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Populus’ means ‘the People’—Student Society Aims to Alleviate Social Isolation

According to a recent YouGov survey, while almost all students experienced loneliness in the last year, 53% felt fairly to very uncomfortable seeking help—Populus wants to change this.

Populus is a student society whose mission is to make every University of St Andrews student feel welcome. Populus has already held Freshers’ Fayre Matchup, Speed Friending, and Psychology and Neuroscience Match-up events this semester.

“All our gatherings are known for their welcoming atmosphere and diverse attendees. They provide a great platform for students to connect and get to know each other,” Anantya Rai, President of Populus, said.

“A successful Populus event is one where attendees feel comfortable, engage with others, and leave with new friends and positive experiences.”

Populus is planning an Academic Family Matchup before Raisin Weekend, which will take place in early October. Raisin Weekend is a multi-day tradition at the University during which academic parents organise events for their children, eventually culminating in a foam fight between the children of all participating families. The form to register for the Match-up as a prospective academic child or parent and upcoming event announcements can be found through Populus’ Facebook page and Instagram profile.

Populus was founded as a non–profit group in September 2016 by Sam Ross, now manager at the St Andrews Preservation Trust. Havana Frakes later registered Populus as a Students’ Association affiliated society, hoping to reduce loneliness among students at the University by creating spaces that foster social connection.

“Populus employs various ice-breaker activities, conversation prompts, and group games to create a friendly and inclusive environment. We ensure that everyone is introduced and given opportunities to connect, making it easier for students to overcome social anxiety or initial awkwardness.”

“As part of our match-ups, we pair individuals based on similar preferences and interests, ensuring meaningful connections.”

In the same YouGov survey, participants indicated concerns about loneliness (52%) more frequently than they did concerns about managing money (49%), course difficulty (49%), or ‘fitting in’ (48%).

The University also offers support to students experiencing loneliness or social anxiety, including appointments with counsellors and wellbeing advisers at the Student Advice and Support Centre.

“Loneliness and homesickness are covered in Student Services’ online A–Z of Wellbeing, which provides helpful information and signposts students to a variety of resources,” said a spokesperson for the University.

Among these resources are the Got Support? and Saint Sport Peer Support programs that match students requesting support with student volunteers for meet–ups. Those interested in becoming a peer support volunteer are encouraged to reach out to the Peer Support Coordinator to learn more about the opportunity.

Other resources are available to students living in Halls of Residence, such as support from the Wardennial Team.

“If a student is struggling to integrate into Hall life, we are happy to help them attend events, as well as encourage them to attend an event run by our team. This way, they can come along, safe in the knowledge that they’ll have someone to talk to,” the spokesperson said.

Populus, however, is run by and for the broader student community. The society’s leadership team, including its President, Anantya Rai, are closely familiar with the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of student life.

“Personally, I’ve experienced friendship losses, which can be particularly isolating, especially when you’re far from home. It can be challenging to navigate university without the right people and support. I believe everyone deserves a sense of belonging and warmth during their university journey, which is why I’m committed to Populus’ mission.”

The society says they are planning an exciting line–up of events this semester and throughout the academic year.

“Populus’ leadership is focused on expanding our reach and diversifying our events. We aim to collaborate with more societies, halls of residences, and locations across the St Andrews campus. Our goal is to create a community where every student feels at home.”

Further support for those experiencing loneliness:

Nightline St Andrews (phone 01334 46 2266, instant message, or email

Samaritans (phone 116 123).

Student Advice and Support Centre (visit 79 North Street, phone 01334 462020, or email

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