Studying Abroad as an Introvert

Authored by:
Emily H.

Emily H.
Many people have described me as a human cat.  I am very reserved and it costs me a lot of mental energy to open up, or break down my walls per say, in order to meet other people or do new activities.  These days, it seems like common sense to understand that different dimensions to people’s personalities can affect how they view and live their lives.  But sometimes, how drastic these characteristics may do so can get lost in the obvious. 
Studying abroad can be, without a doubt, a disorienting experience that throws you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to take on the challenge of “NEW!” in big screaming letters on a neon sign.  Feelings of fear, discomfort and uncertainty are completely normal while abroad, and are in fact part of the whole learning experience, as these feelings never let go of you in life, nor might they during your whole journey abroad. 
That is OK. 
Finding community, making friends, and taking never done before risks can be the best way to soothe those feelings, and I know this from experience.  But realistically, as an introvert, doing all of those things, even to the smallest degree like talking to someone in class, can be twice as hard at times as my “battery” can drain very fast and my comfort zone is pretty narrow.  This has led me to compare myself to others, since I find that the ideals to “success” are associated with countless adventures and tons of friends.  
For anyone who is like me, I just want to say, if that is not your jam, then that is not your jam, and it is OK.  Bigger is not always better.  Of course this is not to say that shutting yourself in is the best thing for you to do while abroad. I also know from experience that keeping on doing things that make you a bit uncomfortable is the best way to stretch out your comfort zone which is an important life skill. 
Challenging yourself is the key to personal growth, which should always be a top priority within such a new experience like going abroad.  The good news is that everyone’s path to growth is different and focuses on different areas of their lives.  As an introvert who still values the key to personal growth, I have come to terms with the fact that going carefully down the pool stairs while holding onto the railing is not in any way less valuable than jumping into the deep end.  Knowing and accommodating for yourself is the single most nourishing thing anyone could do to bloom.

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