Social changes in the summer term

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Your social life may feel very different in the summer break and you may miss your friends and the social activities you usually do during term time. Whether you are staying near uni or going back to a family home, you may find it helps to plan for the break so you feel more connected and maintain your wellbeing.

The summer term usually results in a significant change in the social life of students. If you are going back home, you will be away from your friends, social spaces and activities. If you are staying near university, you may find that there are fewer people around, that many of your activities stop for the summer and some places may even close until term starts again.

This change can provide you with some much-needed downtime, a chance to recuperate and to build up your finances if you are able to work. However, you may find the change unsettling, having less to do and fewer people to spend time with may feel less exciting or interesting, you may feel bored and lonely or even find your mood dropping as a result.

There are a few reasons why you may feel this way, including:

Routine and structure

While at university, you and your friends may have developed routines and structures that helped to keep you active and connected with others. The summer term can stop those routines and structures from working as well. This alone can impact on our mood, as we generally feel better when we have a regular structure to our days and weeks.

Fewer social opportunities

The summer term may mean you have fewer opportunities to engage socially. This can mean you find your time less interesting or feel less connected.

Social distance

Having fewer people around or being away from your friends may make you feel more isolated or distanced from your usual social network. You might simply miss your friends and wish you could see them. You may feel that you are by yourself more or that you have fewer people around who understand you or share your interests and experiences.

Comparisons

If you and your friends use social media, you may draw comparisons between your summer experience and theirs. If they seem to be having more fun or that they are spending more time with your shared friends, you may feel you are missing out or take a more negative view of your own summer.

Tips for managing social changes in summer

Plan a structure

You may want to have a week or two at the start of term to just relax and drift. This can be nice, for a while, but try not to let it go on for the whole summer. Instead think about creating a structure and routines that can keep you active, engaged and interested in your time. If you can work, this can provide some structure but think about how you might want to use the time out of work. A mix of activities can be helpful – think about things that might engage you physically, mentally and socially.

Stay in touch

Plan to stay in touch with your friends and if possible, catch up with them online. This can help you feel more connected and up to date with each other’s lives. Remember that their summer structure may be different to yours, so getting together may take some effort, but letting them know you miss them and are thinking of them can be a good way to build on your connections and build intimacy, even if you can’t be there together in person.

Use the social opportunities you do have

If you are around family or some of your friends, the summer may be an opportunity to spend more time together with a few people and potentially deepen these relationships. There may also be other opportunities to engage in social activities in your local area, depending on your interests and hobbies. You may enjoy volunteering, local sports clubs, arts clubs, political activities or other social spaces.

Whilst, like me, you may have lost contact with old friends since starting university, I would advise that it’s important to re-connect with them. Not only will this help you escape possible loneliness, it will also show your friends that you still value them and want to keep in contact with them. This could be beneficial to both parties, with some of your other home friends possibly experiencing the same feelings of isolation and loneliness. Never be afraid to message people, even if you haven’t been in contact with them for a while.

Identify what’s good about the summer break

While summer may have interrupted your university experience, it might provide an opportunity for things that are good. This will be different for each person, so think about what you’d most like to get out of your time given your circumstances. Is this a chance for a rest? Or to reconnect with old friends and family? Or to spend more time practicing a hobby or skill? Or to start studying for next year? Or to look after your health more? Lean into whatever is good for you.

Be aware of your own thoughts

Comparing ourselves to others is often unhelpful – it doesn’t change anything and can lower our mood. Remember that when we compare ourselves, we are usually comparing with an edited version of the other person’s life – stripped of all of their mistakes, arguments, upsets and dull bits. Focus on what you want and can take from the break.

Remember this won’t last long

The summer break can seem long if you aren’t enjoying it, but it does end in just a few weeks. Remind yourself of this if you aren’t enjoying your time and look forward to returning to university.

Support doesn’t disappear

If you are finding it difficult, most university support services are still around in summer and many will be willing to see you online or speak over the phone.

Page last reviewed: June 2024