Beginning College as an Introvert

By Malahni Banta

I used to have a problem sleeping. At times, I still do. I would stay up at night because I felt a great deal of excitement and anxiety about my life and my future. All sorts of thoughts bounced around in my head, starting with the late hours of the evening and lasting through the early hours of the morning, and I could hardly quiet down these thoughts enough to even consider sleep.

Recently, I moved to New York City to begin college, and all the reasons why I couldn’t fall asleep have changed. I still stay up—but for a different reason. It’s an overload of stimulation now, and I need time to absorb it. I don’t want to miss out on things, so I take in as much as I can. This leaves little time for sleep and much time for pondering and writing during the dim hours of the night. College papers and chapters of my book are all left for the evening time. When most of the people I know are winding down and getting ready to rest, I am just getting to work.

Initially, I had a bunch of reservations about leaving home for college. Sure, I was ready; I counted down the days until moving out. However, I wasn’t sure about making friends. My sort of monotone, reserved voice and my hesitation to speak to strangers made me wonder if I was ever to have a social life.

Because I was bullied a bunch as a child, my ability to make friends was and still is a bit stunted. At home, the friends I did have were long sought out and they understood me. In college, I became reserved and picky. I spoke to those I was sure would not make me feel inadequate, and even then, I couldn’t speak to them for too long without feeling uncomfortable. I hardly ever go out of my way to make friends in general, and I never even got very close to the ones I made prior to college.

College started off with some difficulty: I had to change rooms because of a bad roommate fit. Much of our problems stemmed from the fact that I was introverted and she wasn’t, and I did not have the same enthusiasm and utter excitement she seemed to have about most things. I was really excited to be at college too, of course—I just showed it differently. I changed rooms when I realized she was interpreting my silence and my reserve as a disinterest and distaste for her, and we haven’t spoken since. My new roommate is a lot like me. She’s quiet; she stays up until odd hours of the night; she can be a bit sarcastic and dry; but she’s a cool person.

In addition to friendships, another reservation I had about school before I arrived was the fact that I am claustrophobic. The city was the last place many people, including myself, foresaw as a place in which I could thrive. I do not use elevators, subways, or public restrooms. (Really, I wouldn’t use public restrooms whether I was claustrophobic or not. Have you been in one of those things?) Though it’s been a challenge and a major adjustment, I’m attempting to learn new ways to get through the fear and go about my day without much apprehension.

Now that I am here and settling in, I’m pleasantly surprised by what I see happening within myself. I have some pretty solid friendships. I now know a group of young women just like me, who come from similar backgrounds and are all pursuing degrees in the humanities. We hang out every evening, laughing, doing homework, and discussing life. This is the first solid group of friends I’ve had in a long time, and they are a group of friends I will always remember and cherish, even if it doesn’t last forever.

I am happy with my new life in the city. I’m meeting new profound and creative people and making connections I never thought I would. I’m surrounded by art and beauty, authors, photographers, designers, and more. I pass an infinite number of these people every day. College may not be a walk in the park, but it’s one of the richest experiences I’ve had in awhile. And though there may be obstacles in my way, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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  • MoeT

    Hold on a second. On one paragraph you are talking about public restrooms and suddenly you are describing how happy you are with a group of friends. Even though you said yourself that you cannot see yourself having any social life. This story has way too many holes for me.

  • Marlana Sherman

    Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed your story. Some of what you said reminded me of when I was in college.

  • Natalie Givan

    I have never lived in a college dormitory but I am an introvert who moved to NYC in my early twenties. I was bullied throughout most of my childhood too which made me become shy and people who knew me growing up though I would be the last person to leave the comfort of my hometown for NYC. I have learned to cope with being an introvert in NYC by making sure to include time for myself in my schedule, trying to get home and get to bed at a reasonable hour (though I too struggle to get enough sleep), and carrying a good set of headphones to block out the noise during my subway commute so that I can read or just meditate and regroup. You won’t find me in places like Times Square, Herald Square, or Rockefeller Center very often but NYC has lots of great parks and places off the beaten path in Manhattan and the outer boroughs where you can find space for solitude.

    Even though I may leave the city one day to go back to my home state where I can slow down and be close to family again I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had in NYC for anything. Even the struggles I’ve been through during my time in NYC have taught me more about myself and helped me to grow as a person. I hope you enjoy your adventure.

  • IBikeNYC

    Gee; you don’t expect much from yourself, do you?! 😉

    This is a tough town for those of us who need a lot of space and quiet. I was born here and, as I grew up, I found all kinds of ways to find both even in the middle of the madness.

    It sounds like you’re starting to really enjoy your adventure. All the best with your education!