All throughout high school, whenever people mentioned college, I would have a quiet panic attack. I knew that my personality, a quiet introvert who is fiercely independent and loves her alone time, was not suited to the typical college life. I imagined college as a point in your life where you are surrounded by people you don’t know, in a place that’s unfamiliar to you and expected to socialize at all hours of the day.
(Did you know you will have to do your own laundry now?!)
These expectations meant that I expected the transition to college to be difficult, and it was, but despite all that I think that it may have been easier than previously thought.
Nevertheless, I still want to share with future or current, college roommates, friends, professors, and parents, the struggles that each introvert experiences when they move to college.
(You got this!)
1. No Privacy
At home I did share a room with my younger sister, but for the most part I had my own space. If I really wanted to close a door between myself and the outside world I could move to another room. These moments to myself were sacred. I could relinquish the weight of the world and relish in my own inner thoughts for hours on end, or just listen to music and watch Netflix.
(I’m not saying find a vampire boyfriend, but I do encourage peace and quiet.)
At college the first thing stripped from you is privacy. All of a sudden you are sharing a room with another person (or two!) and all the stuff you brought from home is contained in a small portion of the room. It’s hard to give up your time to yourself, but to my fellow introverts out there worrying about this, I promise you that there will be times that you will have the room to yourself. If anything, the library is always a great space to study and feel almost as if you are alone.
(In this case, I think all introverts could be the next Sherlock Holmes. We’ve got our own superpowers!)
2. Class Participation
Most college professors count some portion of their grade on class participation. As an introvert, this is really worrying because I know that I will not be someone who participates in class discussions actively (especially when that class occurs at 7pm). I learn more when I listen to others discuss rather than stress about making a comment of my own.
(Stress! STress! STRess! STREss! STRESs! STRESS!)
Now it is true that most professors look to class participation as part of the grade, but most are also understanding. College is a place of higher education with different expectations, but it is also a place where you have more control over your education. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, and if you do have to participate, don’t be afraid to share your own opinion.
(It’s ok to know your limits, but sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do.)
3. Exhaustion by 5
I don’t know about the other introverts of the world, but I find socializing exhausting, and unfortunately, college is all about socializing. Every day, you are surrounded by people you don’t know or people you are frantically trying to become friends with. As one friend put it, it’s like you are constantly flirting with people: “Oh your shoes look so cool!” “I LOVE your dress!” etc. For those of you who are extroverts, I’m letting you know that the thought itself can makes us introverts feel tired.
(I promise you, this is what it looks like after the first day of school)
I can’t make this any easier for those of you who are introverts than it already is. Yes, you are going to have to socialize, and you are going to have to try to learn how to be a pretend extrovert. It’s hard, trust me I know, but if anything I promise you it is perfectly ok to want to crawl into bed at 7 and not talk to anyone ever again.
(Take that break! Naps are really good too.)
4. Dining Halls
I honestly think dining halls are everyone’s worst nightmare their freshman year. You don’t know nearly enough people to have someone to sit with at every meal and the food is nothing compared to your family’s home cooking. But for introverts, it’s a whole different can of worms than it is for everyone else. Again, you are forced to be surrounded by people you don’t know and being forced to eat food that isn’t anything like your mom’s mac and cheese, and suddenly you just want to go home.
First of all, I want to let fellow introverts and everyone else know that it is ok to eat alone. No one is judging you if walk into the dining hall, get a plate of food, and sit a table by yourself. Trust me, everyone has done this, many times a day. If it makes you feel bad, bring a book or scroll through Instagram. Whatever you do, don’t stay cooped up in your dorm room and not eat. I promise you, that you will make friends that you can eat with, but even then you might still be eating alone. Do not let fear of others judging you prevent you from getting the food and nutrition you need. Having others think you are a social outcast is much less important than whether or not you go to bed hungry.
(Be like Justin Timberlake, EAT!)
5. Weekend Nights – I don’t know about my fellow introverts, but weekends nights at home were always my favorite. I was able to sit down with the rest of my family and watch a movie. Or just crawl into bed at 8pm and read a book for hours. I was never someone who wanted to “go out” on Saturday nights, and I chose to use the weekend as a restorative time, before the week ahead.
(Read that book! Watch that movie! Sleep! Those all sound like perfectly good ideas to me!)
In college, the weekend can begin to feel like the opposite of that. Everyone, or at least it seems like everyone, will get dressed up and go find a party or a nightclub to hang out at on the weekend. Now this will probably feel lonely, if you turn down all offers and decide not to go out, but you can also see this as your alone time. And if you end up with a good roommate, you might not wake up when they come back during the early hours of the morning.
If you do choose to go out, and I commend you for it, it’s important to know your limits. College is about learning to maintain a balance in your life so that you are able to function when you need to, especially in class on Monday morning.
(This baby is cute, but I can promise you won’t be if you don’t sleep on the weekends…)
In the end, let’s give a final shout out to all the introverts who are starting college this fall (including me!). We may have to make a larger adjustment than extroverts, but we will still find success on our own paths.
Don’t worry too much about anything, and remember; in just a few short months it will be Thanksgiving and then soon after that Winter Break, and finally, finally, you can spend some time in the comfort of your own home.
(It will go by faster than we think!)