Going to university is no longer just about getting a degree. These days, the social life and the overall student “experience” are equally as important. But if the mere thought of meeting and mixing with lots of new people is enough to make you tired, you are not alone. According to Psychology Today, as many as 1 in 2 people are “introverts”, and too much time spent socializing can leave introverts feeling drained.

So, student life can be tough for introverted people. How can you make and keep friends while looking after your mental health? Keep reading to find out.

1. Know your strengths.

Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy or that you have nothing to say. In fact, some introverts are very happy chatting away in the right company, and some of the best public speakers are introverts. This is not as strange as it sounds. With public speaking, you have the chance to prepare what you’re going to say beforehand, and you are addressing a room rather than participating in a conversation. So, if you are an introvert but want to get involved in extracurriculars at university, you could try the debating club.

Introverts are often thought-provoking writers, so if you are more comfortable with the written word than speaking, you could join the student newspaper instead.

2. Be true to yourself.

Student life is known for being loud and raucous, and some freshmen may feel like they have to drink or go to parties, even if they don’t want to. If large groups of people and late nights aren’t really your thing, don’t let your new friends pressure you into joining in. If you’d rather put your PJs on, stay at home, and have your own private dance party, do that instead! You won’t be missing out. In fact, you’ll probably enjoy your evening more than if you’d gone to the club.

However, it’s not good to spend all your time alone. Try and schedule some quiet social time into your week, like going to the movies with a friend or catching up over a coffee between classes. 

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3. Break out of your comfort zone occasionally.

This is especially important if you’ve just started university. Orientation events might seem like a lot, but it’s the best time to get to know people. Just take it at your own pace. You don’t have to go to every single event, but maybe pick a couple throughout the week that you think sound interesting. There will be things going on during the day as well as at night, and you never know—you might just meet your new best friend this way!

Keep pushing yourself in little ways throughout the semester, too. The trouble with being an introvert is that your world can sometimes feel very small. And sometimes—maybe even most of the time—that’s the way you like it, but remember: It’s good for you to get out of your own four walls every so often.

4. Join a club, team, or society.

Getting involved with a club or society is a great way to get you out of the house and meeting new people while doing something you enjoy. There will probably be a list of extracurriculars on your university’s website for you to take a look at. For example, maybe you’re a keen sportsperson, or you’ve always had an interest in journalism, but equally, you could decide to try something different that you’ve never done before.

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Either way, joining an extracurricular is a low-pressure way of socializing because you know you’ve already got one thing in common!

5. Skip the small talk.

Small talk is awkward. And during freshmen orientation, you’ll probably find yourself making a lot of it. “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “What are you studying?” If you feel like you have had this conversation too many times, try something different with the next person you talk to. Now, we’re not suggesting you ask them to spill their deepest secrets when you’ve only just met, but if the two of you can find some common ground, that will soon make the conversation flow more naturally. You will feel more comfortable and hopefully make a new friend.

6. Make friends with an extrovert.

Speaking of making friends, befriending an extrovert’s not a bad idea. You might have totally opposing ideas of what makes a night “fun”—staying in to binge the latest series of something on Netflix vs. partying till dawn—but that’s what will make you good for each other. While spending time with you might encourage your extrovert friend to slow down a bit, hanging out with them will help you step out of your comfort zone more, just like we discussed in #3.

7. Organize your own small gatherings.

Socializing doesn’t always have to be on other people’s terms. If you find going out with your friends and doing what they want to do is too much for you, why not plan your own event? This way, you’re in control of the activity and who’s invited, and you can keep the numbers as low as you want. Maybe invite a handful of people you know well over for pizza and board games, or suggest a trip out to the movies, keeping things low-key.

Hopefully, if these are friends you know and like well, you won’t find this as tiring as spending your evening with a larger circle of acquaintances.

8. Speak to your instructors. 

Being an introvert in university doesn’t just affect your social life. Sometimes, it can get in the way of your studies as well. For example, you may struggle to speak up or ask questions in class. But if that’s the case, try not to shy away from speaking to your professors one-on-one. Instead, email them with any questions you have after the lecture and make use of their office hours to discuss your assignments. If you check in with your instructors regularly, you will better understand what they are looking for, and your grades will go up.

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