Study Abroad for Introverts

If you consider yourself introverted in any way, shape or form, traveling and studying abroad can be overwhelming. Although I believe there are degrees of introversion, I certainly consider myself closer to the introverted side of the scale. Interacting with people constantly overwhelms and tires me out and I require a decent amount of time to myself to recharge. That doesn’t mean I don’t like meeting new people or that I don’t consider myself outgoing. Introversion is often misunderstood in that respect; being introverted doesn’t mean you’re asocial.

Sometimes I actually crave interaction with friends, new and old alike, and I think it’s fascinating to meet new people and hear their stories. I consider myself quite outgoing when I’m with close friends or small groups, but when I studied abroad in Germany, I met new people almost every day and you probably already know that study abroad students travel in packs. Where there’s one, there’s sure to be more! There was a party almost every night of the weekend and a few thrown in during the week for good measure. Someone always had a reason to celebrate; sometimes not having a reason to celebrate in the first place was enough of a reason to warrant going out.

I found it hard to say no to going out, whether it was to a club, to our local bar for Stammtisch, or to take in a concert. I didn’t want to feel left out and I didn’t want to miss out on anything. At the same time, I often found myself craving the quiet solace of my own dorm room. At the time, I didn’t identify as an introvert; in fact, I thought I was just being lame because I didn’t want to go out and party all the time like everyone else.

What follows are a few of the things I did to make time for myself and process the overwhelming amount of stimuli in my new surroundings in Germany. Given the right amount of time spent to myself, I was better able to enjoy traveling, dancing until the wee hours of the morning, making new friends, and speaking as much German as possible.

1. Remember that it’s ok to take time for yourself. Most people you meet will tell you to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way while studying abroad. I am here to say, it’s really really ok if you don’t. No one person can do everything all the time; a lot of nights I preferred staying in and reading a book or watching a movie to going out to the Diskothek. Your study abroad experience will not be any less exciting for doing so, but your state of mind will thank you. Sometimes it can be hard to explain to your new international friends and it’s hard to say no, but you will be happier in the long run if you have time to yourself to recharge.

Staying in with a good book and a mug of tea

Sometimes staying in with a good book and a mug of tea is the best option.

2. Write it down. Writing can be very therapeutic and while I was studying abroad I found that it helped settle my mind when I felt particularly overwhelmed by all the newness around me. I didn’t have a blog, but I kept a journal that helped me process what I had seen/tasted/felt along the way. Starting a blog while you’re abroad, in addition to helping you document your study abroad experience and travels for future use, is a great way to connect with other travelers, be they introverted or extroverted. Check out BootsnAll’s blog post Writing an Awesome Travel Blog to help you get started! I would also recommend visiting StudentsGoneGlobal.com, a site that can host your blog and get help you get in touch with other student travelers.

Homemade pizza

I perfected my homemade pizza by staying in and cooking with friends. I also learned to make Tiramisu from my Italian roommate, Hungarian Lecsó, and the most delicious homemade guacamole!

3. Sit at a café with a good book for company. This is another activity that helped satisfy my cravings for social interaction; cafes are great for people watching! Sometimes my friend and I would meet for coffee, chat for a while, and then bury ourselves in a newspaper or book. Every now and then we would look up to watch the passersby, overhear a snippet of a conversation in German, or comment on what we were reading at the moment. Feel free to substitute “sitting in a café” with “going to a museum,” “taking a walk,” or “going to a lecture on campus.”

4. Invite your close friends over for a night in. I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoy cooking with friends in this post, but I think it deserves another mention! Staying in, cooking, and/or watching a movie are great ways to limit external stimuli but maintain social interaction.

Here are some links to other suggestions for how to travel and study abroad as an introvert:

The author of Confessions of an Introverted Traveler, Sophia Dembling, confesses that she doesn’t buy into the meet-new-people style of travel and gives a great rundown on the differences between introverts and extroverts: “[…] Extroverts are outwardly motivated and gain energy from interaction with the outside world while introverts are more inwardly directed and drained by interaction with others.” In her post Six Tips for Introverted Travelers, she also provides, you guessed it, six tips for introverted travelers. And here’s another Six Tips for Introverted Travelers and some Advice from the Experts, a post featuring introverted travel bloggers.

Do you have advice to share with your fellow introverted study abroad students and travelers? Let us know by leaving a comment below, tweeting at us, or posting on our Facebook!

Emily Caskey is an intern here at Study Abroad Spotlight. She studied abroad in Rostock, Germany for 10 months and interned in Berlin for two summers. To learn more about her experiences abroad, check out her Spotlight!

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