Orientation week might have been one of the most stressful and draining weeks of my first semester. Not only was I adjusting to a new place and gearing up to start college, but I was meeting new people all the time. It felt like I always had to be “on,” ready with a “My name is” or “Where are you from?” With a class of over 1,600 students, there was always a new face to greet. At the end of the week, part of me wanted to crawl into my bed with a book and not leave my dorm for a day.
It isn’t that I don’t like meeting new people — I actually love it. It’s that, to the extent that it happened during O-week, it was emotionally and physically draining. As an introvert, it was too much stimulation altogether. But it was the first week — I couldn’t hole up in my dorm room, I needed to meet new people. Right?
Needless to say, I’ve found that being an introvert in college can be kind of difficult. The balance between meeting new people, creating relationships and maintaining those relationships while making time for yourself is precarious. In a place where, from the start, you’re always surrounded by people doing something, seeking solitude can feel wrong — if not challenging — to do.
So, here are three things I’ve come to realize about being an introvert within the “always on” environment of a college campus:
One: Understand where you thrive. I do much better one-on-one and with smaller groups than in big groups. Understanding this as something that is better suited to my personality, I try to incorporate it into what I do with my friends, whether that be grabbing meals, attempting to cook in a dorm kitchen or trips into Davis or Boston. Not that I don’t or won’t do things in large groups, but I know that smaller group situations are important for me in establishing solid connections.
Two: Introverts, make time for yourself. If you need it, take it. You’ll be in a better place after you’ve had time to recharge than if you walk into a social situation already drained. Too much stimulation plus already feeling drained does not equal a recipe for success. We’ve all been there; it’s not fun.
Three: Don’t compare yourself to others. I know, easier said than done. It’s easy for me to look at other, more extroverted people and be jealous of (what I perceive as) their relative ease at making friends. But I know that such comparisons don’t do anything for me; instead of fighting my personality, it’s better and more productive to capitalize on my strengths. It’s a constant work in progress all around.
In no way do I mean to suggest that college is a bad place for introverts. As many friends and family members have probably told all of us, at no other time in your life do you have as much freedom to explore and are surrounded by so many great people and opportunities than when you are in college. There are important pros to introversion: knowing how to be alone, appreciating staying in and giving your friends 100% when you’re with them, even if it isn’t as often as some other people.