Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again! The time when the temperature starts to go down and textbook prices go way, way up. That’s right, it’s college season once again!
Now let’s get one thing straight here: college is rough for everyone in some way. Especially when you’re going in as a freshman, you’ll likely have some hard days, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert – and that’s okay! In my own experience as a freshman-year introvert though, I noticed that I faced some challenges that were different from those of my extroverted peers.
That’s where this post comes in. I know that college is a hard transition for many, and at least for the introverts, I want to help you out if I can. (Sorry I can’t speak to your own challenges, extroverts – but perhaps I can convince one of my friends to blog about it…)
So how does one survive college as an introvert?
1) Don’t Do Everything
If your school is like mine, they’ll have various social events throughout the year that are optional. However, there’s often a feeling of pressure that you MUST GO to every social event the campus has to offer, especially during your first year. You might not be required to go eat lunch with your floormates, but you might feel like you’re “not participating enough” if you don’t go.
But here’s the secret: You don’t actually have to do everything. In fact, you shouldn’t do everything. When you do, you’ll start to burn out and have no energy left for things like classes which, as much as we hate to admit it, are pretty important. It’s okay to say, “I’m really tired, I think I’m gonna stay in instead of going to [event].”
And if you’re dealing with Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), just remember this: There will be plenty of opportunities in the future. Don’t feel like going to homecoming one year? Just go next year. It’s okay.
2) You Don’t Have to be Everyone’s BFF
When you get to college, sometimes there’s this subconscious feeling that you need to be friends with EVERYONE on campus. There will be icebreaker games and social gatherings and all kinds of stuff that makes that seem true, but it isn’t.
Like I said before, you should push yourself to at least interact with others, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to be your best friend. It’s impossible to have a close friendship with everyone you know, and if you try, it gets to be emotionally and mentally taxing. Don’t be afraid to start conversation with people in your classes, but really invest time in the people you connect with and “fill you up.”
3) Try to Get Along with Your RA
Your RA (Residence Assistant) is the person in charge of the floor you live on. Their job is usually to support the people living on their floor (especially if they’re freshman) and also be there to answer questions, host activities, and be a friend.
Here’s the hard truth: Sometimes, no matter how hard anyone tries, you might not click. And that’s okay! However, you should at least try to get along with your RA, since their job is to help you, whether you need emotional support or practical advice and knowledge. And like with your roommates, don’t be afraid to tell them you’ll sometimes need time to recharge. They’ll understand.
4) Talk to Your Roommate(s)
Roommates can be a scary concept. I mean, you expect me to live with strangers for nine months? Yikes. But the truth is, living with other human beings isn’t actually that bad, but it’s important to make sure you all understand each other, especially if you’re introverted and one or more of your roommates are extroverted.
In that case, you should talk to them. Tell them, “Hey, I’m introverted, and sometimes I just need some time to recharge after a long day of being around people.” Most of the time, they’ll be understanding and willing to accommodate you. Explaining things early on can help avoid issues later.
But also, you should try to talk to your roommate(s) more than that. You’re going to be living with them for a while, so even if you don’t become best friends (see #2), having a strong friendship will make things easier in the long run.
5) Push Yourself
“But Maggie, I thought this was about surviving? I’ll die if I step outside my Comfortable Introvert Zone!”
Well 1) you won’t die, and 2) you can’t actually stay in your comfort zone forever. I know, I probably sound like your parents, but it’s true. You need to grow, and that doesn’t happen if you stay inside Introvert Paradise all the time. So step out and do something that’s hard – that might mean talking to people on your floor or in your classes, or it could mean getting involved in a club on campus or playing a sport. Whatever it is, give it a try, and you might find you’re better than you thought!
For me personally, I never thought I’d get so heavily involved in Minds Matter, but because I pushed myself, I found something I could do well and enjoyed doing for a cause that I’m passionate about. Sometimes I still have to work harder, like when I talk to new students to try and recruit them to the group, but I’m also learning how to interact with others and have conversation with them. It’s a process, but it started with just one step.
6) Remember to Take Breaks
This goes with Tip #2, but it’s worth repeating – don’t overexert your social energy, it’ll only leave you burned out and unable to accomplish things like schoolwork or laundry. Remember to take time for yourself, too. Especially for someone new to school, there’s often this pressure of “gotta do this gotta do that” and before you know it, you’re mentally exhausted.
You’re allowed to take breaks. You’re allowed to have “introvert time.” Take a few minutes every day to do something that fills you up, whether that be writing, reading, watching a TV episode (not too many though), doing a puzzle, playing a video game, whatever it might be. Just don’t become a hermit – find a healthy balance between social time and alone time.