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.