An Introvert's Guide to Studying Abroad

April 13, 2017

As an introvert, studying abroad seemed an odd choice for me. Introverts are characterized by being cautious, reserved and often less sociable. Extroverts, who are typically more outgoing and open to new experiences, seem better equipped for an experience centered around new people and places. However, it is possible to thrive as an introvert studying abroad! Here are my tips for surviving — and enjoying — your study abroad experience as an introvert.

1. Don’t mean to go on as you start

You’ve probably heard the general advice, “Start as you mean to go on,” but I’m throwing that out of the window. Push yourself to socialize more than you probably would at home, knowing that you don’t have to keep it up. To avoid feeling isolated, you’ll want to know the names and faces of the other exchange students as well as many of the domestic students. I’ll be honest - the first week or so will be tiring, but you can then have a happy and healthy social life without the intensity of your first days. By meeting as many people as possible in the beginning, you’ll meet people that you really get along with. I’ve made friends here in Canada that prefer socializing in smaller groups and at more low-key events, and we still have the option of joining the larger groups that we met during our first few days.

2. Leave the party when you want to leave the party

While I urge you to go to many social events at the start, I don’t mean that you should stay until you have to prop your eyelids open with matchsticks. Personally, I like to stay at things slightly longer than I really want to and leave when I know I’m too tired to actually enjoy myself any longer. If you want to go home and someone says something silly like, “Don’t be boring!” — rest assured this says more about their insecurities than it does about your interestingness. They’re just jealous that you don’t need to be part of the group in order to feel good about yourself.

3. Sleep

I think I’m stating the obvious here as sleep, along with food and shelter, is considered a necessity for survival. But seriously - everything feels more difficult when you’re tired. Try to get between six and eight hours of sleep per night and don’t panic if life seems terrible late at night. You’ll feel better in the morning.

4. Get your interior design on

Due to weight restrictions on planes, you’re not going to bring your avant-garde lamp and extensive cacti collection but photos are a popular choice for easy, lightweight decor. I’m really into art, so I brought postcards I’ve collected from various art galleries over the years. When I arrived, my dorm room didn’t have a lamp — only a harsh overhead light that I find distinctly unrelaxing — so I felt it was worth it to buy an inexpensive lamp that I can give away at the end of term. Other budget-friendly and lightweight ways to turn your dorm into a home include LED candles, greetings cards, cotton bedding, and cute washi tape and pins to display photographs or cards — only use these on pinboards if the rules prohibit sticking things to walls. A nice environment to retreat to at the end of a long day will make a big difference to your mood.

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