Updated: May 31, 2019
As an introvert, the scariest thing about going to college was the fact that I had to meet new people. Simply the thought of that made me sick. A lot. But thankfully, I learned that I’m not the only one who felt that way. That’s why I decided to compile some things that really helped me get through those hard times of being surrounded by strangers, eating in the cafeteria, talking to unknown people, and living with a lot of other girls. I hope this helps!
1. Find a place to get away.
I get it. If you’re a dorm student, you’re surrounded by people 24/7. That’s enough to give anyone anxiety. In most cases, you won’t have your own room, and being alone isn’t being alone if your roommate and all her friends are hanging out on the other side of the room. You need to find a place, preferably on campus, you can get to where you can just be yourself. For me, it was a piano room (I was a piano student and had to be there alone for hours a week), and in nice weather, I walked to the other side of campus by a lake and sat in the woods to meditate. No matter what your campus is like, there is probably some small place you can get away to. Make it your spot, and don’t take anyone else there. And when you’re feeling stressed by all these people, you’ll have somewhere to recuperate. This was a necessity for me, and I always ended up returning refreshed and able to interact with others a lot better.
2. Find like-minded people who understand your anxiety.
Whether you’re a commuter or a dorm student, you need friends. And friends who also understand that you need to be alone sometimes are not only nice to have around but are helpful, covering for you or telling you when you need to get away. I had one friend who was even more introverted than I was that I could just vent to when I had enough, and she understood me perfectly, often saying the exact things I was thinking. It keeps you sane when you know that you aren’t the only one who feels that way.
3. Push yourself to get to know people at the beginning.
This is the most dreaded thing you can tell an introvert. Get to know people? How? But you’re going to have to talk to someone sometime, and believe me when I tell you it will be a lot easier to meet people in the first few weeks of school when nobody knows each other yet. At the beginning, everyone is desperate to make friends. A month or two in, cliques form, and if you haven’t shown your face yet, you’ll not be in any of them. When you’re new, you’ll be more open to talk to anyone who talks to you. This principle applies to everyone, even the most outgoing people. So, on your first day, get to know your roommate. Talk to the person sitting next to you in class. Don’t take your food to go; sit in the dreaded cafeteria and get to know people. Believe me, it’ll be 100% easier to make friends than if you decide to wait.
4. Live in the present.
It’s easy to get discouraged and think back to the “good old days” when you had your own room and those two childhood friends who knew when not to bother you. But thinking about that does not help at all. It makes you homesick and ruins your experience in the present. Yes, those times were great, but these will be too. You just have to do the scary thing at first, but it will all work out, I promise.
5. Embrace the awkwardness.
I can’t tell you how many dumb things I said to people while getting to know them. There were some really awkward silences and uncomfortable rides to and from class. But instead of letting that drive you to hiding in your room, just embrace it and realize that everyone’s feeling as awkward as you are. Who knows? Maybe that girl you had an embarrassing encounter with will become your best friend, and you can laugh about it a year from now.
6. Decide that your reserved personality doesn’t define you.
This is probably the most important, and if you do this, maybe you won’t even need the rest of the blog post. I lived so long thinking, “I’m just quiet and reserved. There’s nothing I can do about it.” But just like any other character trait, you can improve your social skills. Yes, God did give you a quieter personality, but that doesn’t give you the excuse to stay to yourself. We are social creatures, meant to encourage and be there for each other. So, instead of making excuses, step out of your comfort zone. It won’t be fun. It might be painful at first. But years later, you’ll be thankful that you did so. College is so much more fun with memories. And I’m not talking about memories of binge-watching your favorite TV show 20 times. Put yourself out there at first, and watch how far that gets you out of your closed-off self.
Have I scared you? Are you reconsidering going to school, deciding to take classes online? Don’t. Despite what I used to think, being introverted isn’t a bad thing, and it isn’t an excuse. We should take the good and work on improving in the areas we aren’t as strong in. And college is a perfect opportunity to branch out, because there are soooo many people just like you! And even more who are the opposite. And some in between, too. Get to know everyone and then decide who you want to spend more time with. It will be a rewarding experience. Good luck, and have fun!