Manchester Student-made Wellbeing

A shy student’s guide to University

Did you know that over half the population is introverted? Neither did I, because quiet people like myself are often, well, unnoticed. Especially in big, social places like University.

I’ve been a shy person for as long as I can remember. I know the feeling of being flooded with fear upon entering a room of strangers for the first time, terrified to talk and afraid of what others may think. As an introvert with social anxiety, I get it. University life can be simply suffocating.

During my undergrad years, I was constantly aware of my social imperfections. When I pictured the ideal “university experience,” even little things like raising my hand in class, hanging with my flatmates in the kitchen, and attending frequent nights out seemed to be the norm. Yet, none of these things ever came naturally to me. Give me a good book, the sporadic company of a few close friends, and a room to myself and I am content.

As a shy, anxious, and quiet student here at Manchester, I’m here to help you navigate your way through University living. Based off my own experience, I’ve learned to embrace and challenge my introverted nature in different ways, leading to a happier University experience overall.

So, here’s how to make the most out of Manchester as an introvert.

Make a plan.

The beginning is always the scariest: the first day of school or work, joining a new society, or meeting your flatmates upon move-in. As shy, nervous people, preparing for new situations is wildly overwhelming.

Before I arrived at Manchester, I made a plan to counter this anxiety. Sure, I’m an avid list-maker by nature (my immaculately planned journal can attest to this), but I think advanced planning is universally calming for nervous folks like us. For example:

  • I looked into societies online before attending Freshers Fair
  • I researched my faculty on the University website before starting class
  • I added orientation events to my calendar to get a visual layout of what to expect

Being aware of social events before they occur gives you time to prepare. When I know what to expect, I’m less likely to duck out last minute in favour of binge watching Mad Men alone in my room.

Plus, it helps to remember that you are not alone! If both of us have similar feelings about new places and people, can you imagine how many others feel the same way?M1

Know your boundaries, and push beyond them.

Alright, a plan has been made. We’re pumped to try new things, in theory. But what about actually following through? As with most things, it’s easier said (or planned) than done.

If I’m being honest with you, I catch myself falling victim to my social fears all the time. I’ve been known to put on pyjamas and curl up with a book, blissfully aware that I’m missing a party I RSVP’d to because I simply don’t want to go. Introverting just seems easier, because it is.

This is when I force myself to just get out there. Yes, attending a society mixer or course dinner is beyond my comfort zone, but taking little steps toward meeting people is necessary to be happy here.

Give yourself a pep talk. Remember that these feelings are temporary. And think of how happy you’ll be once you find some special people to spark friendships with. You can’t accomplish that from the comforts of home, and recognising the end goal to social events helps give you gain the confidence to attend.

This step isn’t easy, and takes lots of practice and discipline to work, but recognising your boundaries and deliberately breaking them will make you prouder than you know.M2

Big cities like Manchester may be outside your quiet comfort zone – you’re not alone!

Let others do the work for you.

Here’s my easiest piece of advice, tried and true. When you enter class, sit next to someone with a friendly face. In my shy lifetime, I’ve learned to recognise the value of seeking out a few key extroverts to do my social work for me. When I deliberately position myself around more social folks, it automatically relieves the pressures of beginning conversations on my behalf. And sometimes, just sometimes, this stranger will end up being a forever friend (despite your personality differences!).

Maintain balance.

If things have gone successfully so far, you’ve curated a few good friends for yourself. You’ve pushed yourself beyond your limits and tried out new social situations that once seemed impossible. Congratulations!

However, having friends doesn’t eradicate your introverted tendencies. In fact, it sometimes even heightens them. When I find my schedule too overcrowded with social events, I feel absolutely suffocated.

As an introvert, we are sensitive to social exhaustion, and it’s critical that we pencil in some alone time to maintain a healthy disposition.

However, you must remember to strike a balance between being a hermit and a socialite. This is something unique to everyone, and truly depends on your own needs. I know that I require a solid day alone after spending a night with friends; yet some of my other introverted friends only need a few hours to recharge.

Know yourself, and know what you require. You don’t want to destroy your social efforts by dropping off the face of the planet for too long – but you also don’t want to make yourself miserable by socialising beyond your limits.M3

Introverts know: there’s nothing more relaxing than a day to yourself in your favourite bookstore!

Be kind.

It took my years to become comfortable in my introversion. For the longest time, I felt restrained, broken, and ashamed of my shy nature. Eventually, I realised that none of this was true. My personality is valid and natural, and my voice (although quiet) is just as important as those of my extroverted peers.

When you’re a quiet person, it’s easy to feel little. Especially on a huge, highly interactive campus like Manchester. Sometimes your anxiety makes you feel flawed, and sometimes your shyness makes your abilities seem limited.

To my fellow introverts: University may seem like something beyond your comfort. It may seem like somewhere where you don’t belong. But be gentle with yourself. You are whole despite your quiet tendencies, and still have so much to offer – intellectually, socially, and beyond.

Some things can change, but certain personality traits are forever. It’s important to learn to work with your shyness, rather than against it. Find what’s right for you, and find who is right for you. And trust me, it gets easier with practice, time, and kindness.

Good luck in your social endeavours!