How to Navigate College as an Introvert

Introverts have to figure out how to thrive in college, the most social time of our lives. You’ve got parties, study group sessions, dining halls, communal bathrooms, roommates, new friends, networking, and plenty of events to go to. You go to work, you go to class, study, which makes your energy plummet. You socialize, which is fun! College in general should be fun! But for us introverts…

It’s also exhausting.

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, describes introverts as people who enjoy solitude, prefer having smaller social gatherings with just a few close friends, seek peaceful and beautiful environments, have an active inner life, and often feel overwhelmed by noisy, crowded environments. Introverts derive energy from being alone.

 

1. Accept Your Introversion

Trying to battle your natural tendencies toward extroversion or introversion will leave you feeling even more drained. When you’re feeling drained from too much socializing, take a step back and make time for yourself. Don’t pretend to be an extrovert. Be the introvert that you are.

Since I’m now in my third year at UCSB, I think I’ve gotten the hang of this whole “introverted college student” thing. I’ve mostly accepted my introversion and I understand myself a lot better now. My introversion fluctuates. I can be a bit of an ambivert (someone with characteristics of both extroverts and introverts) sometimes. When I’ve gone too long without socializing, I feel like my energy starts to go down. But overall, I feel like too much socializing drains more of my energy than too much alone time does.

Part of accepting your introversion is making certain sacrifices to make sure you’re recharged. Sometimes you’re going need to spend a Friday night in when everyone else is out partying and hanging out, and it’s not because you don’t have a social life. It’s because you had a long week, you’re burnt out, and you need to rest up for the rest of your week ahead. So yes, I’ll be in bed, painting my nails, and watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians so that tomorrow night, I can be out there wildin’ with the rest of you.

 

2. Whoa... Some Things are Actually Better Alone

Studying in groups… oh God. As if studying didn’t tire me out enough already, now I have to expend energy socializing at the same time. Studying alone is the best. (Or with other people in silence). 

Beach walks are great. But beach walks alone?! The. Best. You can just walk, admire the beauty, and be grateful for going to the #5 top public university that also happens to be on the ocean.

Everyone feels differently about eating alone in the dining halls. But let's face it-- we’ve all done it, whether by choice or because our friends’ schedules didn’t line up with ours. Or we napped until 7:30pm by accident and had to run to the dining hall in our sweats before they closed. Who has time to invite someone to go eat in such a moment of urgency?

Anyway, we all have to eat alone sometimes, and as an introvert I enjoy it. I’m living my best life when I roll up to Carrillo or Ortega by myself. I’m reading an ebook, listening to a podcast or music, watching a YouTube video, or just sitting there and savoring the food. I eat so much faster because I’m not talking to anybody! Extroverts might not love it as much, but for me, I appreciate the opportunity to eat alone once in a while.

But way better than being alone in the dining hall is eating a meal in your own room by yourself. No judgment, total freedom, just you, and your warmed up Trader Joe’s frozen vegetables. I honestly prefer eating with friends most of the time, but when I do eat alone, I make the most of it.

 

3. But Don't Go Too Far

With all that being said, don’t isolate yourself. Make connections with other people and spend time with your friends because the years will fly by. Take time to recharge when you need to, but don’t push people away either. Trust your gut and you’ll find the balance that works for you.

 

4. Don't Fall into Comparison Traps

I find it’s super easy to compare myself to extroverts. After the drag show I came back to my room at barely 10 pm on a Friday. I’m so tired, I need sleep and I just want to journal. Then I realize my roommates are out— do they have better social lives than me? Am I boring and finally living up to my last name? Do I want to hit up one of my friends to hang out? Well, no…. Because after a fun night in a crowd full of people at a drag show, I need some time to myself. I’m gonna go lay on my bed eating snacks and catching up on that week’s Saturday Night Live. I don’t even have enough energy left to call my mom.

In college, you’re constantly surrounded by people. There are plenty of people to compare yourself to who seem to be with people all the time. They are probably living their best lives. But for introverts like me, our best lives just look a little different. I don’t need a jam packed day of socialization to feel content. That kind of schedule would probably make me feel worse because I would be battling my natural introvert tendencies. I can socialize for a bit and then do other things alone for the rest of the day and feel amazing. But that doesn’t mean I can’t spend lots of time with my friends, either. I totally can and I want to. But if you spend a whole day with me, don’t expect to see much of me the next day. I'll be recharging.

 

5. Know How You Like to Recharge

College can be exhausting with all the work we have to do, which is why it’s important to know how we can fill up our energy when it’s feeling low. For introverts, it's probably spending time with yourself. 

Find a space where you can go to recharge. It might be your room, but if your roommates are chillin' in there, you need a Plan B. Is it reading a book on the beach? Or the egg chair at CAPS (20 minutes of peace and no interruptions)? I don’t know, girl, maybe even the bathroom. Whatever works for you.

Set boundaries. Sure, your friends invited you to that movie tonight, but you have no energy right now. Even though you love your friends, say no. Stay home. Do whatever will restore your energy. The key is to find what fills up your energy and do it often, even before you feel your energy starting to dip. Make it into a habit or routine. 

Now go recharge, you introverts!

All images via Giphy