Surviving university as an introvert

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Before I started my bachelor degree this year I was bombarded with opinions that “you must socialise and network or you will not survive university” and “be at a disadvantage later in your degree and even in your profession”. As usual I rolled my eyes at those presumptions. If I wanted to get somewhere by socialising I would not spend money on a degree. I would be hanging out at bars and nightclubs, talking to people and rubbing shoulders to acquire contacts. In other words, I have no intentions at this point to become a politician.

I’m at university to acquire a degree to increase my chance in the job market. If I meet some new friends and make a few good connections at university, that’s just an advantage. What matters, or more correctly, what should matter at university is your degree. It should be your main focus and priority. Of course, don’t shut yourself in completely.

Some jobs love it if you bring with you many good contacts, but at the end of the day, if you didn’t graduate, you will most likely be asked to come back later when you finally have gotten your act together, standing there with a degree in your hand – showing you are able to both socialise and get the job done.

As an introvert and a journalist I have met a few which seems to think these two don’t go together. Mostly because they believe that being an introvert is the same as being shy and unable to make contact with humans. In some situations it is actually an advantage to be an introvert when working as a journalist, especially if you end up doing print like I do. Because it has that expected time of solitude where you spend writing your story. Also especially if you are interested in the type of journalism which demands a lot of research, being able to stay focused for a long period of time, locked away somewhere, taking notes, looking up sources, etc.

Which to some degree is similar to what you will be doing as a student at a university. Some work better in groups, but not everyone. Those of us who do not, need to understand and recognise that and use it to our advantage. I love going to lectures, learning new things, but when the lecture is done, I need to go somewhere, on my own, go through the lecture slides, flip through the textbook – so I can process the information my way. Same as someone who needs to discuss the topic with someone to understand. Keeping in mind that neither of these approaches are better than the other, just different, but with a similar result.

Surviving university as an introvert is the same for extroverts or any kind of person. It boils down to prioritising and doing everything in moderation, but also be honest with yourself and your classmates. Know your limits and your needs as a human, an individual, and your obligations as a student.

What you need to be careful with however, which applies to any situation in life, is to avoid the “it worked for me or them” stories. They are one-sided and anecdotal. They apply only to the person telling the story or the person the story is about. You should know yourself better than anyone else and what works for you. If not, talk to a school counsellor, which should base their advice on psychology, not anecdotal opinions.

As an example; I am fluent in Norwegian, Swedish and English, know a little Dutch and trying to learn French at the moment. But that doesn’t mean I’m better than someone who only speaks one language, nor does it mean everyone must learn that many languages. And that some are amazing with math, while I really suck at it, and find it very boring. My point is, we are different and approach situations differently. Something we need to understand, but also make others understand.

If you need a few hours downtime before you meet your classmates at the pub or if you only meet up one out of three times, that is and should be okay. What you will learn is that those who respect that are the keepers regarding friends. And those who have difficulty accepting that, well, they often are not happy with anyone unless they act exactly as they expect them to act.

We introverts might recharge when alone, listening to music, reading a book or playing a game, but some socialising is good. See yourself as a battery, overcharging a battery isn’t good. When reaching 100% you need to use that energy. All you need to do is to find a good balance, so you don’t overcharge all the time or risk running out of energy everyday.

Remember, there are many famous introverts out there who we often see doing what is considered extroverted behaviour. How do they do it? Finding the right balance.

Dokter Waldijk has always stood up for who he is — an INTJ. The Doc started blogging in 2004, but decided to up the ante by becoming a freelance journalist in 2010. His biggest influence is Hunter S. Thompson, the father of Gonzo journalism. Most of what he writes is based on his own experiences and observations; and he prefers to season his stories with facts, rather than blind assumptions.
Web: dokterw.me
Twitter: @DokterW

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19 Comments

  1. Of course you don’t have to be a party animal or a social butterfly to feel good at the university. It is not all about being around people all the time. There are so many opportunities to spend quality time with yourself… plus making a few good friends is way better than having a lot of shallow ‘buddy’ relationships.
    Lidia @ Brazil travel guides´s last post ..Unique Easter Traditions in Brazil

  2. I love the premise of this Blog!

    I totally understand it… I dont remember going to any of my seminars when I was at Uni.. but I did manage to get quite a good one anyway!

