Freshers’ Week: A week of strangers, small talk and strange places. An extrovert’s dream. An introvert’s nightmare.
I have a confession to make. I was in bed before midnight four out of the six nights of freshers’ week.
Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m an introvert. Most of the time, that doesn’t cause me much trouble, and as someone who isn’t shy in the slightest, I never really get scared of large groups of people. But last year, I started university. And the idea of freshers’ week positively terrified me, and as it quickly approached, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through alive.
You will undoubtedly be pleased to hear that I survived. In fact, I almost enjoyed it. And I am of the opinion that everyone should enjoy freshers’ week, whether they expect to or not. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of boundaries. So, here are a few top tips on how to be the friendly local introvert during freshers’ week, not panic, and not end up burnt out before term has even begun.
- Don’t panic
I don’t know about you, but my default position when faced with the prospect of a week of strangers and small talk is to curl up in the foetal position, rock back and forth quietly and then eat my body weight in chocolate. Take it from me: this doesn’t solve anything. Take a deep breath, follow these top tips, and remember that being an introvert is a blessing, not a curse. Seriously, you’re going to be okay. But maybe have some chocolate on standby just in case.
- Take it at a sensible pace
Freshers’ Week can be an overwhelming combination of new people, new information and unfamiliar surroundings. While some people thrive off such things, it’s perfectly acceptable to feel a little bit out of your depth. So remember to take some time every day to breathe, have a cup of tea and assess your ‘people juices’ level. If you need to take an hour out of the frivolities, do it. No-one will mind, I promise.
- Work out your boundaries before you go
I decided, for a number of reasons, that I wasn’t going to drink alcohol during my first year at university. Working that out before I arrived meant that I could start as I meant to go on – sober. Often when you’re nervous you drink more than you mean to in the hope that the overwhelming feelings will go away. But this really doesn’t help anything, so know your limits before you go, and stick to them from the start. It makes everything easier in the long run.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone – Say ‘yes’ to three things you wouldn’t usually
Don’t go into freshers’ week with the assumption that you’re going to hate every minute. You really won’t – it’s actually quite fun. If you’re not the clubbing type, that’s okay. But try and go out clubbing with your flat at least once during the week. If you don’t like playing drinking games, you don’t have to. But why not give them a shot (pun unintended) one night, and just drink water? Or if you can’t stand the idea of having your door open permanently for a week, why not just have it open for 2 hours every afternoon? You never know, you might surprise yourself.
- Take a night off
Seven consecutive nights of partying is a lot of nights of partying, even for an extrovert. There is absolutely no shame in taking a night off, watching a film and getting an early night. In fact, just by suggesting it you might give some other people who are feeling a bit overwhelmed an excuse to curl up in their duvets as well.
- It’s okay to just go home
There’s a hashtag that gets used a lot during freshers’ week: #gohardorgohome. Most people seem to take this as permission to go really really hard. Personally, I took it as permission to just go home. That’s how I managed a solid 8 hours of sleep most nights of freshers’ week. Take it from me: there is no shame in going home. If you know you’re going to be horrible company if you’re forced to be around people for a minute longer, do what’s best for everyone and go home. Have your favourite book on standby, and just go and re-charge your batteries for the next day. Trust me, you’re doing everyone a favour.
- Invite people into your room during the day
Some of the best conversations I had were at 3 o’clock in the afternoon drinking hot chocolate with a slightly hungover friend. At some universities, there isn’t much to do during the day apart from nurse your hangover and buy more alcohol for the evening, so use that time not only to re-charge, unpack, and get to know your new surroundings, but also to get to know people on a sober, personal level.
- Phone a friend
Sometimes all you really need is friendly voice at the end of the phone. So have a couple of friends from home on standby for a chat in case you need it. Also, see what the Christian Union is doing during Freshers’ Week and go along – I can guarantee that they will be friendly, and if you look hard enough, they shouldn’t be too far from free tea and cake.
And, one final tip based on my own personal experience:
If all else fails, find a friend with under-bed storage and hide out there for a little while.
On top of all these tips, I often find it helpful to have an extrovert’s perspective on these things, so here is a short message from my highly extroverted best friend:
‘Hey there Introverts.
I’m afraid that right now, we probably won’t quite understand why you’re hiding from us and don’t want to hang out 24 hours a day. But don’t worry. Give us a couple of months and we’ll cotton on that it’s nothing personal. And please don’t be offended if we keep badgering you to hang out and have no respect for your personal space. It’s just because we REALLY want to be friends with you.
Love, Extroverts x’
If you’re an extrovert reading this post, and are very confused as to what kind of people wouldn’t want to party and socialise 24/7, take a read of my ‘Dear Extroverts‘ blog, the no-fuss guide on how to love your lovely little introverted friends.
Good luck, fellow introverts, on your start at university. Remember: freshers’ week is not the be all and end all – you have three whole years to make friends. It’s not going to be the best week of your life, but you can do plenty to make sure it’s definitely not the worst. Take courage: you are not alone. Fellow introverts are closer than you might think.