The pandemic has changed the typical student life experience for many. Clubs, societies and in-person contact hours have largely become non-existent. In the midst of this, there has been a small silver lining for introverts: it has become socially acceptable (and positively encouraged) to replace social interaction with Netflix. Nevertheless, there will come a time when in-person social interaction resumes, so here are some top tips on how to adjust to the “study abroad” experience if you are an introvert by personality and an international student by identity.
Put yourself out there
Moving to a new country can be terrifying and the thought of not knowing anyone can be overwhelming, particularly if you consider yourself to be more naturally introverted. Whilst scary, the chances are that part of the reason to study abroad was to improve your independence and confidence. A great way to do this is to put yourself out there and get involved! Introduce yourself to people on your course or who are living near you - they will also be keen to get to know people.
Many institutions also have an orientation programme often called the “Freshers’ Week”. This is generally filled with a mix of course introductions and fun activities to facilitate socialising. From full-scale clubbing and parties to smaller events like pub quizzes, getting involved with this is a great way to get to know people and most importantly to have fun.
Join group chats
Joining group chats is a great way to get to know people. Many institutions point incoming students towards pre-arrival group chats to get to know people either on their courses or in their accommodation blocks. This is a really great way to reduce the anxiety of moving abroad, as you can talk to people in the same situation as you. It also means that you are familiar with people either in your accommodation and courses before you start.
Course group chats are also excellent for comparing notes and seeking help for assignments, without having to contact your professors. It can also be reassuring to know that other people are just as lost as you are. A further benefit of group chats is that it puts less pressure than meeting people in person directly. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed or simply do not feel like meeting up with people on a particular day, you can still have social interaction.
Societies are a great way to meet new people with similar interests and are a lot of fun. In countries such as the UK, there are societies covering a vast range of interests. For example, Durham University has, among other niche groups, a Gin society and a Champagne society. Joining a society also allows you to build in a bit of routine into your week — a time where you can socialise. If you are more introverted and do not seek out social interaction on a daily basis, you still have a routine where you can make friends.
Joining societies also provide a great opportunity to uncover a new interest. Whether it’s a sport or something else, it’s probable that a society exists for it. In the UK, it is common for people to give rowing a try!
Self-care — remember, you can say no
Self-care is incredibly important when studying abroad. You are away from your family and long-established support systems. Moving abroad, starting university, and constant socialising is exhausting, particularly for those who are naturally more introverted.
Though daunting, the ability to say no is important. Carve out time in your schedule to read a book, exercise, watch Netflix; have an early night. Taking time to relax and recharge is incredibly important as it prevents you from burning out.
Travel by yourself
If you are naturally introverted and are looking for ways for you to improve your confidence without constantly socialising, a great way to do this is to do some solo exploring. Catch a train to a nearby city and just explore at your own pace. It also allows you to be a bit selfish — you only have to do the things you want to do. Best of all, you can leave when you’ve had enough!
Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity and whilst it can be overwhelming at times, the best bit is that you and you alone get to dictate your own life. You get to decide when you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone and where to set limits. The best way to adapt as an introvert: find a balance that works for you.
Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
Written by Anna Noble