    I work in mental health and part of my role is to try to persuade my clients to go to ‘group work’… I have to say I dont push them too hard.. It is my idea of hell and I dont see that it is a valid therapy for many people.. my boss does not agree!

    Very interesting and thought provoking Blog, good luck. 🙂

    Ellie
    Ellie@keywords´s last post ..Vinegar Douche for Yeast

  3. This is so true. When I was at university I found the constant pressure to socialise difficult; my time to myself with a book was precious, and others didn’t always understand this. I didn’t realise at the time that it was perfectly normal and OK for me to be an introvert, and to counteract this feeling of being ‘different’ I would often drink too much while socialising (something which I think all students but especially introverts are at risk from).
    I love this blog – it’s great to find a place where others feel the same.
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  4. as an extrovert parent of an introvert son, how do you recommend I help him research choices for university? He has great test scores, but often is too exhausted after a day or week in High School to keep up with his homework. he says he just needs to be aline to recharge. While my husband and I respect his needs, we worry he won ‘t be ready to live away from home if spending six hours in high school each day is exhausting. Do we suggest he stay home and commute his first year? Or encourage him to try living away within an easy drive home for an option to recharge? I really liked the story of the woman who commuted to a close by uni for two years before deciding to move on campus.

    • You might consider looking for a smaller college with a strong online program (You’re not looking for an online degree, just online classes.). That way, he’s not required to be physically present at all class meetings. If you can find such a place near your home, great! If not, you might consider finding him a studio apartment near campus and making arrangements for him to return home as necessary.

  5. I work for a University and have been in that environment for a very long time. It might be a good idea to befriend someone who serves in the capacity of an advisor, mentor, instructor or someone who works with the University on a more permanent basis, in a student services capacity- possibly with Student Affairs or Involvement. Someone like this will be more mature than your classmates, know the University system well, have already established his or her own networks and be likely to share their resources with you. He or she would also be less likely to up and leave you without notice because they would be more established than your typical transitory student.

    Just a thought. Best of luck!

  6. Yes, studding in a good university is the best opportunity for your career, the maximum number of students was unable to place there name in a good university, Now internet comes in everyone hand via mobile or laptop, you can easily access different web site or can join different groups to get the study materiel or impotent discussion.

  7. Familiarize yourself with the neighborhood where your law school is located. Find out where the off-campus book store, copy shops and coffee shops are located. You will barely have time for any additional activities, so you don’t want to spend an hour trying to get caffeine.
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  8. i definitely agree that there should be a balance. And since University have so many rooms there must be a quiet room somewhere in that big building (e.g the library). A quiet spot so introverts can recharge.

  9. “If I wanted to get somewhere by socialising I would not spend money on a degree. I would be hanging out at bars and nightclubs, talking to people and rubbing shoulders to acquire contacts.”

    I agree that your main focus at university should be getting your degree. However, there are also other smaller things you’ll need to achieve on your road to your degree.

    It will be very hard for any introvert to get through university without a happy social life. And you can’t feel happy and have a fulfilling social life if you don’t involve in group activities and create connections with others.

    This doesn’t have to be a task you must focus on, but neither is it “a mere advantage” that comes along the way. In my opinion, the social aspect of your life plays an utterly important role in every other domain of it, which is why you should never ignore your socializing skills.
    Andrew´s last post ..The Secret to Permanently Overcoming Your Shyness

    • Agree. Though, one person’s idea of a happy social life might differ from another’s. There’s really no need to become a barfly- opportunities for social interaction on your own terms abound at colleges and universities.

  10. I hate how university marks people on participation marks… I dread it so much in every class. My inability to socialize with people and always being pressured to do so contributed to my depression. Now I am feeling better about myself that I am learning more about my nature.

  11. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m happy that you simply shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.
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