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An Introvert’s Study Abroad Guide

Though studying abroad can be an unparalleled opportunity to immerse oneself in another culture, it can sometimes feel incompatible with an introvert’s need to refuel with time alone. As I set off on my own semester in London, the idealized study abroad experience seemed far removed from what I was certain would be my day-to-day reality. Given the sensory overload associated with adapting to life in a foreign country, it comes as little surprise that individuals who identify as introverts often find studying abroad a daunting prospect, even if they would otherwise jump at the opportunity to delve deeper into another country and culture. The added challenges of anxiety and depression can make this amazing experience seem unattainable. Of course, studying abroad is not for everyone. But for those who relish the thought of going abroad but worry about finding themselves in constantly overwhelming circumstances, here’s a guide to help you gain the most from your time without compromising your sanity:

1. Embrace (some) potentially uncomfortable situations…

Yes, introverts need time alone to recharge – but we also need something to recharge from. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself. Make a conscious effort to interact with others on a daily basis.

2. …but know when you need time to yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for it.

You know your limits better than anyone else does. If one day you don’t feel able to cope with prolonged social interaction, grant yourself the ability to regroup, free from feelings of guilt.

3. Discover the appeal of exploring a city on your own.

For some strange reason, societal norms tell us we shouldn’t engage in too many activities sans a companion. Ignore this. If you want to be around people without the pressure of conversing with any single person for too long, explore the city by yourself.

4. Try to make your dorm room or apartment an oasis of sorts.

It obviously doesn’t make much sense to spend a lot of money decorating a space you’ll only inhabit for a few months. Still, do what you can to transform your room into a place you find soothing to be in.

5. Reflect often.

Note both what makes you happy and what causes you anxiety. Pen accounts of your favorite days. Take more photos than you think you could possibly want/need. Devote time to meditating on your experience thus far.

Remember: excitement can (and often does) coexist with fear. Allow yourself to feel both.

Ellie is a Political Science and Policy Studies double major at Rice University, with a minor in Politics, Law and Social Thought. She spent the spring of 2017 studying/interning in London, and hopes to return to England for grad school. Academically, Ellie's passion lies in evaluating policies that further the causes of gender equality, LGBT rights, and access to satisfactory healthcare, specifically as it pertains to women's health and mental health. She also loves feminist memoirs, eighteenth-century history, old bookstores, and new places. She's continuously inspired by the many strong females in her life, and is an unequivocal proponent of women supporting women.
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