Going abroad means meeting new people. You can’t avoid it, even though sometimes you might want to. On my first day in New Zealand, I met over twenty new people because I met all the other American students in my program, plus my flatmates. That was way too much for me and I felt exhausted afterwards. As a result, I ended up pulling back for the next few days.
I felt so tired and overwhelmed that I didn’t want to meet any more people than I had to. I ended up spending the first few nights in my room, going to bed at 8:30 because of jet lag. I turned down some invitations to go out with my flatmates because I just didn’t feel up to it. As often happens with introverts, people got the impression that I was unfriendly.
Looking back, I wish that I had put myself out there right away instead of opting to stay in my room. But I also recognize that choosing to spend time alone can be a form of self-care. It’s a delicate balance that takes some practice to perfect. There were many times while I was in New Zealand when I felt pressured to go out to some social event, and I didn’t always feel up to it. Sometimes I made myself do it anyway, and ended up having a great time. Other times I decided to stay home.
I recognized that I’m not extroverted and accepted that about myself. That was really helpful, because it meant I wasn’t holding myself to an unachievable standard. I knew that I wasn’t going to be the person who goes out every night, but I would be the person who goes out every once in a while with people I know and trust. That was the balance that worked for me. My best advice for introverts abroad is to pay attention to your needs and care for them. When you need to be alone, be alone. But when you need to be with people, do that too.
It can help to get to know some fellow exchange students right off the bat. One of my flatmates was American, and we became really close throughout the term. She was one of the first people to invite me to hang out, and I wish I hadn't turned down that initial invitation, because it made it harder for me to become friends with the other exchange students who lived in Parnell Student Village. No matter what country they're from, exchange students are all in the same situation and dealing with the same challenges. Getting to know those people and talking about your experiences can be really helpful, if only to make you feel less alone.
Overall, I think studying abroad is more challenging for people who identify as introverts. But it doesn't have to stop you from having a good time abroad or from meeting people. You're going to meet people whether you want to or not. It just might take longer to form close friendships if you're an introvert and need to spend time alone. The most important thing is to take care of yourself.
More Blogs From This Author
<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt">Kia ora! My name is Jessica and I'm majoring in biology and environmental studies at Lawrence University, a small school in Appleton, WI. I grew up in Marquette, Michigan and will always call the shore of Lake Superior home. I love to travel and have been to Costa Rica, Chile, and Argentina so far.<span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:"Times",serif"> </span></span></span></p>