Top 10 Tips For Starting University As An Introvert
Are you, or someone you know, starting university this September? No matter how excited you are the experience can also seem a little daunting. This applies to nobody more than introverts suddenly confronted with the full force of Fresher’s Week, club nights and karaoke.
Having survived (and loved!) the first year of my degree, I thought I would share my tips for starting university as an introvert.
1. Abandon all preconceptions of what a student ‘should’ be.
The stereotypical student is outgoing, a night owl, addicted to clubbing and nursing a semi-permanent hangover. Like all stereotypes, it’s narrow and fits very few people comfortably.
I am the antithesis of a typical student who cannot wrap my head around the fact that by the time I’m curled up in bed with a book most people are just starting their night out! When starting university, I worried this would make it difficult to fit in.
Fortunately, I soon met lots of lovely, like-minded people who are up for more chilled socialising, whether this is going for a quick coffee after lectures or having a cosy movie night.
2. Get involved in a club or society.
The structured environment of a club or society can ease the process of making friends. Welcome Fair in your first week is the best place to find one that suits you and an opportunity to have a chat with current members.
If you’re overstimulated by crowds, noise and loud music, many Student Unions have a quiet hour before the main event when you can wander in peace.
3. Own it!
Okay, you might not be the life and soul of the party, but don’t undervalue yourself just because you’re introverted. Friends and flatmates will appreciate you for the unique personality you have to offer – sensitive listener, gym buddy, coursework checker or biscuit baker.
4. Show solidarity with your fellow introverts.
See someone sitting by themselves in the lecture theatre or cafe? Make sure they’re okay and invite them to join you. Don’t underestimate this tried-and-tested recipe for finding new friends!
5. Find your zone.
In her (awesome) book The Highly Sensitive Person, Elaine Aron discusses finding your “optimal level of arousal”. At this point, you’re not bored, you feel engaged in the world, but at the same time you don’t feel overwhelmed or anxious. It can take a bit of trial and error to find where this zone lies for you.
Maybe you enjoy joining friends at their flat for pre-drinks but parting ways when they go out on the town? Maybe you love playing sports, but prefer a non-competitive team without an intensive training schedule that gets in the way of your alone time?
There are so many ways to compromise so that ‘fitting in’ doesn’t have to mean ‘forcing yourself to fit’.
6. Get a student job.
Working while at university is useful for financial support and gaining experience, but an added bonus is that it can be a fantastic way to make friends. Jobs on your university campus are often the most well-paid and can have a lovely sense of community. Look out for vacancies for events/catering staff, IT support and library assistants.
7. Don’t bury your head in the sand (or books).
If you’re intimidated by the social aspect of university, it can be tempting to just tell yourself ‘I’m here to study and get my degree’ then hide away at your desk. Although it’s important to give time to your coursework, not taking breaks to connect with people will drive you slowly insane. Try forming a study group for some guilt-free socialising!
8. Be honest.
It’s better to admit to your flatmates if clubbing or some other suggested bender isn’t really your scene from day one. Otherwise, you will have to come up with a creative excuse Every. Single. Wednesday. Night! In my experience, being true to yourself and immune to peer pressure is something others will have a great deal of respect for.
9. Ask for help and support if you need it.
It’s not just introverts who can find the first few weeks of university overwhelming. Leaving home, starting a new academic challenge, meeting new people, having routines upended … it’s a lot to happen at once.
If you’re feeling a bit wobbly, the university will have a huge support network that you can reach out to. Speak to a tutor, lecturer, peer mentor, halls team member, Student Union adviser, counsellor – whoever you feel most comfortable with. University staff are paid to help you, so start making the most of that tuition money!
10. Join the City Girl Network!
Last but not least, join the City Girl Network for your university city! The variety of fun meetups will help you connect with like-minded people and get to know your new home. If in need of some reassurance, you can even start chatting before you arrive. Go to: https://citygirlnetwork.com/find-your-network/
 Elaine Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person (London: HarperCollins, 1999) Kindle ebook, location number 311