Between parties, the pressure to have more friends than the person next to you, and the fear of being alone in public, the prefix “uni”, (meaning one) in university, becomes more and more ironic. University can be a very scary time for the not-as-social butterflies on campus as the pressure to be “more social” or more extroverted can be very overwhelming. Now, before you roll your eyes, this is NOT a guide helping you to learn to be extroverted, because as all introverts know, that’s just not the way it works. This is an introvert’s insider guide to navigating campus, and having fun.
Clearing the air
Before we get to the good stuff, I’d like to start by making it clear that the word introvert should not be correlated with shy, anti-social, or socially awkward. Although some introverts do possess one or more of said qualities, most introverts do not hate being with, or talking to people! We simply need some down time to recoup, and reenergize after more intense social interaction. Large social settings can be emotionally draining for introverts but for the most part, they function well with smaller, more intimate groups, or individuals.
Be fashionably late, or unnecessarily early.
University campuses are always buzzing with students in the early afternoon. Here at Ryerson, right in the heart of Downtown Toronto… buzzing is an understatement. Although we are lucky to be surrounded by so many happy faces, for an introvert, this kind of over-interaction can be an incredibly overwhelming and sometimes stressful experience. Campus is always quiet in the early hours of morning or in the early evening. If you can, schedule your classes during these time slots to avoid the busy hallways, and over crowding Gould Street that comes with peak hours.
Avoiding Facebook FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Rearrange the words in Facebook and what do you get? FAKE… actually, that’s a little harsh, you’d probably get something more along the lines of koofacb, or oofbacek… but that’s beside the point. Facebook can be a big downer on an introvert’s self esteem as constant updates from friends looking like they’re having a better time than you are scattered across your computer screen. What you have to remember is that there is never anything wrong with saying “no” to plans you really don’t feel comfortable with. Introverts are faced with a lot of pressure to “act more social”, as if they’re choosing to not enjoy large social settings. Remember that you can’t force yourself to be extroverted, but what you can do is redefine your preconceived notions of fun. Whether it’s reading a book curled up in bed, grabbing a drink with a few friends, or hosting a movie night or a pot luck. Don’t put yourself in uncomfortable positions simply because your Facebook friends enjoy it; the ability to socialize without pretending to act extroverted is a very important skill to obtain.
Set end times
When making plans with a friend, be sure to let them know in advance what time you have to leave at. This way, there’s no risk of one quick catch up over a cup of coffee turning into going back to their apartment to meet their roommates for a movie marathon. Although going with the flow can be fun, sometimes you have to politely set limits in order to remove the anxiety of saying “no” to spontaneous plans. Doing this maximizes your ability to live in the moment, and enjoy your time with your friend(s).
Find your loner lair
Finding a quite place to relax in between classes or during your lunch break can be a tricky one. Although introverts can be found in every department, greater masses tend to gravitate towards programs which involve less interaction with people, and more with introspection, or the mind. When searching for a a space to find a quiet nook in, try gravitating towards buildings which facilitate these programs and you may be more likely to find people who work the same way you do. Or, check out some of these sweet spaces.
Every introvert is different, some like working in small groups with background noise, while others may prefer working alone in complete silence. With that being said, the library can sometimes act as a major social hub on campus. It’s a place for study groups to meet, or strangers to ask questions and share notes. If you prefer to avoid the buzz of studying masses, try getting your work done at your local coffee shop, or, for the more adventurous, find any nook or cranny around campus that looks comfy. Don’t forget when the new Ryerson Student Learning Centre opens, you may find some new, quiet spaces to call your own.
Try everything at least once
The comfort zone can be a dangerous place for introverts. University is all about self discovery, so stepping outside of your comfort zone occasionally can be very important in your journey. Join a club, strike up a conversation with a stranger on the subway, or pick up a new hobby. Even if you dislike it, learning what you are not is just as essential as learning what you are. Ryerson offers a wide range of clubs and societies which can be found here.
Enjoy university on YOUR terms
Most importantly, your university experience is exactly that… YOURS. Never feel guilty for needing personal space, or for not being as extroverted as your social butterfly counterpart. At the end of your four years, you want memories of happiness, and internal growth, not struggles of wishing you were someone you’re not. Don’t waste your time wondering what other people think of you; you’re not a wet blanket, you’re not boring, and there’s nothing wrong with you! You are an introvert, your alone time is simply equally as important as your social endeavours. Become comfortable with this idea, and your undergrad will be a fun filled adventure of friendship, learning, and happiness.
Cover photo taken by @ryersonuar