For many college-bound kids, college offers so many things they cannot wait for: thousands of new potential friends, all-night parties, and endless opportunities for socialization. If you’re an introvert, however… all of those things may seem more intimidating than exciting. Starting fresh in a new place is a beautiful opportunity, but it also requires a whole lot of putting yourself out there, which often isn’t second nature for introverts. So, how exactly does one survive the transition to college as an introvert?
The beautiful thing about college (well, one of the many, many beautiful things about college) is simply that there are all types of people. For every extrovert you can’t relate to, there are five other introverts you can. You’re not the only one searching for your tribe, and in college you’ll certainly find one – extrovert or not. However, it’s always helpful to head into a daunting situation with a few helpful tips in mind.
Befriend your roommate.
In an ideal world everyone would end up rooming with their very best friend, but obviously that’s not how it always works out. Even if you don’t predict a lifelong friendship between you two, it’s always helpful to have a friendly face to navigate those first few weeks of college with. Whether it’s simply grabbing dinner together in the dining hall or going as a pair to the campus gym, bonding with your roomie can make it easier to get out and about and meet other students.
Practice these four simple words: “Can I join you?”
Yes, even introverts want to get out and have fun sometimes, but it can be hard to do that when it’s not your usual M.O. One of my best friends in college was pretty much the definition of an introvert. Because she often would rather spend her evenings in watching a movie or trying a new recipe, we wouldn’t always include her in plans to go to a rowdy party. Of course, that said nothing about how much we loved her – we were simply used to her politely turning down invitations. That’s why it was necessary for her to speak up when she did want to join, and we were always thrilled when that happened.
It’s important to get comfortable saying things like, “Those plans sound really fun, would it be cool if I joined?” Trust me, most people will be really happy to have you accompany them.
Don’t feel obligated to go big or go home.
Just because you’re going to a party doesn’t mean you need to stay there until 3 a.m. Saying yes to a lunch invitation doesn’t mean you’re obligated to then tag along for a trip to the mall or a long hang-out in the student lounge.
In other words, you can be social and fun without running yourself ragged and staying long past your point of comfort. I used to get so wrapped up in saying yes, yes, yes to every invitation that came my way and then staying until all festivities had wrapped up, and I always ended up being exhausted and burned out. It’s OK to put yourself out there in moderation!
Go where you think you’ll find “your people.”
Extroverts can be a lot of fun, but they can also be absolutely exhausting to keep up with. That’s why forming friendships with other introverts is so important! The easiest place to find fellow introverts? Well… where do you like hanging out? Venture out to places that sound genuinely enjoyable for you, and you’ll likely find kindred spirits there. It could be attending a movie screening on campus, joining a volunteer organization, or simply frequenting your favorite coffee shop – just go!
Remember that anxiety-provoking situations can get easier with practice.
While I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself an introvert, I’ve struggled with bouts of social anxiety since high school. This has resulted in many weekends spent hibernating in my bedroom, not necessarily because I wanted to be alone but because being social just seemed uncomfortable and intimidating. However, it always helped me to remember that shying away from situations simply because I’m fearful or anxious will only backfire. Like everything in life, doing something repeatedly will make it easier and easier.
I’m certainly not saying that you should force yourself to do everything. There are always nights where a movie in bed will do more for your mental health than a night on the town. However, don’t hold yourself back simply because the alternative seems hard. The more you do it, the easier it’ll be – and you’ll never expand your comfort zone from the safety of your room.
Always give yourself time to decompress.
College is an extremely busy time, and some days you’ll feel like a chicken with its head cut off. One of the best things you can do is to schedule in some decompression time every day, and prioritize it like you would any of your responsibilities.
Even if it’s only 15 minutes, give yourself that time to step away from your laptop, close your textbooks, break away from your friends, and simply take a moment for yourself. Breathe, meditate, lie in your bed, whatever – just enjoy a little bit of silence. You may think it’s a waste of your precious time, but in reality it will end up helping you refocus and prioritize.