Two Countries, Three Schools, and New Friends

By Elias Roessler

We moved to England from the US when I was 11. It was August 2012, and the London Olympics had just finished. I was very excited—it was my first time traveling abroad.

When I started at my new school, I struggled to make friends and was constantly worried about fitting in. A year or so later, my Dad showed me Susan Cain’s TED talk on introversion. I was interested, so I went online and found a personality test mentioned in the talk. I discovered that not only was I an introvert but I also had a rare Myers-Briggs personality type: the INTP (Introverted Intuition Thinking Perceiving). I became obsessed as it not only explained how removed I felt from my peers but also showed me that there were others like me, which meant I could fit in somewhere. It gave me more confidence to get involved with other people because it gave me a better understanding of who I am.

Since moving to England, I have changed schools three times. Each school presented new challenges to deal with, including different social structures, routines, and expectations. These things caused anxiety with each new school, but knowing more about myself has helped me adapt—maybe not at first, but over time.

Adapting and fitting in isn’t easy for me, and it takes courage for me to get involved. I moved to my current school last year when I was 14 and had trouble fitting in, even with my understanding of who I was. I was starting over again, which is difficult for anyone (especially since at my age, people already have established friendships). For the first year, I struggled to make friends of any kind. I spent most of my day without speaking to people unless it was in lesson. Outside of my lessons, I spent my time reading, which was my coping mechanism. Eventually, the school invited me to participate in a group for people who “struggled socially,” but that wasn’t really my issue. My challenge was I didn’t feel anyone shared my interests: reading, acting, writing, playing guitar, comics, Star Wars. As a result, I felt disconnected from my peers.

This year, however, I have more freedom to focus on the subjects I enjoy, and I’ve become involved with a group of like-minded people. I’ve made a small circle of friends, and that’s all I need. I joined school government and became aware that my school does much more than just inter-house sports. I’ve become involved in house music, house drama, and the school play, where I’ve met people who share my interests.

Most of us introverts tend to be comfortable with old friends rather than with people we’ve just met. This makes it difficult for us to adapt to situations where we don’t know anyone at all and have to make new friends from scratch. This means putting ourselves out there to find like-minded people, which isn’t always our nature.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that have helped me make new friends (and might help you too):

  1. Find subjects that interest you and get involved in them somehow. It doesn’t have to be much—it can be a small club you even organize yourself.
  2. Go to a place you like to visit, like a local park where you can draw or a library where you can  read.
  3. Even a shop that sells something you love (like a bookstore) is a good way to meet people with similar interests to yours.

These ideas all revolve around the fact that you’re not forced to interact with people if you don’t want to. It’s completely by choice if you create a club or go to the local bookstore or the park, which is really the point. It’s tailored to your interests, not those of other people. I believe the best friendships are formed on common interests and ideas. I’ve found that, while we tend to take longer than extroverts to make friends, the friendships we do develop tend to be strong and lasting.

I know that at some point, my family’s going to move again, and after all these years, I’m still not sure what to expect. However, I do know that, wherever I go next, I’ll eventually figure things out.