Greetings fellow introverts! Ready to emerge from your cozy cocoons and start your college experience?
…Yeah, me neither. But that’s okay — I know you can do it.
While starting college can be difficult for anyone — especially those who find socialization challenging and at times draining — starting college as an introvert during the COVID-19 pandemic is something else entirely. The pandemic brought accessibility and convenience. It forced more no-contact options, such as online ordering, virtual appointments, and classes over Zoom. So us introverts burrowed farther into our shells, slinking into our fuzzy sweatpants and oversized T-shirts — relishing in the comfort the extroverted world loves to steal from us.
The detriments of the pandemic are truly atrocious, but it’s okay if you’ve been enjoying not accommodating the rest of the world for a change. As introverts, we have to put on a face to appear acclimated in public spaces. I’ve been told many times throughout my life, “You look so sad all the time,” or “You should smile more.” I had to learn my face is not here to appease others.
My resting face tends to lack a smile because of all the introverted and anxious thoughts running through my head 24/7. I’m constantly jumpy, on edge, and overthinking, and I get nervous when I can’t plan every aspect of my day. Meeting new people and being in unfamiliar buildings is something that seems simple to others, but it’s a daily struggle for me. I had to painfully smile more to survive high school — and I didn’t want the same for college.
Even though masks are temporarily here to stay and thus no one has to fake a smile, this academic year students return to a more normal college experience. Classes are all in person, more students will be back on campus, and social distancing is no longer a guideline. While these all mean we’re moving forward from the pandemic, they do strip back the accessibility and convenience introverts may have gotten used to.
But don’t let this transition deter you. Whether you’ve known for a while or are new to the introverted experience, the following guide should aid you in keeping accessibility and convenience in your daily schedule, while also allowing for new adventures.
Making your way around campus without getting lost and arriving to your classes on time is hopefully one of your main priorities. I know as a first-year I was especially concerned when I had two back to back classes and had to hurry between buildings that were nowhere near each other. Knowing the layout of campus with the online River Campus map as well as residential and instructional building floor plans was a big asset to me. And if that isn’t enough, feel free to practice your day-to-day schedule before classes start and scope out buildings. No shame in being prepared.
With classes covered, let’s move onto professors.
Interacting with professors in college is different from high school. Here you can challenge and question and discuss. In high school, at least for me, those things were silently frowned upon. Following instruction without issue made working autonomously as an introvert easy.
Having this new kind of freedom with your academics on top of the open curriculum may seem daunting at first, but you’ll come to learn that professors aren’t as high and mighty as they may seem. They’re pretty normal and often pretty cool. Start with a strong email relationship with your TAs and professors and then work up the confidence to go to office hours. These relationships won’t only help you in class, but in your following semesters as well.
So now you’re good on classes and professors. How about food?
If you’re eating in the dining hall or taking a meal to go, there are options to make the process hassle-free. To eliminate the potentially awkward wandering between food stations, check out the dining menus online. This lets you know what’s being served for the day and what station it’s being served at.
If you don’t have time to eat in a dining hall or you just don’t feel like being around the hustle and bustle of students, Grubhub is a great opportunity to take advantage of. Last semester Grubhub was offered at most, if not all, dining locations and we can only hope the same of this semester. Download the app, turn on your location, connect your swipes/declining with your student ID, and boom, you’re in business. Judging how great the food is in person versus take out is up to you.
As for making friends, joining clubs, and putting yourself out there, there’s no one way to do it. Don’t underestimate yourself. Know your boundaries and choose to push yourself when it’s a productive priority you feel good about. There are tons of activities on campus, especially for first-years at the start of the semester. Don’t feel like you have to do everything — it’s not abnormal to take a break and delegate the start of your college experience. Remember, it is your experience.
Don’t feel the need to accommodate others and hide your awesome, introverted self. Make a couple solid friends or join a big group; whatever works for you. From one fellow introvert to another, good luck – I hope I’ve given you some comfort for the year ahead.