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Feeling Lost and Alone in Law School

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Hi,

1L can be really tough. I am a 3L  at ualberta so if you need to talk please feel free to message me.

If it helps, everyone has been through the same thing so chin up and don't forget to call ASSIST if you want to talk to a professional

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Not at UAlberta and am no longer a student - but also had a really rough time during law school with mental health. Happy to chat or listen if you need to vent to someone completely outside/anonymous from your sphere. 

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I'm also a 1L at U of A.  I understand what you're saying but also want to point out the other side of it.  There are clearly a few small groups that are really stuck with sitting together,  but look closely at the rest of the room.  Most people are sitting on their own not talking to anyone.  They may be even sitting beside or between these groups, but that's because there are no extra chairs in the room. 

Part of this will be shyness but a lot of this is also stress and terror.  We're given piles and piles of homework, the professors are talking a language we've never heard before, and even worse some students in the class seem to know this language already and seem to be making brilliant contributions!  But I've talked to many of these law language students and so far they are all poli sci majors, so they have a bit of an advantage off the start.  But the rest of us will find our advantage at a later point.

A lot of people are feeling not even capable of socializing right now because they can't even keep up with the reading and classes.  This is not a rejection of you, this is about people taking care of themselves.

I am an extreme introvert, i couldn't even say Hi back to kids that said Hi to me in high school - other people terrified me.   I still go home after school every day and sit at home in dead quiet to decompress. I have trained myself through conscious effort to learn how to socialize (literally have taken classes on how to make small talk, among other things), and now I have fooled many people in my life into thinking I'm an extrovert.   Yet when I sit down in class next to someone I don't know (everyday for the last 3 weeks), I still have to give myself a little talking to ("do it, say something, what's the worst they can do to you?"). 

I have no doubt that at least 70% of our class are introverts, based on my conversations so far as well as statistics related to the type of people who end up in law school.

And even though I find I am usually the first one to say "Hi, I'm Francesca" (my name is not Francesca :)), 80% of the time, the other person's face lights up.  The other 20% of the time I just get back "Hi my name is George" and they go back to looking at their laptop or notes.  It looks to me like these 20% are just numb with the stress, I haven't had one person respond in a way that seems like they want to send me a "go away" message, like does occasionally happen in most other social situations.  Frankly I've found this law school to be the friendliest setting I've ever been in, if you factor in the stress level.

I've made commitments to myself to socialize in law school - because it's great for my future career as a lawyer to know as many brilliant people as possible, but also because it's great for my mental health.  No matter how introverted we are, we are all still social creatures.    My current goal is to learn and remember (even if I have to ask a few times) the name of everyone in my cohort, and one interesting fact about them, by the end of first year.

I've been practicing socializing for a few years now and it does get easier but anxiety never goes away, you just learn to step over it.  But the main thing I've learned is that generally people are far more awesome and for more interesting than I ever suspected when I was running away from them in high school.

That being said, not everyone you talk to has the potential to be your friend.  If you had a good conversation with 10 strangers, you would find yourself much more comfortable with one of those people over the other 9 just because they click with your personality and you click with theirs.  This is not about rejection, this is just life.

Some practical things you could try: Don't wait for everyone else to be friendly, be the first to say hi.  You will already have their appreciation because you took the pressure off them to be the first one to talk.  Also I would suggest not sitting at the back of the room because it does look like that's where are the most scared people are sitting, and those are the people least likely to respond enthusiastically when you introduce yourself to them. 

Many people have a standard list of questions ready, so they don't have to come up with small talk under pressure - write yourself a list of 3-4 questions that are easy to ask anyone.  Most common questions going around are "what was your undergrad in?" "are you from Edmonton, or where are you from?" "when you decide you wanted to go into law?"  Once you get a little practice, you can start asking questions based on their answers to your first questions.

Good luck and I hope things start looking up for you!

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1 hour ago, Waterfall2021 said:

A lot of people are feeling not even capable of socializing right now because they can't even keep up with the reading and classes.  This is not a rejection of you, this is about people taking care of themselves.

Honestly, this is me right now. I'm an introvert as well, but I love chatting, so I'll never turn down a conversation; that being said, every time I have a conversation with someone at school I'm internally screaming because I just want to sit down and work on the readings. 

My offer to study together still stands, and that goes for anyone in 1L at the UofA who feels lonely. Just shoot me a PM and we'll work something out!

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UoA 1L here

I'm from other city as well, and I've never been to Edmonton before.

I'm a visible minority and I am not even a native speaker.

