Throughout high school, introversion became a well-known subject to me. It was something I would discuss with my friends and do research about. Senior year, I fully embraced myself as an introvert. As part of the Academic Decathlon, I gave a speech that was about discovering the power of being quiet. However, that strength I had found and embraced within myself seemed to diminish as I entered college.

When I thought about what college would look like, I imagined people studying quietly in their rooms, and I thought all social interaction would occur through playing board games and talking about deep issues and our passions. I quickly discovered that the dorms and college were not what I had pictured them to be.

I was lucky to have two roommates from my hometown—one I knew pretty well and one less so, but at least we had something to bond over. I was not, however, anticipating the number of new people I was about to meet. Everyone else seemed to be extremely extroverted and social. They were interesting people, and I wanted to make friends with them, but it was very overwhelming. So, I didn’t try. I stuck with what I knew, and I was miserable because I thought I wasn’t having the “normal” college experience everyone else had. I was told I needed to get out there and meet new people, but after a full day of classes—where participation was graded—and given that my social interaction was already high through my participation in the marching band and other activities, all I wanted to do was recharge quietly in my room.

I began to feel guilty about my introversion, thinking it was preventing me from being exposed to great opportunities. I felt as though now there was something wrong with that part of me that I came to embrace in high school. I wondered why it was so difficult for me to get out and talk to people. The stress of all the new situations in college and the future wore down on me, and I frequently found myself in distress in a dorm, with nowhere to escape.

Slowly but surely, that old confidence and power I found in my introversion started to come back as I became more comfortable with my surroundings and the people I encountered daily. I’m still not the most social person, but I am trying more, and I feel less guilty when I need to be alone. I also started volunteering for organizations. I grew to know a few people well instead of trying to know a lot of people very little. Even after all that, I still keep alone time in my schedule. Time to readjust and time to myself are the most important for me. I found a way, my own way, to experience college.

I’ve come to realize that my introversion will always be a part of me. Sure, it may make me feel guilty sometimes, and I may need to push myself out of my comfort zone, but I’m going to stop trying to change who I am to make others happy because that method only results in me being unhappy.

Being quiet has given me the strength to trust myself and, once again, believe in the power of introversion—even in this brand new college world.

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