Orientation, Also Known as an Introvert’s Nightmare

Celeste Barnaby shares her experience as an introvert during her first week as a college freshman.

Most colleges have an orientation period before classes start where freshman move in and spend a couple days getting situated, learning about the school, and meeting their peers. There are usually a lot of cool events that you can choose to attend at your leisure. This is your chance to make a first impression and foster friendships that could potentially last throughout your time at college.

Going into my orientation, I felt optimistic about my ability to make new friends and adjust to my new setting. And for the first few days after moving in, it seemed like everything was going great. I introduced myself to people, had some pleasant albeit semi-awkward icebreaker conversations, and exchanged phone numbers with fellow freshman. There were a couple bumps in the road: on the second day of orientation I accidentally went to a meeting for transfer students, and, too embarrassed to get up and leave, stayed for its entirety. The silver lining is that If I ever transfer to another school and then back to Wesleyan, I will know exactly how to deal with my credits.

Despite this and a few other minor mishaps (did you know you have to bring your keys with you every time you leave your dorm?), I was feeling good about how things were going. Knowing that it can be hard for me to get to know people, I really pushed myself to attend events and meet as many people as a could. When asked for what must have been the dozenth time, “oh, you’re from Nevada? Have you ever lived in cold weather?”, I clenched my teeth and replied, “I’ve seen snow once or twice.”

But after a couple days, I noticed a shift in how people were socializing. People who just a few days ago were strangers started acting like close friends. They would show up to events in packs, sitting together and giggling about day-old inside jokes. They started going out to parties at night, while I stayed in my dorm eating Cheez-its and watching Youtube videos. What? I thought to myself It’s been literally 48 hours—how could people have friends already? I started to get anxious that groups would soon cement themselves as cliques, leaving me an outsider. The anxiety turned to disappointment and discouraged me from going to more events. The most frustrating part was that I just didn’t know what I was doing wrong, what I could have changed to make friends with the apparent effortlessness that everyone else could.

Feeling totally dejected, I decided to focus on something I knew I could control: the actual academic part of college. As soon as classes started, I dove into studying. I also joined a couple clubs that looked interesting, which altogether made my schedule pretty busy. With these other things to focus on, I no longer had time to sit alone in my dorm room, and a lot of my anxiety about making friends went away as I began concentrating on my work instead. I gained confidence in my ability to do well in my classes in participate in clubs, which motivated me to start making conversations with new people and put myself out there again socially. I found that it was easier for me to get to know people who were in the same clubs and classes as I am because I knew we shared at least one mutual interest. Slowly, I started forming connections with these people, and eventually I found that, without even putting a lot of effort into it, I had formed the meaningful friendships that I so desperately tried to attain during orientation.

Looking back on my first week of college, I think that the thing I was missing in trying to make friends was time. All I needed was an adjustment period to get over the learning curve of college— to figure out the place where I belong and meet people I can relate to. Orientation can be fun for certain people, but for me it was just way too hectic, and it put too much pressure on me to be social 24/7. As an introvert, it’s just not easy for me to befriend new people on the spot.

Now, a month into college, I have a small group of really awesome friends. We’re not exactly BFF’s yet, but we’re getting there. And I also realize that a lot of the friendships I saw being established over orientation really weren’t as solid as I thought. The bottom line: college can feel really overwhelming in a wide variety of ways. So far, the best way I’ve found of dealing with stress is to stay on top of your courses, seek out any opportunities to work on things that interest you, and remember to take care of yourself along the way. Give it time, and it will all work out.

About the author: Celeste is thrilled to be a part of the Wesleyan University Class of 2018. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico (holla at Breaking Bad), she isn’t sure how to handle Connecticut’s abundance of greenery. She is interested in filmmaking and math-related stuff, but has yet to commit to anything. Outside of class, she writes for her university’s humor publication and The Prospect She rides on the equestrian team, and may be found at the occasional poetry slam. In her free time, she enjoys writing, making feminist critiques of popular media, and hitting up the local cupcake store.

  1. Imam Sammy Aziz

    Hello Celeste

    Awesome article! I will be the Muslim Chaplain at Wesleyan University starting August and I was searching for “orientation Wesleyan” on Google and came across you article. Any tips on what type of Orientation week classes/events an introvert would like to see? I wonder if more people need to know the difference between introverts and extroverts or is that common knowledge?
    thank you!


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