An Introvert’s Survival Guide to College Social Life

Here’s one student’s take on thriving in college as an introvert.

I am an introvert.

Put me in a social situation, and I am done. I can’t small talk. I can’t introduce myself. I don’t know the socially acceptable way to ask someone any aspect of their lives. I’m bad at the social thing.

So coming to college, which thrives on ‘community’ buzzwords, was way out of my comfort zone.

It can be easy to want to just hole yourself up in your room (I mean, we have bathrooms and kitchens, it’s not terribly hard to survive), and only leave for class and perhaps to take out the trash. Unlike most colleges, Regent doesn’t have a dining hall we have to go to every day, three times a day, to eat. From what people at other colleges tell me, there are a lot of social benefits to that, as people will gather together to eat a meal together every day, interacting and spending time with each other. Us introverts aren’t forced to interact, so sometimes, we just won’t.

While we do cherish time on our own, we still desire some form of social interaction and good conversations. Despite Regent being formatted differently, there are still many ways to get involved socially as an introvert that isn’t too scary (I promise). Here are some simple tips:

1. Enjoy Meals Together.

Food is an important building block for community. There is a reason every interest meeting and special event offers free food. No, it’s not just for luring in poor college students with free pizza (although I don’t doubt that might be part of the motive). Sharing a meal together ignites conversation, as people gather together for one purpose. There is a reason Jesus often talked to people around a meal. So enjoy food with people! Randomly decide to eat at the Ordinary one day. Open your door and invite your hall mates to bring their food with them and have a big family meal. If you’re feeling generous, make some food for them. Eating your meals in a way that promotes conversation can spark great relationships and community.

2. Go Outside. I Mean, Seriously.

When it’s not raining, Virginia Beach has some pretty decent temperatures. Take advantage of it! Sit out at a picnic table with your homework and talk to the people around you. Say hi to people passing by that you may know. Go take a walk around campus (this is also a good way for you introverts to decompress, let me tell you). Sit by the fountain and read a textbook. Just be out and be present, and you may be surprised at the conversations you end up in – and enjoying!

3. Enjoy the Student Lounges.

Studying in the New Student Lounge is not the quietest environment, but if you are doing something chill and easy, it’s a great place to be around people without needing to be fully engaged if you don’t want to. You can totally just do your homework, but when the studying gets too much, see if there is anyone around to talk to. Most people are just hanging out, so you can probably find at least one who’d be more than willing to chat. Find someone to play chess with. Get some board games from the old student lounge and start a tournament. We may not have a dining hall, but these are great community building rooms that I urge you to make good use of.

4. All the Events!

Party at the O, Winter Ball, SAB Trivia Nights, Open Mics, Regents Got Talent, and Regent NOW are just some of the awesome events the campus hosts, and normally each week there is at least one. Go to them! Have fun with people. Dance a bit. See what connections you can make with people. There are also some weekly events that are always there and always great. UnChapel, University Chapel, Life Group, Good Fridays. Go to them all! Find a crew to go with. Talk to people about what you learn. It’s cool. Just try it.

5. Finally… Join a Club/Organization/Society/Whatever-You-Would-Like-to-Call-It.

Joining a club/organization/society/there-are-so-many-different-terms-for-these-things is literally what I recommend not only for introverts, but for everyone. You get to know people in a closer, more intimate setting while still maintain that group atmosphere, and many times you are working towards some kind of larger goals, which helps bring everyone closer together. Also, for you socially awkward penguins like me who don’t know how to start conversations, talking about the organization you are a part of is an easy segway to a whole slew of talks. Trust me, it works.

I know the introverts’ first instinct tends to be either running from social situations or fading in the background, but please, don’t. There are so many great opportunities to meet new and interesting people and get past those surface level chit chats into deeper, more profound discussions. Step out of that comfort zone. Take some risks. Meet someone new. See what you could learn.

Danielle is a Contributor to the Daily Runner.