I knew that navigating college would be a struggle when everyone’s advice to me was simply, “Put yourself out there.” People encouraged me to try everything I could—approach random people and strike up a conversation, push myself out of my comfort zone, and never say no to a new experience. All of these insights seemed like ways to quickly dig my grave. I still find it hard to push myself out of my comfort zone when I am already attempting to navigate being four hours away from home, in a new setting, surrounded by new people. Getting through a day with no tears is a victory enough for me. How am I supposed to conquer this barrier of communication and adjust to a new life as someone more introverted?
Even when it comes to attending parties, if I do go, I feel as though I am just another body there. I don’t feel as though I belong. Rather, I’m going through the motions of college expectations. Preferring a night in can easily be misinterpreted as being a self-isolating homebody. I always see my high school friends’ posts on social media of their picturesque partying with toothy smiles, strobe lights, and red solo cups. Whenever I see one, I always feel like I’m doing something wrong, following this “how-to” college manual wrong. Behind the pictures though, my friends tell me about their college experience, how it really is. How they’re homesick, miss their pets, their bed, and the general comfort of their old lives.
It’s shocking to see how many people feel the same, yet everyone feels embarrassed to admit it.
Being in a big school like JMU can feel overwhelming–especially as a first-year. Though I am merely one month in, I can say that finding little joys in the bustle of college life is a necessity for any person, but specifically introverts. I walk around the quad after a visit at the Starbucks truck and taking much-needed quiet time to enjoy the sunset falling over the Shenandoah Valley mountains (ideally with a book at hand on a comfy bench) is heaven.
Connections with others may not happen instantaneously, but over time, they will blossom. The only thing left to do is become involved with whatever you’re passionate about and try anything that slightly piques your interest. By the end of the four years, I believe I will find the people who prefer a Gilmore Girls watch party on a Friday night rather than a party. It’ll just take time. Until then, I will enjoy an iced latte on a bench with a thriller book in my lap.