Would you love to study abroad, but your introverted tendencies are holding you back? You’re not alone! The thought of embarking on a journey where you won’t know people in your cohort can be scary. The good news is that study abroad is for all students, not just the bubbly extroverts us shy folks know and admire.
1. Connect With Students Before You Leave
An easy way to solidify friendships right off the bat is to connect with your cohort before your program starts. Ask your Program Advisor for a list of participating students and get on Facebook, email, or WhatsApp to start talking. You’ll feel much better boarding your group flight knowing a familiar face or two.
2. Plan Regular Social Breaks
We give this advice to everyone, not just our introverted students. Managing your time wisely and not scheduling something for every waking hour is key to managing your mental health abroad. We recommend all students set aside time for themselves weekly to decompress. Determine what that looks like for you — whether it’s journaling in your apartment or reading at a neighborhood café — and commit to it.
3. Participate in USAC-Organized Activities
If you’re feeling anxious about taking the initiative in your cohort to make connections or plan social events, leave it up to USAC. Our on-site staff organizes field trips, cultural activities, and local outings throughout the term for all USAC students to participate in. All you have to do is show up!
4. Research Apps Before Departure
If you’re concerned about navigating life in a new city, arm yourself with some tools to help you get around your first few weeks abroad. Having language translators, metro maps, WhatsApp, and Uber or rideshare apps are handy to have preloaded on your phone. Ask your Program Advisor or program alumni what apps they recommend.
5. Be Realistic With Yourself
The most important thing to remember during your study abroad journey — whether you’re introverted or not — is to go easy on yourself. Don’t stress about whether you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enough, doing enough, and meeting enough people. Those things will happen naturally when you’re happy and healthy. Listen to your mind and body, and don’t push yourself too hard. Burnout is common with study abroad but listening to your introvert cues can help avoid it.
Studying abroad is all about getting out of your comfort zone and overcoming challenges, including managing your social meter. All it takes is a little prep before you leave, some self-awareness, and some patience.