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Sunday, Feb. 25
The Indiana Daily Student

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COLUMN: Normalize eating alone in the dining hall


Many college students fear the idea of eating alone in the dining hall, but it does not have to be this way. You do not need to sit with friends to enjoy a delicious meal. 

I can confidently say I only know two people that have no problem with eating alone. There is a good chunk of students who will not even step foot into the dining hall if they are alone, leading to bigger personal issues. If you cannot be alone in a public setting, it could potentially affect your social life, relationships and future career. If you always need someone at your side, you will not know how to truly discover yourself in college.  

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I get it — walking into a massive dining hall alone can be scary at first. People you vaguely know might watch you pass by their table, or your friend might catch you eating alone and ask why you are by yourself. Multiple people have come up to me while eating alone to ask me why I am by myself. I get a lot of weird looks from people when I tell them I eat alone in the dining hall sometimes. I have been asked if I have friends and if I am doing okay. If people are asking you these questions, that means they are part of the problem: if more people started eating alone, then it would not be seen as such an odd thing.  

If the idea of sitting alone makes you nervous, start by bringing a book or laptop with you. It will keep your anxious thoughts distracted while you eat. There is always some big empty corner in the dining hall where nobody really sits — which is a good spot to eat by yourself for the first time.  

Alone time is a good thing. It gives you plenty of time to catch up with your current thoughts and feelings. It can be hard to find some peace and quiet, especially when you have roommates. I always enjoy talking to my mom on the phone when I sit by myself in the dining hall, where I can talk about anything with no distractions. 

Whenever I see people eating by themselves, it makes me hopeful that we can soon normalize eating alone. If you think someone is judging you for sitting alone, they are probably thinking about themselves instead. The dining hall is big and filled with many people, so you probably won’t even know the people who walk past you.  

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I know many people who constantly order in because their friends do not like the dining hall food. Not only is this a waste of money, but it’s also a waste of time. Ordering food every day really adds up, especially with tax and delivery fees. After you spend $30 on a sandwich, you have to wait an extra hour for the food to most likely be cold when it arrives. Nobody wants to wait longer than they would like to, just as nobody enjoys tracking their delivery driver moving in slow motion while they can hear their stomach grumbling.  

Eating alone in a public setting seems scary at first, but if you bring a book or call a friend, it is calming. Eating alone allows you to leave whenever you want since you do not have to wait for anyone. Hopefully, this persuades you to eat alone and reassures you that it is okay. Next time you want to eat at the dining hall, bring yourself instead of a friend and enjoy some alone time.

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