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Duke from the Eyes of an Extroverted Introvert

            Having spent my entire life in the same small town of 7,000 people, I never would’ve considered myself an introvert. I was always an outgoing kid, always fighting to be the line leader or the teacher’s helper for the day, and to be honest, nothing really changed as I got older. Having conversations or speaking up in class were never things that gave me even the smallest amount of anxiety. I loved leading Socratic seminars, or working on group projects. I was a classic extrovert through and through.

            I never attributed my personality to be a result of my environment until I came to Duke. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pretty outgoing coming in, but it was different. Being around so many strangers during O-Week, having to constantly talk about myself and work to learn about others, meeting and greeting people over and over drained me, and for the first time, I noticed that being around people felt like work to me.

 

            I knew friends who had described feeling this way before, but they were introverts; it was their world view; that’s just the way they functioned. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I could’ve gone my whole life faking extroversion if secretly, deep down, I’d been an introvert this entire time. Was it my nature that was extroversion, or had it been my nurture? Perhaps I could only be extroverted in environments I was comfortable in. Regardless, this confused me, and I started to question whether I was really a people person at all.

 

            However, after three years of Duke, I’ve started to realize a few things. For one, there are a lot of people like me—those who would call themselves extroverts, but get drained from O-Week like activities. Perhaps it’s not so much that we have mischaracterized ourselves, but rather that before college, you have much more alone time than you do when you’re in college. When you’re home, you can find an escape in the comfort of your house, but when you’re at Duke, your dorm is filled with strangers and acquaintances (at least freshman year). This alone, can have a huge effect on your ability to interact comfortably.

            Second, there’s nothing wrong with change. Maybe you never really were a true extrovert or a solid introvert—what’s the big deal? As in most facets of life, not everything is black and white. Enjoying being around people but also desiring alone time is one of the grey areas.

            Third, I’m not an extrovert, nor am I an introvert. Despite what my Meyer’s Briggs text may say, I bounce between these two categories depending on the day. As a result, Duke can be a little stressful at times. We’re at a large enough school that you’re always seeing new faces, but we’re also at a small enough school that it’s impossible to walk through WU without seeing someone you know. On days I want time to myself, this can be a lot—always making small talk + having to have real conversations can get to be too much sometimes. However, acknowledging that you need some time to yourself is the first step to thriving at Duke. You’ll find that others will understand a lot more than you think, and taking time for yourself when you need it will improve your mental and physical health so much.

            Hang in there my fellow extroverted introverts! You’ll find your place at this beautiful place we call Duke. <3  

I am a senior at Duke University studying psychology and history, and I have been writing with Her Campus since I was a freshman. Having this incredible community of empowering women to build me up when I need support and to give me an outlet when I need to vent has been one of the greatest aspects of my Duke career! I am so sad to leave them soon, but I am excited to pursue my J.D. at Georgetown in the fall!
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