Andrea’s note: I’m sorry that there hasn’t been a post in like forever. A welcome home surprise from my internet provider was no working internet for 5 days!
(photo by: www.shedexpedition.com)
Being an introvert study abroad student can come with its own set of challenges but did you know that it also gives you a great advantage for this experience? As I scour the internet reading study abroad blogs, I’m consistently disappointed with the typical party study abroad experience. You know the ones I’m talking about- where the student is only hanging out with other American students and they’re going on a gastro/drinking tour of Paris without immersing into the French culture and language. These students aren’t really on a study abroad; they’re on an extended vacation that requires them to go to a classroom a few times a week and take a test once in while between having fun. Thankfully, this is not the typical introvert experience overseas. Here’s why introverts are better suited to the Paris study abroad experience.
1- Self reflection and experience evaluation: There are 2 main reasons we study abroad. First, it’s a chance to improve our French skills and learn about French culture hands- on through immersion and interacting with natives. Second, it’s a way for us to challenge ourselves and grow up. Students who go abroad to party and have fun aren’t benefiting from this unique opportunity of immersion and personal growth. For introvert study abroad students, your time in Paris will not be spent bar hopping but rather figuring out the immersion experience and your new life abroad. As natural observers of human behaviors, introverts are more likely to reflect on this experience- what you’ve learned, what you didn’t learn, what new things you didn’t know to expect, and what all this change means – to help you attain that personal growth that your fellow good time seeking students won’t gain.
(photo by: herquotes.com)
2- Appreciation and understanding of the affects and importance of solitude and independence. Part of the personal growth aspect of this experience is understanding the affect and importance of solitude and independence. In college, we still depend upon our parents and friends to help us out emotionally and financially. As you finish college and move out of Mom and Dad’s house, you’ll find that solitude and independence go together like a horse and carriage- you can’t have one without the other. This doesn’t mean to say that you won’t have a romantic partner or see your family or have friends- it just means that decisions are now made by you and that you have to do certain things alone. Learning this lesson during your study abroad is great way to sow the seeds for future, grown-up you.
(Comedy legend and fellow introvert George Carlin gets it right. Photo by: glitzandgrammar.co.za)
3- Sight see Paris alone: Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to go sightseeing with a buddy and I highly recommend you to do so. However, it’s great to discover Paris on your own, too. When I first arrived in the City of Light, I was overwhelmed and didn’t want to explore Paris alone. As I got more comfortable with the city, I enjoyed visiting new streets and areas by myself. It made me feel like I discovered a hidden secret that only the natives knew and it was really exciting. Paris truly is a beautiful city but sometimes it’s hard to appreciate that beauty when you’re with someone else, talking and hanging out. Exploring alone allows you to soak up the beauty, atmosphere and experience of the most handsome city on Earth instead of just being in it.
4- Have more time to focus on school: Just because introverts like to stay in doesn’t mean that we are all Dean’s List students but it does mean that we have an upper hand on our party animal classmates. Since night life activities don’t distract us, introverts have no excuse as to why we didn’t have time to study for that test or read (and sometimes even re-read) Baudelaire’s Mme Bovary for that up-coming rédaction.
5- A better understanding of the challenge. Studying abroad is a challenge. Everyone repeat after me “Studying abroad is a challenge”. If it’s not, you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean that you have to have the larger than life difficulties that I had because you’re doing your cultural and linguistic preparations (hint, hint); but any expat can tell you that a new life abroad is never easy even with all the preparations in the world. You’re the type of introvert who has big dreams but keeps them to yourself; you desire change but are afraid and intimidated on making new things happen; you understand there is a challenge not only in expat life, no matter how temporary, but you understand the challenge of constant new social situations where you don’t know what’s going on due to cultural and linguistic barriers. The challenge of immersion can be particularly tricky for you but at least you know it’s coming.
(photo by: darrenwcarter.com)
You already knew that being an introvert was awesome and I’m glad that you know now what advantages you have for your upcoming Paris study abroad experience. Bonne chance!
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.