Rock Your Introversion in the Extroverted College World

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You love going out with your friends, but about an hour into the party you either need to sleep or re-caffeinate. Your mind consists of an endless, complex monologue, but when someone demands an answer from you on the spot, the monologue might as well be in some Greek-gibberish hybrid—you prefer to think a bit before you share your ideas. You thrive in small groups or one-on-one but in large groups, you fade into the background. Sometimes, your idea of a “turn up” is a quiet night of reading and/or Netflixing. College, as a result, is a bit of an introvert’s hell.

But fear not! Here are some tips to help you make the most of your college experience—by embracing your inner awesomeness rather than ignoring it.

Recognize that you are not an alien

If you feel as if you are the only introverted person on campus, think again. According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, one in every two or three Americans is an introvert. Turns out the falsely-perceived lopsidedness is more of a perceptual bias than anything; by their very nature, extroverts tend to garner more attention. Also, there are no definitive extroverts or introverts, so the majority of people will show some trace of introverted tendencies—even some of the friendliest people you know. You’re in good company, I promise. It just might take a little searching.

Find your space

With hoards of students everywhere you go, sometimes college can seem like the never-ending social event. This can be wonderful, for no matter your placement on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, we’re all social beings who thrive on connecting with others. But to balance out this social aspect, the introvert needs some peaceful reflection time. Psychologist Laurie Helgoe from Psychology Today suggests that silence actually lets introverts hear their own thoughts.

Find a spot (or several spots) on campus that you know will always be waiting for you with open arms to quiet the ruckus of your overstimulated brain. This can be a bench by the lake, a Church, a museum, a coffee shop, a tucked-away corner of the library or maybe even a walking or running trail. When the going gets rough, go to your space and just be.

Learn to love Office Hours

If you’re an introvert, the words “Participation Grade” on a course syllabus might make your heart drop. It’s not necessarily due to fear of sharing ideas, but more that the introverted brain is so occupied with processing the ideas of the professor and other classmates that it needs some quiet time to formulate its own. Drop in to your professor’s office hours, or stay after class to talk if possible. Chat with them and show them you really care about their class. Let them get to know you. Maybe even explain why class participation in a large-group setting is difficult for you and get some advice. Professors are here to help you–not embarrass you–so they’ll be glad you reached out.

And, by all means, when you do have something to say in class, raise your hand and say it. A glimpse into your cultivated wisdom will always be a welcome surprise for your peers.

Take a re-charger class

Build some quiet time right into your class schedule! Find a class that involves more creativity and doing than discussing or lecturing. Most universities allow students of any major to take a dip into the fine arts, and many liberal arts colleges actually require it—so take advantage. A period of drawing, painting, photography, ceramics or basket-weaving will feel like chicken soup to your introverted soul.

Be honest and unapologetic

 “No thanks, I think I need to introvert tonight.” These were the words of my friend one night last summer when I asked if she wanted to come out, and they’ve stuck with me ever since. They were so polite, yet so fearless and devoid of the apologizing and explaining we introverts are so accustomed to.

I decided to take a similar approach when party plans were circulating in a GroupMe a few weekends ago, and sent a message to the group saying I needed a quiet night in. Turns out so did two of my other friends, and we ended up having a nice, chill time of Mario Kart and girl talk in my dorm room. If you’re honest and unapologetic about your needs for some quiet re-charging, you not only help yourself stay sane, but you just might give your fellow introverts the affirmation they need.

Embrace the powerful individual you are

The truth is, the world we live in doesn’t always seem to validate the introverted personality, and the noisy, network-oriented, action-packed atmosphere of college can tend to amplify this bias. That being said, it’s very important that you understand something: There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Not only is your introversion simple biological fact, but it also comes with a pretty nifty skillset this world needs. You’re a deep thinker, an observer of details, an imaginative creator, a wonderful listener and an independent force to be reckoned with—so go forth and college with confidence. You got this.

Sophomore English major at Notre Dame. Soulful ginger. Track runner. Located somewhere at the intersection of Disney music and Red Hot Chili Peppers. [Proverbs 3:6]

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