Class of 2017, congratulations and welcome to the College of William and Mary. Through hard work and dedication, you’ve made it to a university whose very name inspires reverence. The freedom and breadth of opportunity you’ve just been granted is immense. The ease of your adjustment to college life, however, will likely be different depending on your personality. As an introvert, I found it particularly difficult, but I know now that it didn’t have to be — and it doesn’t have to be for you if you’re an introvert, either.
College culture tends to marginalize introverts and introverted behavior. We’re expected to go out on the weekends, to socialize whenever we’re not working, to text and to Facebook chat when we’re alone. As a high school student, I could manage these expectations of extroversion because I lived at home. I could choose when I wanted to hang out with friends and when I wanted to stay home without external or internal pressure. Living on a college campus, especially in a freshman dorm, made it nearly impossible to separate my feelings and expectations from my surroundings. Social expectations coupled with the sheer volume of activity going on around me made it difficult for me to enjoy the solitude I needed. And because I felt that I should be with people constantly, I often felt alone and miserable, even though I had many friends. It took me the whole the year to overcome this.
I ought to clear up a few myths that give introverts such a bad rap: We’re not anti-social, we’re not shut-ins, and we’re not misanthropic. Many of us are reserved, but many of us are quite social. The difference is that introverts need time to be alone, time to recharge. Solitude, if anything, allows us to be social and to better enjoy the company of others.
Introverts should not feel weird or inadequate. My advice for introverts in the coming year is to make friends and experience all that the College has to offer, but never let anyone make you feel guilty or uncomfortable for occasionally wanting to curl up with Netflix or with a good book instead of going out. If your dorm is too chaotic or occupied, find a place where you can be alone, and don’t feel bad about it. Your burgeoning sense of self is too important.
Email Matt Camarda at email@example.com.