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My First Year Experience

By David Mackenzie

It's not a nice feeling when you hear the birds bringing in the new day. You realise the black of the sky is slipping back and it's turning navy. You look at the clock and you realise it's almost 5am. Okay, maybe if you love getting up early in the morning, this is a good thing. When you've been up all night, I can assure you it's not. Some people stay up all night partying, some stay up working to get that essay in. Me on the other hand: well, I don't know why I was staying up.

This was in my first year of university, when I lived in DRA. There were 4 other boys in the flat with me and although I got on fine with them, we were never going to be best friends. We just wanted different things from life. So how did I spend my time while they were out partying? 

To be frank, I wasted it away online. I was incredibly lonely there. I would spend hours at night talking away to one of my friends in another building on Facebook who seemed to have the same problem. There were many nights when I'd realise the sun was coming up and it had happened again. I was trapped inside a very strange box - it wasn't natural. I didn't make great connections with other people, I found it hard to find people outside of my flat because how do you?

Yes, I made some wonderful friends that are dear to me still, but I was everyone else.

When I was younger I was told by one of my dad's old colleagues that university was the greatest time of your life. Aside from being a very negative view of the rest of your life, I think this is completely untrue. Don't get me wrong, university is truly a wonderful place and I believe I will come out of it a much better person, but it's taken me years to get to this point.

Loneliness. That was the crux of the matter. What was I doing until 5 in the morning? I was searching for a connection...I just wanted to be with people and belong. You would think in a town with 8000 people your age this would be easy but then why is it the case that 4 of my closest friends have been medicated for depression?
When you take a vibrant, bright, young teenager out of their comfort zone and place them in an expensive mediocre room on their own, with a door between them and four other strangers, and many doors before the next group of you expect them to flourish? Not everyone is an extrovert, not everyone finds going out easy. People just want to connect.

Now there are some good organisations in St Andrews trying to tackle issues that students face. To my knowledge none attempt to tackle loneliness head-on. I believe the loneliness that students experience drives many of the mental health problems they face. Depression, anxiety, even homesickness isn't going to get better all by yourself.
This is where people come in: Populus.

Picture an organisation where it's soul purpose is to fight loneliness. To help people connect, to make friends, to not be depressed because they're on their own! I didn't want to stay up until 5 in the morning but I made those poor choices. Maybe if Populus had been around I may not have needed to.

I'm biased, I'm the Vice President of the organisation and have supported it since its inception, but that's because I believe in it. Loneliness is a huge problem in St Andrews, so let's do something about it.

Populus aims to tackle loneliness head on and battle it one coffee date at a time. Throughout the year it will hold ice breakers and other events to get people connected. We want to encourage good times, good fun, and good friends. Populus means people and that's who it's for, for all of us.

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