For the first week I barely speak to anyone. I also missed a bunch of seminars because I missread the calendar and I didn't have any one to ask around. Some of the people I met on the first day basically act like I am thin air when they pass by me or sit beside me later on. 

I didn't got an apartment until second weekend of school, and I got a really bad injury this summer so I could barely raise one of my arm.

But I did make friends gradually, although only very few and they are not necessarily from my cohort, but we can speak openly with each other and discuss both academic and non academic topics. 

I think what helps is that I had my focus for the first two weeks. I just ignore those unpleasant things and focus on the class/readings and my injury recovery. And frankly speaking I found them quite interesting. I enjoy reading in late night in libraries. If I am too tired I just walk down to Earl and grab some food while let my mind running loose.

I didn't sign up any Law school club yet because I feel I am reaching my capacity by just studying and Recovering from the injury. But I still try to keep my personal habit on going. As soon as I came to the campus I signed up to powerlifting club so I can do what I used to do back home once my condition gets better. When I finally get back to the gym last weekend, I feel my law-school life is getting better and better every day.

btw, please sit at the front seat. By doing this you can at least force yourself to engage the lectures. I personally feel this is a very good way to fight with the tendency to zoom out in some classes. 

 

Edited by andrewhl

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Hey fellow 1Ls,

I just wanted to let @sey and all the other 1Ls at uofa know that there is another person feeling the exact same way. I thought I was the only one who was feeling socially isolated and like the school is super cliquey. I moved here from BC and am trying to meet people and make friends but it seems next to impossible. I've honestly been questioning whether this whole endeavour will be worth it. I know it's only been a few weeks but still it is rough when you have no friends, no family, and a new kind of school work that is very demanding. Honestly, it is some what comforting knowing that other people feel the same way.

I am more than open to hanging out or meet up with anybody else who is feeling socially isolated and out of place here in Edmonton.

Thanks for starting this thread, even if I dont get to meet any of you guys at least I know I'm not the only one.

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Okay, if we identify any more of the 1L class at Alberta that feels like everyone is ignoring them, at some point y'all are going to have to admit that you're just ignoring each other and take collective responsibility for the problem.

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It looks like there is some movement going on in the Facebook group regarding this thread. Hopefully some of the 1Ls end up meeting up with each other.

As this thread makes abundantly clear there are numerous people who find the social situation of meeting hundreds of new people in a period of a few weeks overwhelming. The main difference between people in this thread and many of the people not in this thread is that some people were lucky enough to meet 1-2 other people they hit it off with right away.

This thread presents a pretty great opportunity if someone is willing to take initiative and arrange some sort of meetup.

Edited by Toad

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Apropos of nothing, if you are mocking students who feel overwhelmed, lonely, and perhaps even depressed, you should take a moment to pause and consider who it is that belongs back in middle school. It is well known that lawyers and law students are disproportionately affected by mental illness. I am no psychiatrist but it doesn’t take one to recognize that mocking people who are suffering in this way will do nothing but exacerbate the issue. 

And on a more personal note, I will add to the chorus of people who have felt isolated, hopeless, and overwhelmed while in law school. It’s not easy. But it’s manageable. If you would ever like to meet up or speak privately (even anonymously) with an upper year at UofA, feel more than welcome to send me a message and we can figure something out. 

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On 9/23/2019 at 4:19 PM, LegallyHobo said:

I just wanted to hop on this thread as I was just about to make my own thread with the exact same title. OP is definitely not alone in their feelings, and I imagine at least a few others would agree.

I’m also a 1L at the U of A and I’m absolutely miserable. I’ve spent foundations easily getting along with everyone. I was joining random groups at lunch, for study parties, and in the halls. I was on a first name basis with everyone. I see a random person in the hall standing alone and I walk up and say hi. I text people asking how they’re doing. I’ve joined four different extracurriculars and work hard to chat with the people in those groups. I feel like I get along with everyone. I didn’t think there was an issue. I’ve never had problem making friends before.

But in the last few days of school, I’ve realized that ever since foundations ended, if I don’t seek people out, nobody cares if I’m there. The existing cliques have become impenetrable. I made a ton of acquaintances during foundations but no friends apparently, and now it feels too late. I even end up sitting alone in my row in classes because I show up early and then everyone else settles around me with their friends. I have literally never felt more alone in my life.

I just spent over an hour crying in my vehicle in the parking lot because I don’t know if I can spend an entire year (or three) like this. The idea that this MIGHT get better at some point seems like a very small hope. But I suppose it’s something. 

OP, I hope to hear that everything works out for you! I hope you find your stride both in classes and with the people  

Best wishes.

