Before I went to college, I was very quiet and shy. There were classes in high school that I had absolutely no one to talk to and wouldn’t say a word in. People didn’t invite me places and I never asked anyone to go out with me. It was a very lonely and difficult time for me. That all changed once I started college.
My slight disclaimer here is that you won’t immediately go from painfully shy to effervescently outgoing your very first day of school. College is a time of rapid change and growth but that does not come without making mistakes, pushing your boundaries, and learning from those experiences.
I did not really change from my shy high school self until my second semester freshman year. I was lonely, depressed, and really struggling with myself and school. My grandmother had just passed away a month earlier and it hit me very hard as someone who I was very close to. I didn’t want to come back to school because of how lonely I was and how much I hated not being with my family. What helped me change all this was effort.
Effort, you say? What do you mean by that? You ask. I mean the amount of effort I put into myself and the others around me. After I came back from my very difficult winter break, I went to the counseling center on campus and set up weekly meetings with a counselor as well as joined group therapy. I made myself a priority and went to these meetings every week and poured my heart out to my counselor. Then, with whatever advice she gave me, I would take it home and put into practice a new technique that I was taught. To this day, I am still in counseling, and it is extremely beneficial to me, and most of the students who use it. My goal is to one day not need it, but until then I have the resource at my school at my disposal.
The second thing I started to put more effort in was friendships. At the beginning of that semester, I had one close friend, but she had several other friend groups and I was not very often invited to join (I later learned that her ex-roommate told her she didn’t want me tagging along because she thought I was boring). I knew I needed to reach out and fill my days with more people than I ever have before, so I started somewhere easy. The organization I was apart of and had a leadership position in. I knew most of the people in it and because it was the professional organization for my major, I knew we would have a few things in common. I asked the two other freshmen to dinner with me the first week back.
And that has seriously changed my life.
One of those girls that I invited to dinner that week is my absolute best friend. We talk about anything and everything and have not once got tired of each other. You’ve heard me talking about moving into my apartment (tomorrow is the day, folks!!!!), and the only reason I can do that is because she was willing to get an apartment with me. She called me crying hysterically a few months ago and I was in my car in less than twenty minutes and drove two hours to her house, and she has been with me to the hospital twice, staying with me until 4 AM one of those times. If I’m lonely and need a little bit of social interaction, she’s always up for taking a twenty minute study break to chat with me. Plus, she thinks I’m funny, so what else could I ask for??
As an introvert, it is so scary to go to a whole new school in a new city with thousands of people you’ve never met before. It can be pretty debilitating even, especially if you have anxiety or struggle with depression (not that every one who is an introvert does have anxiety or struggle with depression). I hope that these following tips will help you out and ease your worries.
Go to welcome week activities
Welcome week is geared towards freshmen. Schools want freshmen to feel welcome and stay at the school, especially for the first six weeks. One way they get freshmen excited for the upcoming semester and first week of classes is welcome week. During this period of time the school has several activities each day that will benefit you in some way: meeting new people, getting free merchandise, learning new skills, discovering things on campus. Pick a few of these activities, at least one per day, and go to them. This is not the week to stay cooped up in your room!
During Welcome Week at BSU, one of the activities they have is all the organizations on campus are showcased in the six basketball courts (and they are stuffed full of people every year!) and they call it the Activities Fair. If your school has something like this, I cannot stress how much you should go to it. Most schools have a club for just about anything you could imagine (fencing, belly dancing, student governments, education reform, abolition of modern slavery, etc.) and these are great ways to meet people who have similar interests as you.
Schedule down time/self care
Whether you’re an introvert or extravert or whatever-vert, you need you-time. Use this time to pamper yourself, give yourself a break from everyday strifes, and to relax and have fun. The kicker about this is you need to do it very day. Yep, every single day you need to be setting time aside time for yourself. This helps make sure that stress doesn’t continually pile on you and that you are taking care of yourself. Some of my favorite self-care/down time activities are watching an episode of a show on Netflix, doing a face mask and painting my nails, or watching dog videos on YouTube. There are tons of ideas out there, and you can find some on my Mental Health Pinterest board, and this Self-Love Pinterest group board that I am apart of.
Attend at least one social event a week
It could be a pizza party hosted by your RA to get people to know one another, or heading over to a basketball game with a friend you met in a class. Get out of your dorm room and away from the studying for an hour or so and have fun. I would do this two to three times a week, but as an introvert spending time with others is exhausting. The point of this is to make sure you aren’t lonely and spending all your time inside a tiny dorm room, not to damage your physical well-being and grades by draining you with social interaction.
Make a goal of befriending one person in each of your classes
This piece of advice is a win-win. Miss some notes because you were late to class? Your buddy who was there early will have them! Went home over the weekend and forgot your book? Yeah, ask if you can borrow it for an hour to complete the assigned reading. Big test coming up? Grab a table at the library and do a study session together! By making a friend in every one of your classes, you ensure that you will always have someone who took notes or knows what the assignment is and you are being social and making friends! Do invite them out for dinner or coffee every now and then too, don’t just make it all about the class. Otherwise when the semester ends, you’ll probably never hear from them again.
Challenge yourself to get outside your comfort zone
This one is hard. It’s so hard. I didn’t want to invite people to go to lunch or dinner with me most of the time because I didn’t want them to say no. My poor self-esteem was so low that I was worried about the rejection of dinner with acquaintances. Yeah, it was pretty bad. I thought that asking people to go with me places or to have lunch with me would be an annoyance to them because then they would have to make time for me and would resent me for it (apparently I also thought pretty highly of myself:P). But I did it, and it changed my life for the better. Simply asking those two girls to go to dinner with me, and then telling them I was struggling and was reaching out to others for support, made my loneliness go away. They understood my struggle because they too had been lonely, and started inviting me out to places with them.
Whether stepping outside your comfort zone means heading to a welcome week activity alone and finding someone else there who is alone, or knocking on your neighbor’s doors with fresh-baked cookies to introduce yourself, do it and you won’t regret it.
I hope that you have found this post to be helpful! Tweet me @queenbeeblog if you use any of this advice in the coming weeks and let me know how it goes!