Surviving University as an Introvert

Think students.  What do you think of? Partying? Sticky floors? Strobe lights? Locals in clubs pretending they’re twenty years younger than they actually are? You probably don’t think about students being introverts. Students who prefer smaller intimate gatherings where they can speak without losing their voices.

However, with half the population being introverts, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that introverts make up a large proportion of the university populous.  If you think that you’re an introvert and are worried you’ll be a social outcast, then you are not alone.  This article will provide some tips on how to survive university as an introvert.

What is an Introvert?

Chances are that you’ve heard that extroverts gain their energy from social interaction, but introverts become energised from private reflection.  Yet this has been proved to be a myth.  Adam Grant from The Quiet Rev argues that both extroverts and introverts export energy when they are talkative.

The difference lies within how sensitive you are to stimulation.  While extroverts will feed off a prolonged social interaction, introverts will soon start to feel drained and tired.  They would want some time to recharge their batteries.

You’re such a special snowflake

Cast your eye to the interwebs and you will find people denouncing their detest for clubbing.  Then there are the countless others who call them special snowflakes.

What’s wrong with being a special snowflake? Don’t feel that you need to change who you are for people who don’t properly understand you,  who just can’t fathom why you don’t like being deafened by music, while being pressed against a complete stranger.

You’re not boring.  You’re not weird.  You’re just you.  You’re wired a little differently from everyone else.   As Aletheia Luna puts it, ‘lonerhood’ isn’t a mindset, but a natural way of being.  At the risk of sounding condescending, don’t give into peer pressure.  Just say no, kids!

Find others like you

At university, you get all types.  You get those who throw their hands in the air, like they just don’t care.  Then you get those who like to read in coffee shops.  You read that correctly.  They don’t use macs or iphone or tablets.  They read.  Like psychopaths.

Moving on, universities do a great job of catering for the introverted.  Bristol University has Dinosaur and Falstaff societies.  Nottingham University boasts Bell-Ringing, Bible Reading and Board Game societies.  Newcastle offers Gaming, Nerd, Chess and Anime clubs.

Seminar Discussions

Although introverts suffering from public-speaking anxiety is yet another myth, it is undeniable that group discussions are daunting for the quieter among us.  The teacher asks an open-ended question.  There’s a silence awkwarder than the ones in this New Year’s Eve show and then the teacher picks on you.

This isn’t to say that every teacher is like this.  You get professors who will recognise and respect your shyness by only questioning the extroverts.  Then you get the professors who will push you for your opinions.

If you’re worried about this then reply to close-ended questions that you actually know the answer to.  And remember, there is more to a seminar than just asking and answering questions.  Karlanne Robinson from The Huffington Post argues that you can gain just as much from just listening to the debate and only contributing one or two minor points, rather than leading it.

Strike a Balance

It is important to strike a balance to feel like you’re not missing out on anything, but also not to completely isolate yourself.  Rufaro Mazurara of the Guardian argues that many university events, particularly those in Fresher’s Week can feel very forced and artificial.

This is why if you decide to go to an event, you should think about whether you’re going for yourself or others.  This contemplation might decide whether you stay at home or not.

At the same time, always make sure to push through your comfort zone.  It’s all too easy to stay in your room all day, binging on Netflix.  Yet by doing this, you’re missing out on the world around you and all it has to offer.  You might become disconnected or alienated from your social group.

Don’t allow your introversion to limit or control you.  Push past it.

University is a scary place for anyone, especially the quieter and more reserved.  Just remember that if you’re an introvert going to university, you are not boring or weird. You’re you.  And remember to always push your boundaries.  You might just surprise yourself.

Originally published on Inspiring Interns

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