 

 

 

 

Why are you letting who talks to you impact your experience of law school, this absolutely baffles me. Just go to class and do your work. I could literally come here everyday for 3 years and be completely content if no one ever spoke to me lol. Its not high school you don't need to penetrate any groups. Im sure you'll find at least 1 or 2 people you click with.

Edited by AJD19
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1 hour ago, AJD19 said:

Why are you letting who talks to you impact your experience of law school, this absolutely baffles me. Just go to class and do your work. I could literally come here everyday for 3 years and be completely content if no one ever spoke to me lol. Its not high school you don't need to penetrate any groups. Im sure you'll find at least 1 or 2 people you click with.

This is a really callous response. I'm the same way as you are, AJD; my focus is on the work, and I'll be okay if I don't make any close friends in law school. I also, however, and I'm not making this assumption of you, have a robust support network outside of school.

The people posting in this thread about how isolated they've felt, however, clearly do value making friends in school much more than you or I do. I would also hazard a guess that they don't have a robust support network. As well, regardless of support network, it would be nice to have a friend with whom one can talk about coursework.

I can't say that I haven't had interactions with people in these last few weeks where I thought a friendship was there and then I never talk to them again. That hurts! And I bet for other people it hurts a lot more!

These posters are clearly upset and overwhelmed and your response of what basically amounts to "It doesn't bother me so why should it bother you" is really rude.

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14 hours ago, UAbear2018 said:

Apropos of nothing, if you are mocking students who feel overwhelmed, lonely, and perhaps even depressed, you should take a moment to pause and consider who it is that belongs back in middle school. It is well known that lawyers and law students are disproportionately affected by mental illness. I am no psychiatrist but it doesn’t take one to recognize that mocking people who are suffering in this way will do nothing but exacerbate the issue. 

Wasn't my intention (I meant middle school in the sense of seeming cliquish and exclusive, not that the posters here belong in middle school), but it was written that way. I deleted it, but I apologize to anyone who read it and felt like I was mocking them. 

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I might be a bit late to the party. I'm in 3L, whose experience wasn't that dissimilar.I generally prefer to keep to myself, tend to avoid parties, etc, and didn't really know anyone for most of first semester. It can be really lonely. Add to that how extremely anxious I was having left my career to return to Law School, and how alien it all was, was incredibly intimidating.

But I think that's exactly it: so many people feel the same way you do. They feel anxious, frightened, and lonely in first year, especially in the first semester. But there's also something comforting in that. It's nice to know you aren't alone. I remember I felt like the dumbest person in the room, and I was always so intimidated when people had snap answers to questions I hardly understood. But then I spoke to some of the gunners in my class. They felt exactly the same way I did. They aren't super geniuses, they just knew the answer to that question. They felt confused and lost (almost) as much as I did on most everything else.

Its so important to remember that you aren't going through this alone, even if you might feel like it. One of the best bonding experience for 1L's is commiserating about their own experiences, and how common it is to feel like this.

But, like other's have said, it definitely gets better. I find it really hard to make friends with people in my classes as well. All of my lasting friendships have come outside the classroom. Here are a few things that worked for me, and I really hope they might be useful to you:

1. Studying at the library: You start to see people regularly studying at the library rather than at home. If you see people in the case cohorts/learning groups there all the time, it might take the pressure off to (quietly) talk to them about classes, or LRW assignments? If they see you in the library all the time, they might want to study for finals with you. They know you put in the work. Plus, I find studying at the library helps me focus and get more done, which helped with how I understood the topics.

2. Extracurriculars: These are by far the best way to meet new people. At our classes orientation, we got a piece of advice: try two ECs. That said, take on as much as you feel you can comfortably take on. Your mental health will always be the most important factor. The two most popular are SLS and Law Show. In both instances you're literally put in a room with a bunch of your peers. There is a lot of downtime to talk about whatever. They're a great way to meet new people. With Law Show in particular, you get the added benefit of doing something not related to the law, and Law Show is great for holding up a mirror to the stresses of Law School/Practice and makes fun of them. But there are plenty of groups available for any number of interests.

3. Feeling lost and confused: Talk to your professors. As a tangent, in 1L, and even now, I always have this nagging feeling that I'm the only one who doesn't understand the subject matter, and everyone else can just read a case and naturally pull everything they need out of the case without trying. But, as above, that's not true. People regularly don't understand cases, even leading up to exams. And that is completely normal.

But, whenever I feel completely lost, professors have been an incredible resource. Go to their office hours or e-mail them. They are usually great for slowing things down, and helping you one-on-one get a better grasp of the subject matter.

