University is a daunting experience for anyone, but for the introvert, it may seem like a minefield. “Join or die” always seemed to be the theme of what media and friends threw at me as the ideal “college experience.” If you couldn’t balance Frat parties, charity work, student government clubs and befriending everyone on your floor with all-nighters and warding off the freshman fifteen, hah! You might as well curl up at home with a laptop and the University of Phoenix. Ta da! Here I am, ten weeks later, living proof that introverts have just as much fun in college. It was rough getting there, but I hope my experience can make it easier for someone else.
I made the choice to finish my last two years of high school at the Spokane community colleges (with American Honors!) because I couldn’t handle high school politics. I didn’t fit in with my peers. The gossip, football games, and ever shifting alliances were not my cup of tea, in fact, tea and a book has always been my idea of a good time. However, I considered this a personal failure, that I wasn’t good enough for everyone else, that I was weird and awkward for having different tastes, and I told myself college would be a fresh start. My awkward childhood a secret, I could finally blossom into a sparkling debutante of social politics in a big city.
Week one and I can’t remember anyone on my floor’s names! Or whether they are from Philly or Boston! Or their majors! Everyone introduced themselves this way and I already felt myself falling behind. In the Welcome Week events nearly every icebreaker asked you to give a fact about yourself that “sets you apart.” Amidst the declarations of impressive volunteer regimens, athletic achievements, and third or fourth languages learned, my weak answers made me withdraw further.
Everyone seemed to be pairing up and strolling around in groups, laughter ringing over campus like a warning bell. At my first class, we were told to mingle. My worst nightmare, a huge group of people and nothing but the vague order to “mingle.” What is mingling anyway? I stood in the corner nibbling a pastry anxiously, watching everyone else pull off their interpretations of the word without a second thought. I was feeling as though I had made a big mistake until it sunk in; I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting out of the corner. I walked up to the first person I clapped eyes on. She happened to be from my floor and we hit it off right about the diceyness of forced mingling, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Later that day, I walked past a girl with the coolest style, monochrome, modern, I paused a beat, turned around and threw over the courtyard “I love your outfit!” To my surprise, she changed directions, walked over and started chatting. She was from New Zealand, and didn’t really know anyone, would it be weird if we exchanged numbers? Now she is my best friend, and is visiting for Christmas so I can educate her on supremacy of the Inland Northwest.
Moral of my first week: Don’t stress out over not clicking with everyone. If you’re like me, you would rather have fewer friends with stronger bonds than run with a big crowd anyway. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed to the point of withdrawing, remember you do have something in common with these people, you all fell in love with the same school and you know no one! There are people out there that will change your life and stay with you forever, but you have to earn these special friendships, go out and find them!