It’s no secret that some of the best parts about studying abroad—and travelling abroad in general—include having the opportunity to meet a great deal of new people, finding moments of consistent awe, and living a life so packed with excitement that you never want to go home.
This is true. However, this dynamic becomes a slight problem if, like me, you happen to be an introvert—especially one with almost constant FOMO.
Some of the common misconceptions about introverts are that we despise human contact, that we can’t function in social settings, and that we probably hate you. None of these things are true in a broad, general sense. Introversion just means that I’ll need some time to recharge after a great deal of social interaction and that I may appear fairly shy when forced to interact with a lot of people—especially new people—all at one time.
This makes some aspects of studying abroad a little difficult. No one wants to be the lame one who leaves an outing early or turns down an offer to explore the city or quietly sits in the background of group conversations.
I know all of these things about myself. Despite this, at the beginning of the semester I spent a lot of time pushing myself to do things that I knew would be bad for my introvert self. I told myself that spending any time by myself in my host family’s apartment meant that I wasn’t taking full advantage of this experience. In retrospect, it was fun and it enabled me to see a lot of Berlin in a short period of time.
However, it left me unbelievably exhausted. My constant bouncing did not give me time to digest and reflect on my experiences, which for me lessens the impact of them to a certain degree.
Since then, I’ve improved. I’ve brought my introversion into my life here.
It required that I adjust my lifestyle and activities slightly. I stopped seeking out large groups to spend time with, and instead started exploring the city in groups of two or three people that I actively enjoy spending time with. Then—after being social and seeing things—I did go home, and have some alone time.
I also became more comfortable with exploring the city on my own. I love nothing more than Sunday morning wanderings throughout Berlin, and sometimes find that conversation ruins it.
To study abroad as an introvert, you must remember that, although your surroundings may have generally changed, you are still, ultimately, the same person. You can manage to be open to new experiences and to the world around you without forgoing your intrinsic self. This is a vital aspect of having a meaningful experience, as it means listening to who you are as a person and tailoring your experience abroad around that.
Since I’ve become more accepting of my introversion here, my experience has become a lot more meaningful, as I am better able to digest it and reflect.