Is Your Student Lonely?

in Parent Advice, Uncategorized
February 17th, 2016

by Jeanne Knox, Chairman, Parents Leadership Council

This is a question that can’t help but flutter through your mind occasionally as a BU parent, especially after a not so cheery chat with your BU student on a very grey, windy Tuesday in the middle of February. As a matter of fact, it is inevitable to think that. And, of course, as a parent we want to either make that feeling go away . . . good luck with that . . . or do something to make BU a little less lonely for them. It’s what we do. But in my experience, the “lonely” word is a little too easy to hang onto a mid-spring semester BU student. Let’s look a little deeper.

While the powers-that-be call it “spring” semester, spring does not arrive here in Boston until the semester is over and your student is safely tucked into his home bed, room in disarray, sleeping until noon and driving you crazy. Here in Boston, the endless tunnel that is winter is just getting started, and there is no light at the end. It’s cold, snowy, rainy, windy and dark, sometimes all at once. Going to class, the dining hall, the library or anywhere else is a lesson in layers (waterproof hats, gloves, boots, fleeces, Under Armour?, etc.), luggage, hot coffee (as a hand-warmer, of course) and those ever present cell phones. Backpacks become epic in size as everyone loads them up with everything needed for both the 9 am and the 4 pm. A quick trip to the dorm room on west campus between classes becomes a nightmare so students hunker down in the GSU rather than face the BU Bridge. This is winter, not loneliness.

Now let’s look at that “mid.” It’s actually early in the semester, not mid, nor spring break, just another day, another week. It is certainly not a period of high-stress (finals, major papers, or presentations) or crazy student fun. The Beanpot is over. St. Pat’s is a month away (Boston loves St. Patrick’s Day). And Red Sox games and Marathon Monday are warm thoughts over coffee with friends. This time of year is just about doing what seems to come naturally to BU students . . . studying, congregating, working, life in general. Is this life lonely? Probably not.

And those friends? BU students know tons of people. Other students, friends of other students, professors, and administrators move through their lives every day. This is really why most of them chose BU. We are big, with lots of people to meet, lots of things to do. But have they all found a BFF to replace their high school BFF (why replace them, anyway?) or the “squad” that they might take throughout the rest of their lives (as in my husband’s squad that seems to spend more and more time under my roof when they were just invited for New Year’s Eve)? Probably not? Those friendships take time. But they happen. They will find their place and their passion as they proceed deeper into their studies and their friendships. Is this loneliness? Doubt it.

And then, is there little homesickness thrown in here? For sure. And you would hate it if they didn’t miss you at all. So what can you do? Remember, you already did the biggest part of your job when you took that call and listened. Say it out loud and the feeling goes away. Thanks, mom and dad. And you could always throw in a surprise from home, a care package, with a favorite candy or some thermal earmuffs, is a welcome sight when winter boredom sets in. A simple text saying how genuinely proud you are of them (and you are, admit it) can go a long way toward making it look a little less grey outside that window. And so it goes. It’s that life thing again. Is your student’s life lonely? Maybe a little. But is your student living the life they chose? Most definitely. And, they will be better for it.