Sophie Hosbein is a political science junior and columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
As a freshman, I would routinely stand in 805 Kitchen holding my plate of food and scanning the room for a familiar face, searching for someone whose table I could ask to sit at. Even after freshman year, eating alone remains a challenge for many students. And what’s worse is that students accept it as just the way things are, even though many of them dread it.
Instead of eating alone night after night, college students could benefit greatly by making more of an effort to plan and prepare meals with others. This extra effort would lead to numerous benefits: reduced homesickness, lessened anxiety and a larger sense of belonging.
Many students — especially those transitioning to college — are used to eating dinner with their families. Studies show that the experience of eating together has a positive impact on kids and adults alike. Family dinners foster good habits and healthy relationships. When this ritual is exchanged for one of wandering a dining hall and sitting at a table alone, students are left longing for how dinner used to be.
In college, dinner is generally an afterthought. It can mean grabbing a piece of pizza as you walk to the library or microwaving a frozen enchilada from Trader Joe’s. It shouldn’t have to be this way, though.
Making the effort to share a meal with others can alleviate many of the emotional and some of the mental health challenges that college students face. Through breaking bread together, students will have time to bond and unwind, engage in conversations and share how they are doing. These are vital aspects of emotional wellbeing that are lost when students eat alone, staring at their phones.
By replicating a family meal, students see that the comfort of enjoying good food with good company is not necessarily a thing of the past. Realizing that they can recreate some of the things they miss about dinners at home with just a little effort and forethought can go a long way in reducing homesickness.
Once someone sees the benefits of reaching out to a friend to schedule a time to eat together, the next time, and the time after that, it will get easier and easier.
Besides, eating with others doesn’t have to be an extravaganza. It can be as simple as meeting at The Avenue, going to somebody’s apartment or joining others for a free dinner at Front Porch on any given Wednesday night.
While family dinners do not come to college with you, there is still the potential for dinner to be a time to gather, a time to take a break from whatever happened that day and a time to enjoy the company of others. It may take a bit more effort than it did while living at home, but I assure you, it is well worth it.