University is a really exciting time in a young person’s life and for many marks the beginning of independent living and lifelong friendships. But for some students, making friends at university doesn’t come so easily and worries about fitting into new social groups, combined with the stress of academic performance, student loans and finances can negatively contribute to their mental health.

These fears, coupled with anxieties around the Coronavirus pandemic, have created an especially stressful time for students.

Almost half of UK students admit to feelings of loneliness during their time at university, with 1 in 6 saying they were unable to make lasting friendships.

The effects of technology and social media are widely blamed for the younger generations inability to form real-life relationships, as well as increasing their fears of rejection and isolation.

A recent YouGov survey commissioned by Whistle Punks, found millennials are the least confident age group when it comes to starting a conversation with a stranger, with 59% preferring social interactions to occur online rather than face-to-face.

Under Government guidelines, universities have now suspended face-to-face teaching and are providing virtual classes and e-learning to students, so finding ways to connect with other students is more important than ever.

Within universities, there is a growing problem of student loneliness and isolation that has caused increasing numbers to leave their courses. At Umii we recognised this problem and the concept for our app was borne out of our own personal experiences of this at university. We understood the importance of connecting with people in the real world, and how friendships and conversation are key to positive mental health and successful university experiences.

The application we’ve developed helps students make platonic friendships by connecting those with shared interests, personality traits and hobbies.
Throughout the design of the app we were keen to make it as easy as possible for our users to start conversations with their fellow students online and then safely take that relationship into the real world. We’ve loved connecting like-minded people, seeing their friendships blossom and hearing the stories from our users who have gone on to develop strong friendship groups through using the app.

The impact it can have is best summed up by this feedback from one of our users, “Being able to speak openly about my money at university with the friends I’ve made, has really helped me put my financial situation into perspective and realise that the struggles I’ve experienced are totally normal” said Mia, Nottingham Trent University Student. “The connections I’ve made through Umii have gone on to be some of my closest friends. I can talk to them openly about anything, including taboo conversation topics like money and relationships, which has massively helped to reduce my stress levels but most importantly, it’s made me feel normal and accepted.”

We believe that getting more students talking about the struggles they face at university, and in particular their finances, positively contributes to their ability to successfully deal with them.

From our own research and feedback from users, we’ve found that the topics students struggled to have conversations about the most were those around money management. Many students are becoming increasingly worried about their finances during Coronavirus, due to lowering incomes as a result of closed workplaces, and uncertainty surrounding whether they will still have to pay rent on empty or closed student accommodation.

In our survey of over 2000 students, 82% said that they only feel comfortable discussing subjects such as student loans and their personal finances with friends they have a close personal connection with.

Whilst we’re doing our bit to help change this, there’s still a long way to go and a lot more support needed. Initiatives such as the National Conversation Week are great at encouraging more people to talk about their finances, and empowering people who might be struggling to find someone to chat to about it.

Written by Megan McLatchie, Marketing Executive @ Umii