Starting university can be a huge and terrifying step. For introverts, who tend to find social situations tiring and feel the need to recharge afterwards, the idea of living with strangers and being surrounded by tens of thousands of other students can seem particularly daunting. Most introverts feel far more comfortable spending time alone or in small groups than they do socialising with large groups of people, and the social aspects of university life can leave introverts feeling stressed and worn-out. But that doesn’t mean introverts don’t enjoy socialising, or that they can’t make the most out of freshers’ week.
When you think of the infamous “freshers’ week”, images of endless nights out, surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of sweaty students dancing to pounding club music spring to mind. To many introverts, this is the devil incarnate, our worst nightmare realised, and even the thought of it brings on a cold sweat. But this isn’t all that freshers’ week is about. Alcohol and partying aren’t the only social side to university, and they certainly aren’t the be-all and end-all. No-one will ever hold a grudge against you if you don’t go to every single night out, or even if you don’t go to any at all. People might try to convince you to have a drink and go out, and you might be surprised how fun it can be, but you certainly should never be forced into it.
If you do want to want to get a taste of the freshers’ lifestyle and go on nights out, there is no obligation to attend every single one. If you ask most second or third years if they could go out for two nights in a row, let alone for an entire week, they would probably look at you in horror. The ability to spend five nights in a row dancing with strangers and drinking shots is not a pre-requisite for university life. Freshers’ week is a much more enjoyable experience if you only do what you want to do and don’t go clubbing just because you feel like “everyone else is”. Don’t believe the Facebook photos: the only photos you see might picture grinning friends in clubs, but that doesn’t mean that’s all that people are doing.
There are a lot more people than you realise who would rather trade a second night of partying for a night in watching movies. There are probably plenty of people with this same mind-set in your halls of residence, or in your house. If you’re looking for an alternative way to make friends, seek out these like-minded individuals, and sit on the sofa in your pyjamas together to watch a movie. Some of the best friends I’ve made have been made over a Chinese takeaway, or a movie on Netflix, not in a club at 3am.
Although it’s important to try and make friends during freshers’ week, it’s important to take time for yourself. Sometimes, an evening or even a day on your own, binge-watching TV shows, taking a walk around campus, or reading a book, can be exactly what you need. Just because you live with people, don’t assume they expect you to be by their side every minute of the day. You won’t become the “invisible flatmate” simply from spending some time alone. Everyone needs their own space, and you’ll soon realise that even the most outgoing people need alone time every now and then. Unlike in school, no-one will stare if you sit in the canteen and eat lunch alone because you’re tired of socialising, or if you retreat to a quiet area of the library when it’s all too much. It’s ok to take that time for yourself when you need it.
Another great way to introduce yourself to new people is by joining societies. Lots of societies host small film screenings and often have small, informal lunch-time or evening meet ups. These kind of events are usually very relaxed and informal: you can go alone, or with a flatmate if you prefer, and you can say as much or as little as you like. Film screenings also provide handy talking points, so you don’t need to worry about struggling to think of conversation topics. There is no pressure to be the life of the party. Introverts are often great listeners, and this an incredibly valuable trait in a friend, so don’t take your talent for granted.
The most important advice I can give you is to be positive and open-minded about the experience. It might seem like university is filled with obstacles and challenges, but if you approach these with a smile and take on the challenges in your own time, it is incredibly rewarding.
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