4. In my first year, I signed up for a mentor through SLS. My mentor was a great resource who had already been what I had been through, and provided helpful advice, and was just generally someone I could talk to about all of this stuff. If you didn't get a chance to sign up for one, feel free to PM me if you're comfortable doing so (if you can? I have no idea how this site works).

While stress goes up closer to midterms, I found that's when I started to actually meet people. We're all stressed, and we love to talk about it. I started chatting with people in the library, which turned into study groups. And extracurriculars were great for meeting people, but that took time as well. None of this happened in my first week, first month, or really, first semester. But it got better, and I feel like I have a support network in place.

So take all of this with a grain of salt. Results may vary. But these were a few strategies that worked for me. But most importantly, just remember that you deserve to be here. It wasn't a mistake, and you aren't the only person in the class who isn't a super genius. You might be struggling with the material, but so is everyone else. Just talking about that with people was so helpful with helping me feel like I wasn't an imposter. And I know you're feeling alone, but I guarantee there are people in your classes, in the library, or in any extracurriculars that feel the same way.

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Hey all,

I posted on your class' Facebook page. I'm in 3L at U of A, I'm highly introverted ... but am that weird personality type that comes across as more extroverted. Come talk to me! I'm the one in the Superman hoodie today (with cape, of course). Other days, I'll be wearing Batman, Totoro, R2D2 ... . I lived away from home for high school and undergrad, so am familiar with trying to get used to a new city without your support group. I've lived in Japan and Germany, so am familiar with both group and individual societies. I have a husband and kids, so am familiar with trying to juggle priorities and demands on your time. I'm a complete nerd and a very "odd duck", so am familiar with not feeling like you're fitting in anywhere. I'm happy to sit with you and have a cup of tea, chat or not, whatever. 

I will try to remember to wear one of my nerdy hoodies each Monday, so you can identify me. Flag me down and let me know you want someone to talk to. 

Remember, too, that especially if you're coming from another city,  you've got homesickness to deal with. First month tends to be the honeymoon period. Next month "reality" hits and you get depressed. Next month, you're feeling a bit better. Next month, you're down again. It's actually a really normal part of adjusting to a new situation and new place, but if you haven't done it before, it's really distressing. 

Anyway, like I said, flag me down. Grab my cape, whatever. ;) 

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I’m also a 1L at UofA, and I too moved away from home, away from family and friends, and am pretty introverted sometimes despite a seemingly extroverted exterior.

As someone who has stood outside classrooms in a circle of friends chatting, I can honestly say that if you come up to the group, go, “Hey, I’m so and so” the group will light up and ask you a million questions about where you’re from, how your classes are, and other random tidbits. Feel free to join us for lunch or our study groups. Just approach and ask, and everyone would be happy to welcome you in  

Having said that, I have never once sat next to a person in class and asked them how they are, or chatted with them to have them blow me off completely. If I sit down and do not acknowledge the other person, 70% of the time they ask me how I am, and 30% of the time they also do not acknowledge me. 

I also think law school is what you make of it. I enjoy immensely being at home by myself, listening to music, watching Netflix etc etc etc. But I’ve been forcing myself to attend events, go out with friends, join clubs, run for positions as 1L rep. I am in no way saying OP is not making an effort, because I know how hard it is to make friends in a new place while juggling readings and this new way of learning. I have friends, we hang out, yet I still feel like I’m the least important person in the friend group. 

 

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I keep telling myself I refuse to believe I've met all my law school friends already. It's only been three weeks of class, and less in cohorts. I'm excited and confident that I'll meet many more amazing people!

Stay strong OP + readers!

Edited by jda19
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I'm another 1L at UAlberta here to give my take. I feel it's important to keep in perspective that just because a fair number of people have found acquaintances who they sit with and talk to in class, that does not mean they are best friends and spend their time outside of class together. So try to not let in-class cliques get you down as I do not believe they represent the realities that alot of 1Ls are going through adjusting to a new environment. I'm sure if you were to poll the students who are new to the city, a good portion would report feeling lonely and isolated regardless of whether they have a found a clique to talk to in class. 

 

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On 9/24/2019 at 8:45 PM, Diplock said:

Okay, if we identify any more of the 1L class at Alberta that feels like everyone is ignoring them, at some point y'all are going to have to admit that you're just ignoring each other and take collective responsibility for the problem.

This is your best post on the forum.

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Honestly, OP, some law school friendships last a long time, but more often they fade. Focus on school and not the cliques. If you make friends, great. If not, you've got loved ones in your hometown (which you will presumably be returning to once you obtain your degree anyways).

 

Cliques are fleeting. Just do your best to get good grades and make friends where you eventually end up employed.

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