Being an introvert and studying abroad has been challenging at times. Not only is it a new experience in terms of the country, food, and language, but it’s also new in terms of friendships. I won’t lie. Being an introvert while studying abroad can be a humbling experience. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world because I’ve learned so much about myself and I’ve met some amazing people. While making friends isn’t impossible, there is no denying that you will have to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone.
Being an introvert looks different for many people but there is no denying that it can make social interactions difficult. For me, even though I need time to wind down alone, I still enjoy and sometimes prefer being social. While abroad, this can especially be a tricky balance.
First and foremost, it’s essential to remember that your friends do not define you. The people who need to be in your life will arrive. Now that that’s been established, it's also important to remember that most people on your program are looking to make friends and looking for people to explore this new city with. While it’s true that a lot of people from my program had come either with friends from their home school or friends who went to other colleges, the majority of people (such as myself) knew pretty much no one else on the program. We are all in the same boat.
At the start of the program, interactions were challenging to say the least. The first week was shrouded in the seemingly endless mantra of “Hello! What’s your name? What school do you go to?” This got pretty tiring after the first few dozen times and most of the time it felt like our conversations weren’t heading anywhere. Nevertheless, this was important. It is true when they say that the hardest part is the beginning.
After those first interactions, it helped seeing the same people during orientation, on field trips, in class, etc. After reflecting on those first few weeks, the most important things were consistency and being open-minded. I constantly reminded myself that if these friendships didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have to see them again in a few months. It may not happen the first time or even the second time, but if you put yourself out there, you will find your people.
If you’re reading this, I can assume that you are most likely an introvert. If there is one piece of advice that I could give to myself when first starting out, it would be “Don’t try to force it.” I know it can seem intimidating but I promise you it’s so worth it. Friendships can and will happen when they’re supposed to. I do have to say that not everyone is going to get along with everyone and that’s ok. Friendships should not feel forced and I promise that getting out of your comfort zone or finding common ground with someone gets easier with time.
After having been in Madrid for a few weeks, I do have to say that quite a few of my friendships were surprising. Nevertheless, I am proud that I put myself out there and for my fellow introverts, I wholeheartedly promise you that the hardest step is the first step. Because of that, I found amazing people to explore the city with and people who can relate to my experience abroad. Being an introvert abroad is hard, but I can promise that you are not alone.
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My name is Jacob and I am a current junior at Haverford College. I love all things related to learning about different cultures whether it be food, language, customs, etc. In my free time, you can typically find me playing video games, listening to music, or just spending time with friends!