. This may be difficult to handle on your own. Don't judge yourself for how you react to this. Talk to friends and don’t hesitate to contact the Student Health Centre if needed.
Make an appointment at the Student Health Centre
It is common for international students to experience periods of homesickness. Initially, when you are new to Lund, it may feel like you are losing part of yourself. In such circumstances, it may be reassuring to talk to friends and family back home who really know you and who you are comfortable with. At the same time, it is important to try and get acquainted with new friends in Lund that you can lean on and have fun with. You may find the orientation programme and the mentor group helpful in this regard. The feeling of being homesick usually fades away as you create new social relationships here, but it may come back from time to time throughout your stay in Lund. It is therefore important to find a good balance between the new life here and keeping in touch with friends and family back home.
You are not alone in feeling lonely. Involuntary loneliness is a growing societal challenge that can affect anyone. But there are things you can do to overcome loneliness. The Student Health Centre can also offer support if required.
The difference between being alone and feeling lonely
Being alone can be something very positive and something of our choosing. Involuntary loneliness, on the other hand, is something that we do not choose for ourselves and that we cannot quite ’turn off’ when we want to. You want to interact with people, but do not have the proper relationships to do so.
Another type of involuntary loneliness is emotional loneliness; having people around you but no one to confide in. You miss having someone to share your thoughts and feelings with and do not have anyone who deeply understands you.
Involuntary loneliness can be difficult to bear and hard to talk about. Some people feel ashamed and think that they have ‘done something wrong’. However, it is worth remembering that involuntary loneliness is something that can affect anyone – regardless of age, gender and origin. Involuntary loneliness has been a growing public health concern, even prior to the pandemic and is also a risk factor for various types of illnesses.
According to research, long-term and involuntary loneliness can lead to symptoms, such as:
- physical pain
- low mood.
In other words, being with other people has a calming and healing effect on humans.
If you want to learn more about stress and exhaustion or low mood and depression, we have gathered some information and advice on how to deal with this.
Tips to overcome loneliness
You can make it easier for yourself by acknowledging and accepting your feelings of loneliness instead of criticising yourself, withdrawing or getting fixated with your mobile phone. Remember that loneliness is a common, universal feeling.
Although you may not have any close friends to confide in, friendships can also grow out of daring to approach others. Be bold and try to open up a little to someone you feel confident with.
Start small and begin by approaching people. Say hello to someone new in your halls of residence and suggest going for a walk or having a coffee. It may seem impossible at the beginning, but it tends to get easier if you begin with small steps. Even simple things can make a difference, both for yourself and for others.
Everyone’s situation is different so do not compare yourself to others. For instance, a person’s loneliness may depend on how long they have been studying at Lund University, if they have managed to establish more than superficial social interactions, and if they live alone or in halls of residence. You may not have many social interactions and still feel good or many social interactions and still feel lonely.
It is easy to become fixated with social media and digital technology when you feel lonely. Research shows that humans feel more isolated and excluded when passively scrolling through social media and observing other people’s lives from a distance. In contrast, using social media to reach out to others can make us feel good.
It helps to establish regular social interactions as it means you do not have to muster up the courage every time you want to approach someone. Some examples may be talking to a family member or going for a walk, exercising or going for a coffee with a neighbour at a certain time or day every week.
It may also be worthwhile getting involved in something that reflects your interests, such as a social club, student union or sports team. Student life in Lund is unique and offers many different activities and experiences.
Doing something positive for others helps to create a sense of purpose and improves well-being, while also increasing social interactions. Get involved in a local voluntary or relief organisation, for example.
It may be a good idea to seek help when you feel as though you have tried to overcome loneliness and the way you feel, but nothing really seems to help. We recommend as a first step getting in touch with us at the Student Health Centre.
More opportunities for support
We suggest that you visit Fountain House Lund (Lunds Fontänhus) if you are having trouble finding a place in established student life while also suffering from mental health issues. They can provide both support and a social context.
The Multifaith Chaplaincy also offers a social context and is a place where you can simply talk to someone about how you feel. You do not have to adhere to any faith to use the service and they also have a duty of confidentiality.
Student Health Centre
+46 (0)46-222 43 77 (not for appointments)
Monday–Wednesday and Friday, 08:30–09:30
Subject to temporary changes.
Student Health Centre
221 00 Lund
For students at the Faculty of Engineering (LTH):
In addition to the Student Health Centre, you can also turn to psychological counsellors at LTH.
For doctoral students:
For employees, student union representatives or representatives of another organisation: