Growing up, I never could have imagined how my introversion would play into my college life. It seems campus life lends itself to the extrovert—one who is quick to make friends. Yet, God created us all uniquely in the way we process information - introverts get their energy from solitude, while extroverts get their energy from external sources. Being an introvert in college makes it a little harder to find your friend group. This does not imply an antipathy to social situations. It’s a challenge, but there are ways to utilize certain aspects of introversion to have an amazing college experience. Every introvert is different, but most of us have been told constantly to "get out of our comfort zone." These are some tips based on my experience on how to be a socially active introvert in college.
1. Stay in your comfort zone.
Everyone has a comfort zone. Some people are completely comfortable with walking up to other people alone and introducing themselves. Other people find a safe wall to put their backs against so they can scope out the situation. Introverts are more likely to be overwhelmed in social situations. This does not constitute the necessity of being a wallflower, however.
Genesis Weekend was a daunting concept for me. Introverts do not do small talk well, and the initial "getting to know people" stage of a friendship can be overwhelming. What I found most helpful was to not try and make myself "get out of my comfort zone." Nothing shuts me up faster than feeling awkward and out of place. My roommate and I had become acquaintances quickly, and having another person with me made me feel much more comfortable and free to be myself when I met others. Also, choosing a table to sit at got rid of a few stray variables and made me feel more comfortable conversing with unfamiliar people at the table.
2. Get out of your bubble.
When I am in my bubble and in my comfort zone, I forget to speak aloud because I'm thinking introspectively. Getting out of my bubble is imperative when I meet people. While I can remain in my comfort zone by not expecting too much of myself, by having someone with me who I feel comfortable with, and by remaining in one general area at a time rather than trying to be everywhere at once, I have to get out of my bubble by being willing to join the conversation, crack a joke, or offer a comment, rather than carrying on the entire conversation in my head, as I am prone to do.
3. Know your boundaries.
Knowing your personal boundaries is vital. I used to force myself to remain at parties long after the fun had gone out of them for me, making me an uninteresting conversationalist and making me act like a wallflower. I also accepted lots of unwanted invitations to events. In short, I exhausted myself. Introverts reach their fill socially much faster than extroverts, and then they need to recharge a bit. If I'm at the Orange and Black Affair or the campus Super bowl party and I start to feel a bit tired or introspective, I have to realize that it is perfectly okay for me to go back to my dorm room and watch Netflix rather than stay for the last hour of the party. This maximizes the quality of time that I spend in social situations, and minimizes my awkward discomfort.
4. Skip small talk/get involved.
Introverts hate small talk. Therefore, the best method is to skip it. As an introvert, I look forward to my classes - structured environments where I can meet people and converse with them about something we have in common. A party or lunchroom full of unfamiliar people is overwhelming, while being in a classroom environment gives me the opportunity to be comfortably conversational. It gives my classmates and me something in common to converse about, often skipping right over the awkward small talk that I have so much trouble with.
5. Push yourself.
While understanding that you are not compelled to force yourself to be something that you are not, it is also a good idea to push yourself. I could easily stay in my dorm room for days and not even notice, but in college it is important to continue to foster friendships that you want to happen. Joining extracurricular activities like choir, drama
, or another group is a great way to stretch your social muscles in the structured environment that we introverts love.
Written by Brooke Boling ('18). Brooke is from Louisville, Kentucky. She is part of the Honors English program at Johnson University Tennessee.