Students discuss feelings of loneliness, isolation during summers in Austin

Sandeep Bhakta

For many students, a summer alone in the city can mean independence and freedom. But for others, it means a vacation of loneliness.

Whether it’s classes, an internship or job, it can be difficult for students who remain in Austin to enjoy the summer when isolated from their family and friends.

Biology junior Arianna Garcia said summer 2019 will be her first away from home. For Garcia, this will be challenging because she won’t be able to spend the summer with her younger sister before she goes off to college.

“It’s gonna be her last summer just at home, and I won’t be able to see her as much as I usually do when I spent the summer at home,” Garcia said. “We usually do our own thing, but we’re both together.”

While she hopes to explore Austin, she said she fears feeling inferior to those who are spending their summer at an amazing internship or travel experience.

“This summer (for me) isn’t going to have the excitement of being in a different country,” Garcia said. “The summer can be lonely and potentially isolating, especially if you see all your friends on Instagram vacationing.”

Nicole Sun, a Plan II and business honors junior, said she spent her first summer alone in Austin in 2018. Despite her expectation of freedom and relaxation, Sun said after bingeing a few dozen YouTube videos, she realized all of her friends had gone home.

“You’re in the same surroundings, but the same people aren’t as accessible,” Sun said. “You think that filling a quota of seeing familiar faces might make you feel less lonely, but that wasn’t an avenue available to me during the summer. That’s when I didn’t really know what to do with myself.”

She said this realization induced panic and led her to Google summer activities near UT. After discovering an inactive Reddit post asking her exact question, she was inspired to create a “Summer Hang” GroupMe that grew to include over 150 people.

“I learned taking the initiative. I learned to make an effort to meet people.” Sun said.

With her GroupMe, Sun said members participated in activities such as swing dancing, Blues on the Green and ultimate frisbee. She said she was also able to find a best friend through the group.

“We just really clicked,” Sun said. “We met at Blues on the Green, and we struggled together to try and figure out how to get more people to hang out. It’s just nice having something that’s consistent.”

Marci Gleason, an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, said if students feel lonely during the summer, it’s important not to feel embarrassed about it and remember that they are not the only lonely person.

“The feeling that (summertime sadness and loneliness) isn’t forever is really important,” Gleason said. “If you’re feeling lonely in the summer or homesick in the summer, there’s a decent chance … you are not going to feel that way. That doesn’t negate the fact that you’re feeling lonely now, but knowing there’s an ending to it makes it easier.”