September

Surviving University: An introvert's guide

A wise, honey-loving, round-bellied bear once said, “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you.” But what if the idea of stepping into the clearing fills you with dread? Bath Spa graduate Elisha Westmore has some advice.

Settling into university is tough no matter who you are. But those first few weeks or months can be especially difficult if you are naturally more introverted. Whether it’s because you’re shy around new people, perhaps you come from a small family and just aren’t used to being around lots of people, or you struggle with social anxiety, the intimidation of the start of university can swallow some people whole.

The pressure students often feel to be outgoing, confident, social butterflies can weigh very heavy on some shoulders. As a recent graduate who definitely felt that weight at the start of my university journey, I thought it may be helpful to pass on some information I wish someone had told me as an overwhelmed fresher.

Be patient (or, comparison is a waste of everyone’s time)

There’s a sense of urgency that seems to linger in the air around groups of freshers. You can feel it. It seeps under doorways of residence halls and trickles into student bars. It’s like a mist that sends everyone a little loopy. You can hear them all in their heads screaming IF I DON’T FIND THE PEOPLE I AM GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT THREE YEARS OF MY LIFE ATTACHED TO IMMEDIATELY, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO FALL APART!

The truth is, it takes time to forge deep and lasting connections with people; particularly if you are someone who is naturally more reserved. It is so important not to panic. You will discover your ‘tribe’ eventually. Lean into the opportunities around you and meet as many people as you can, but don’t feel deflated if you don’t find people who ‘get you’ straight away.

Lean into the opportunities around you and meet as many people as you can, but don’t feel deflated if you don’t find people who ‘get you’ straight away.

In the meantime, an important part of university life is also learning how to become independent. Learning how to spend time with yourself can be a valuable skill.

Take yourself on coffee dates, browse your local bookshops, go on walks to familiarise yourself with your new home - whatever helps you settle in. Also, the more confident and assured you feel within yourself, the more you’ll attract the right kind of people. Having a strong connection with yourself can be just as useful when surviving university as having a strong connection with other people.

Most importantly, don’t compare. During the first few weeks of my first year, I would sit in lecture halls, staring at groups of people walking in and feeling like I hadn’t made the same progress as everyone else. Then I realised two things:

  • Comparison is a joy stealer; we are all on our own journeys and sitting there making judgements of myself based on how I perceived other people was a waste of my time.
  • Having later made friends with some people in those groups I used to envy, I found that those groups didn’t last. The majority of friendships people make during the first few weeks often aren’t the ones that last throughout university and beyond.

Know your limits

University is an excellent opportunity to test the boundaries of your comfort zone and grow as a person away from the familiarity of home. However, this should never be at the cost of your wellbeing. No matter what else you wish to get out of your experience, looking after yourself should always be your number one priority. Perhaps for the first time, you are completely in charge of yourself, so take advantage. Don’t burn yourself out. Make compromises. Perhaps today you go along to that society event and introduce yourself to people. But maybe tomorrow you skip that evening at the SU to curl up in your room with a book or a film to recharge.

Despite the messages that are thrown at you as a university student, you don’t have to say yes to everything. It can be just as beneficial to recognise when to say no and take some time for yourself.

Despite the messages that are thrown at you as a university student, you don’t have to say yes to everything. It can be just as beneficial to recognise when to say no and take some time for yourself.

This one is for the extroverts...

There is no greater pairing for an introvert than an extrovert. If you’re someone who identifies as an extrovert reading this, here’s how to spot an introvert in the wild: If you are in a crowded room - look around you. Peer into the corners. They may be lurking there. If there’s a pet, they’re probably stroking it.

Now, how to approach one without scaring it off? Catch their eye, smile warmly from a distance. If they seem keen, approach. Ask a simple question to get the conversation flowing. After a while, perhaps invite them over to meet some more people. They may go quiet when introduced to a group but trust that they are very grateful to have been included and they will join in when they feel comfortable.

You may be able to guide them out of their shell, invite them round for a film or to the pub. But make no mistake, extroverts - introverts are just as useful to you as you are to them. Listen carefully. They may not know the wildest parties to go to, but I bet they know the best spot in town for a coffee, or the quietest and most scenic little park tucked just behind the high street. They know all the gossip without actually being involved in the drama, and once they open up, they can be an absolute laugh and one of the most loyal and cherished friends you could have by your side.

Introverts may not know the wildest parties to go to, but I bet they know the best spot in town for a coffee, or the quietest and most scenic little park tucked just behind the high street.

No matter who you are, those first few weeks and months of university can be tough, so look out for each other. If you find yourself feeling lonely and low, there are plenty of services available if you need someone to chat to – here are just a few:

  • Samaritans: 116 123
  • Student Space: 0808 189 5260
  • CALM: 0800 58 58 58

You can also take advantage of our Student Wellbeing Services.

Most importantly, have fun and good luck!

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.

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