Freshers’ Week can be draining for introverts, but this experience doesn’t have to define the term.
Freshers’ Week is a thing of legend among students. Second and third years impart wild accounts of 36 hour parties, enigmatic initiation ceremonies, waking up in a skip next to the Thames in someone else’s shoes, endless sexual encounters, and of course – booze, booze, and more booze. For lots of people, this sounds like a week spent in heaven, but for the more introverted souls amongst us, the allure of Freshers’ Week sounds like nothing short of a nightmare.
Not sure what an introvert is, let alone know whether you identify as one? No bother, let’s do a quick break down of introversion versus its counterpart, extroversion. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert depends on where you get your energy from, and how much energy you expend in social situations. For example, extroverts tend to crave the company of others, prefer having large groups of friends and extended social circles, and find that spending too much time alone drains them of energy.
Being introverted means pretty much the exact opposite. An introvert may enjoy spending time with others, but gets tired after extended periods of socialising, and so needs time alone to ‘recharge’. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to most introverts, having sought quieter spaces and moments their entire life. Being an introvert is in no way a hindrance, nor does it mean that there’s something wrong with you. In fact, it’s estimated that introverted people make up 40% of the population – so introverts are not alone, even though we often prefer to be.
If you think that you’re someone who needs solitude, prefers quiet nights in rather than all-night parties, or if you’re someone that has a few close friends as opposed to hundreds of acquaintances, then you might be an introvert! If so, welcome to the club. We’re a quiet, sensitive, and analytical bunch but amongst close friends you can find us being quite the loudmouth.
Fellow introverts, if Freshers’ Week was your idea of hell, please read on, because you’re not alone. Just over one year ago, I was sat on my bed at home trying to decide whether or not it would be worth buying a Fresher’s wristband. I’ve never been one to actively choose a night out of clubbing, nor a person who chooses to make a whole new group of friends unless it was 100% necessary. Yet, here I was, biting my nails and wondering if I should spend fifty of my hard earned pounds on an entry bracelet, or instead buy entry to club nights separately at the door.
Why was I willingly handing over my cash to attend events I knew I wouldn’t enjoy, meet people I have little in common with, and end up with a week-long hangover? Because I genuinely believed that clubbing was the only way to make friends in Freshers’ Week. And it wasn’t just the clubbing I was psyching myself up for. It was the evening socials, the welcome drinks at halls, and the departmental parties. I told myself it would all be worth it once I had acquired a solid gold group of friends, and a repertoire of wild stories to impart on my future grandchildren.
Flash forward a fortnight and Freshers’ Week is coming to a close. I’ve made precisely zero friends from clubbing – mainly because I attended only one club night on Monday, and I hated it. I spent way too much money, left early, and got lost on the way back to halls. Flash forward a year and I have a collection of wonderful close friends, none of whom I met clubbing and many of which are introverts themselves. Is Freshers’ Week the road to friendship? Maybe for some. But if you’re introverted like me, be assured that friends don’t have to be made at Egg or a boat party, trapped in a mob of sweaty students with beer on your jeans and some sort of niche house music assaulting your ear-drums.
Step One: Make the most of campus
Societies are great places to make friends, especially if you’re in the market for befriending other introverts or like-minded people. If you didn’t catch the Welcome Fair, scroll through the Union website to see which societies you may be interested in joining for the rest of the year – it’s not too late! It’s a myth that the Student Union only host sports clubs or that socials are centred around drinking and nights out. Explore the likes of the Art Society or Yoga & Meditation Society, which host peaceful and relaxing events that help you escape the sometimes overwhelming noise of London.
Step Two: Recharge your batteries
UCL and Bloomsbury are littered with peaceful places that are ideal for introverts. Check out Waterstones opposite Malet Place, where you can grab a coffee at Dillons (its ground floor café) or utilise one of its many reading nooks upstairs. UCL has some of the best libraries in London, as I’m sure you’ll find out later in the year. For the most relaxing experience, get some library-hopping in before exam season hits.
Step Three: Find your space
If you’re in need of some solitude but still want to get out and experience London, you’re in luck. There are lots of ‘introvert friendly’ locations close to campus for you to explore. Soak in some silence at the British Library near St Pancras Station, or fuel your curiosity in the British Museum, just a ten minute walk south of UCL’s main campus. If you don’t mind going further afield, then visit the Barbican Conservatory, or one of London’s many parks for some peace and quiet whilst getting back to nature.
Step Four: Trust yourself
By doing so, you’ll attract like-minded people. It’s kind of obvious when you think about it; if you go out clubbing every night, you’ll meet people who like going out clubbing. If you hang around your flat in the evenings with a cup of tea and a Netflix show on the go, you’ll probably find people doing the same thing. If you’re looking to befriend more introverts, be on the lookout for people doing what you want to be doing. Freshers’ Week might be an extrovert’s dream, but trust me, there are hundreds of introverts wanting a quiet night in and a chat over a bowl of pasta.
Like many times in life, the start of university is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself to try new things, meet new people and wade out of your comfort zone. UCL is a fantastic place to do just that, but always remember that first term, and the rest of your time at university, is meant to be enjoyable. If you really don’t want to do certain activities, set boundaries and listen to your gut feeling. Everyone’s university experience has the potential to be memorable in some way or other.
This article was originally published in Issue 721 of Pi Magazine.