Facing FOMO at AUC: “This Giant Social Bubble Is Calling to You” 

By Pola Folwarczny

Collage by Maria Mazurek

Trying to build a new life in an unfamiliar place, far away from one’s home country and the easy comfort of family and long-established friends, it comes as no surprise that the first months at AUC can be the opposite of the high expectations for university life. Loneliness and homesickness, intimidation and uncertainty, are all emotions that torment the incoming students. And on top of that is the greatest enemy of each and every student: the fear of missing out, colloquially referred to as FOMO.

In the beginning of the first year especially, many students find it challenging to establish a healthy balance between socialising, studying and taking care of their personal needs. Helena Gąsiejewska, a first-year Humanities major, reflects upon her initial weeks in Amsterdam: “As a first year moving to a new city and not knowing anyone, I did feel this internal pressure to force myself to go to these events that maybe I wouldn’t have [gone to] originally, when I was home.” She quickly realised that the most fulfilling connections may find you where you least expect them, including the elevators in the dorm buildings. “You need to be open to chance,” she says, emphasising that going out is not the only way to meet people in a community as close-knit and welcoming as that of AUC.

The closeness of living in the dorms does affect the FOMO of many students. “It [living in the dorms] makes it easier to socialise, but it’s also very easy to force yourself [to go out], because it’s right there,” says first-year Social Science major Leonor Koppitz, continuing, “It’s like you can’t really find excuses.” She finds it  difficult to establish the limits of what she can and cannot do during the week so as not to end up entirely drained by the end of it.

The happenings occurring every Tuesday night, such as the AUCafé-organised borrels, do not help Koppitz in her struggle. Despite having a morning class on Wednesdays, Koppitz says she does go out “even though [she] knows she shouldn’t.” Although she does not feel obliged to go, and she does enjoy it when she’s out, she admits that she would also have been perfectly satisfied spending the night in her own company if she had stayed home. She recognises the subtle, subconscious pressure in the back of her mind that ultimately pushes her to join the joyous herds of partying students.

A similar struggle affects students who strive to find time to fit everything into their schedules, despite being busy with their studies. Fatemah Muneeb Iqbal, a first-year Science major, reflects on her attempt to combine the assigned workload with socialising: “I tried to have a social life and keep up with the work as well, I was trying to balance it, […] but as a result I fell behind on my work.” She believes the amount of work is connected to her major, which takes up more of her time both in and outside of classes.

Despite that, Iqbal stresses the importance of appreciating the time you spend alone and finding your own pace: “We have three years, and it’s only been three months,” she says. “It’ll take time to integrate better, find your own schedule, your own pace, your own people.”

The older students of AUC agree that the feelings of missing out never fade entirely, but with time you learn how to control them and enjoy university life despite their occasional resurfacing. Harper Charlton, a third-year Humanities major, describes his experience at AUC as “being constantly in a social space”, something which may overwhelm students who are still trying to settle into their new routines.

The feeling of missing out is intensified by everything and everyone being within walking distance. “I hear parties, I hear of parties, I hear of things happening after they’ve happened,” says third-year Science major Alicja Sierek, recounting what living in the dorms is like.

Natal Zaghal, a second-year Science major, tries to rationalise the hecticness of the first months at AUC and highlights the inability to avoid it. “University can be lonely if you don’t have people around you,” she says, continuing, “that’s why you always feel the need to go places.”

The advice these students all give is to accept these feelings and try to see what is past them, focusing on the abundance of needs and obligations which materialise themselves as you start living on your own, in a new environment. According to Charlton, it is crucial to set your priorities straight, despite the fact that “this giant social bubble is calling to you.”

As a piece of advice for the students struggling with severe FOMO, Zahgal emphasises the help that comes from PeerSupport: “Whenever I need something, I can reach out to them. I feel very encouraged to do it.” Sierek advises students to join committees or attend the events they organise as a way of dealing with loneliness.

In the end, it is worth remembering that many AUC students have gone, or are currently going through, the universal experience of FOMO. As Iqbal puts it: “[At AUC] you have a tight-knit support system and if you need anything, you have so many people to help you.” There is nothing to be afraid of – the shared journey can only bring students closer together.

One thought

  1. An amazing article, extremely well-written and very pleasant to read.
    It is refreshing to see someone take on a topic as hard as FOMO and dive into it as deep.
    Good to know that I am not alone in this feeling, thanks to the testimonials.
    I am quite impressed with this writer and hope to read more from her in the future. 🙂


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