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An Introvert’s Guide to Studying Abroad

by AIFS Study Abroad
girl introverts study abroad overseas

Do you tend to feel exhausted after social events and need time to recover before you can even think about talking to another person again? Are you often lost in your own thoughts or observations about your surroundings? Congratulations, you might be an introvert! Welcome to the club. We meet at local coffee shops and avoid eye contact.

Jokes aside, approximately half of the population falls somewhere on the introvert scale. We’re everywhere—even on study abroad programs. When you’re an introvert, the thought of traveling to a different country where you don’t know anybody can be extremely intimidating. When you add the advice blogs that tell students going abroad to “talk to everyone they meet” and “make friends with the locals,” many introverts might walk away from the whole experience altogether and retreat to the comfort of their own blanket fort. However, I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to study abroad—and have a blast doing it—as an introvert.

1. Go somewhere off the beaten path.

Many introverts prefer quiet, less busy settings. Busy cities filled with people, noise, and bright lights can easily drain our social energy. When you’re looking at a study abroad location, consider something less populated with a more small-town feel. Locations like Limerick, Ireland; Granada, Spain; and San José, Costa Rica may be right up your alley.

2. Take walks.

There’s nothing like a quiet walk on your own to really appreciate the place you’re in. When I studied at the University of Limerick, I loved walking along the River Shannon, just taking pictures of the beautiful scenery and taking it all in. It was a perfect time to reflect, unwind, and really see the beauty of where I was. (Of course, you should always be sure to take proper safety precautions if you’re going anywhere by yourself.)

3. Find a local café, coffeehouse, or anywhere that you can sit for long periods of time.

For an introvert, this may be the best way to surround yourself with locals. You don’t have to strike up conversations with everyone, but you may learn a lot about your host culture just by just sitting among people. Introverts are usually characterized by being highly observant. When you watch the people around you (without being creepy, of course), you learn a lot. Bring a book or a journal and enjoy the quiet. My spot was the café at my University’s library. It was quiet, had good food, and I didn’t look out of place sitting alone reading or writing in my journal.

4. YOLO—just a little bit.

Studying abroad is all about trying new things and going out of your comfort zone. For introverts, this is definitely easier said than done. But it’s true—you only live once. Challenge yourself to do something out of character at whatever rate is most comfortable to you, whether that’s once a week, once a month, or just once the entire time you’re there. I ended up pushing myself out of my little introvert zone and left my study abroad experience with so many memories of great times spent with a whole group of friends. The relationships I formed, places I went, and experiences I had were made all the better by my introverted style of taking the time to reflect on new experiences and appreciate each moment.

So, fellow introverts, throw caution to the wind, get out there and study abroad! It’s an experience for everyone, and while it can be intimidating, it’s what you make of it. Take the time to appreciate where you are, reflect on the experience, and your inner introvert will be incredibly grateful.

This post was written by Joanna Flanagan, an AIFS Study Abroad alum who studied in Limerick, Ireland in Spring 2015.

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