The first month of college comes with a swirl of emotions. For some, it’s a modern day renaissance where you discover a world that involves corroding your liver with glee as you make a new friend everyday. For others, it entails a painful split from your parents as you make the existential realization that you can only rely on yourself to climb out of the perilous hole of all-nighters and a single food group of instant mac and cheese.
Either way, you encounter lots of changes, and most of all, learn about people, yourself included. You’re bunked in with folks from across the map, who you have no choice but to get to know as they hear the very audible sounds of your peeing come nightfall, while also having scholarly talks at the round table come daylight. There are people everywhere: brushing against your shoulder at the dining hall or ramming into you and your heap of laundry as you climb up the stairs. People are practically oozing out of the walls, and you have no escape. An extroverted introvert would perfectly describe this as their own personal hell.
Extroverted introverts are complicated animals. While having people around 24/7 is our personal hell, it’s also one of our biggest delights. We enjoy human interaction and sometimes crave it, but where we divide from extroverts is that we tire of social interaction very quickly. Questions and answers and eye contact exhaust us like a day in the sun and we must seek refuge in the shade and seclusion. You can’t take it personally; it’s just a factor of our personality that makes us who we are. This complex characteristic makes our experience of constant social interaction very unique. Here are the top 10 things extroverted introverts experience their first month of college because everyone deserves to have that giddy #relatable moment, especially while enduring the loneliness that comes with being on your own for the first time.
1. Mental exhaustion is way worse than physical exhaustion.
Depending on what type of institution you’re at, your first few weeks of college will most likely entail an extensive orientation that involves a slew of cringe-inducing "get to know you" activities led by peppy upperclassmen who couldn't possibly be as excited as they seem to welcome doe-eyed freshmen. You scramble to think of fun facts about yourself while also trying to remember everyone else’s because there’s a memory game coming up where you have to remember all 46 of the people around you. Twelve hours of this a day for seven days, and you’re beat. You’d rather run the dreaded mile in P.E. 20 times than deal with exhaustion of the brain any day.
2. Your name is actually really annoying and you’ll want to disassociate from it by the end of the month.
"Hi, I’m so-and-so" is a first-year student proverb. You’ll get so sick and tired of saying it, you’ll practically cough up a hairball every time you have to say your name. What you thought was charming and looked aesthetically pleasing in cursive is now victim to semantic satiation and you would like to go by something else. But you realize that will exert too much energy, as you’ve spent the past few weeks introducing yourself as your actual name and it’ll throw people off.
3. People will be turned off by your comfort with silence and may think you’re a weirdo.
Extroverted introverts handle silence well and sometimes enjoy it more than the noise. You’re comfortable with it because it gives you time to process and reflect. For lots of people, especially ones who are in the mode of convincing everyone around them that they aren’t awkward loons, silence is their biggest torment. Going and going and going all day long is the way they think they should behave to be accepted by the world around them. But, my sweet, sweet introvert, you can’t help but be quiet sometimes. You’re too busy observing and studying your surroundings. Lots of people will think this is odd. Or that you’re just a pompous ass. Mentally prepare yourself for that.
4. Most people won’t initiate meaningful conversation.
Even if someone is babbling for what feels like hours, not once will you really get to the meat and potatoes with them or truly share space with them and feel like you walked out of that interaction better. The thing lots of people don’t get about introverts is that we don’t dislike interaction, we dislike shallow conversation. So it’s frustrating when people want to keep the chatter going but don’t want to guide it anywhere past the bread and butter. It’s almost like people are only programmed to answer to "What’s your major?" or "Why did you choose to sign on for a lifetime of debt here?"
5. You’ll want to compare yourself to the extroverts who are making fast friends.
Within the first 30 minutes of move-in, it felt like people were already forming friend groups and the imaginary documentary crew zoomed in on my face as a raised my eyebrows in confusion, wondering how it was humanly possible for someone to find a friend group in that amount of time. "How do they do that?" I asked. "Are they simply more pleasant than me?" It’s easy to compare your social habits to others who seem to do it better than you do. Building relationships isn’t a test. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, but it will certainly feel like it when groups start forming and you’re floating somewhere in the ether.
6. You’ll appreciate alone time way more than you did before.
Although you’re a little jealous that other people are making friends, you’ll find a whole new appreciation for being alone that you couldn’t comprehend back home. While being alone was simply recreational before, now it’s mandatory and should be reserved in a highlighted block of your calendar.
7. Socializing is vital and has the possibility of being painless.
With all of this being said, meeting people and putting yourself out there is important. Even if it’s exhausting, it’s necessary for growth. And, luckily for us all, it isn’t as bad as you think it is walking into it. Even if the activities they have you do are corny, it’s actually pretty painless and sometimes enjoyable.
8. Reflection is necessary, and you’ve mastered it.
As an introverted person, you spend a lot of time reflecting on your experiences and how they will affect you. The first month of college is busy because so many new things are being shot your way. Reflection is important because it allows you to organize these experiences in your brain and to benefit from them. Most people haven’t mastered this skill, but you have, sweet introvert. So take this skill and use it to your benefit.
9. Even if they don’t seem like it, everyone’s trying to keep up and feels just as out of place as you do.
No matter what kind of person you are, the first month of college is stressful and as you take the time to speak with people you will realize everyone is homesick, anxious and lonely to a degree. Take solace in this and remember the exterior isn’t always telling the full story.
10. If you try, you’ll find people like you.
If you look hard enough you’ll find a group of equally awkward weirdos to suffer through the socializing with you and accompany you to the dining hall. Even if they aren’t your lifelong friends they’ll be a comforting reminder that you aren’t alone.
Being well-liked sometimes seems like the strongest pillar of your college experience, aside from the obvious doing well in classes and learning stuff. Being an introverted person on campus, where social interaction and "mingling" is vital, can be intimidating, confusing and downright exhausting. Although I am nothing but a baby freshman, I have been a college student for a little less than a month and can tell you that being "well-liked" is not necessarily the same thing as having a fulfilling social life. I certainly hope you build relationships with mutual respect, but striving to be everyone's friend by sacrificing who you really are will not make your chances of success drastically better. You will wind up where you're supposed to be, whether you're a social butterfly or not. So, to my dear introverts who are feeling all of the things above, just one or none at all, know that you are valid and you are an important part of your campus community, no matter how big or small you feel your involvement is.
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