(photo by: best-thoughts-sms.blogspot.com)
Sure can and you know one who did –me! My name is Andrea and I’m a loud, proud introvert. Now just like anything in life, introverts come in all different flavors. There isn’t a one size fits all example of an introvert. The most basic and relatable definition of an introvert is someone who pulls their energy from within and not from others. As a result, many introverts (including myself) prefer to be alone (or with a small group of people) than in big crowds as we find them to be overwhelming. When you think of someone who is dreaming of studying abroad, you may not think of someone who prefers to be alone. But that is where you would be wrong. Many introverts are dreamers and although we are uncomfortable in big or new social settings, we desire that one day we may find one that doesn’t bother us. For me, I felt that opportunity was studying abroad.
Preparing to pack up my life to go 6,000 miles away from everyone I loved and everything I ever knew, I dreamed the biggest dreams. I was going to get discovered and become a top (albeit, short) fashion model- that surely would have me interacting with lots of people in all kinds of social settings; I was then going to be named the Face of France and get to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy; and of course despite little practicing of French outside of the classroom, I was going to be awesome in French, so awesome that I would randomly engage in deep philosophical debates with native French speakers- anytime, anywhere. I’m hoping you see the extreme far-fetchedness of these introvert fantasies. I always believed that my introvertedness was not a personality trait in me, but rather I wasn’t in the right place.
(photo by: www.hypeorlando.com)
When I arrived in Paris, it became quickly apparent that these things were not going to happen. It was then that I realized that it was not the place that needed changing, it was me. Now there is nothing wrong in being an introvert and in fact, many of its qualities may make the study abroad experience easier since you’re used to doing things alone. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as an introvert going abroad:
- As introverts, we are not eager to leave our comfort zone and prefer being alone. If you don’t put yourself in new social situations, it can be difficult to better your foreign language abilities due to not getting enough practice.
- The whole point of studying abroad is to experience a new culture and group of people. If you are spending most of your time alone, you’re defeating the whole purpose of studying abroad.
- For introverts, sometimes it’s easier to just be alone with our thoughts when we’re frustrated, sad, upset, lonely, missing home. Being alone is the worst thing to do when you have these feelings as they will only intensify in solitude.
- The fact that you signed up to study abroad shows that you are not as introvert as you think and that when you challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone, you can do anything.
- Don’t expect people to make conversation / friends with you first, especially the French. French culture is more reserved than and not as open as American culture. If you wait for French students to come up to you first, you’ll never make first contact.
- Have an introvert coach. Ask someone who always gives you the spark you need to get things done to send you weekly “reminders” via text / SM / email to talk to fellow students, join clubs on campus, go out, and discover the culture and people who traveled to be with and experience.
(Don’t change these wonderful introvert qualities. Photo by: Nancy Dooren)
If you let your introvert qualities shine while you are abroad, you can face many hardships. I know because that’s what I did. I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone as much as I should have and held firmly to my introvert ways. Introverts can study abroad but it is harder for us than our extrovert friends. Don’t let this discourage you. In fact, you would benefit from learning a thing or 2 from them. You don’t have to get rid of your introvert ways to study abroad, but you will need to challenge them to make the most of this experience.
Are you an introvert who’s interested in studying abroad but previous talks with your folks haven’t gone so well? Find out how to approach this topic for a guaranteed successful conversation and gain your parents’ support for this experience with new mini guide book An Introvert’s Guide to Talking Study Abroad With Their Parents.