The Guide to Studying Abroad as an Introvert

Your introverted mind and self wants to wander to another country for this wonderful student experience that is studying abroad. The same mind that tells you it might be harder for you, that it could be better to just step back and forget about this crazy idea. But who said introverts couldn’t study abroad? Here is the official guide to studying abroad as an introvert or everything you need to know about living one of the best experiences of your life. 

The picture shows a girl holding books.

What is an introvert?

First things, first, we need to define “introvert”. 

It’s the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung that first introduced the idea of introversion and extraversion in individuals. According to his analysis, Introversion and extraversion are defined by the way individuals perceive and interact with external objects and their own universe. 

Introverts are more centered on their own universe rather than the outside world. They are then perceived as more reserved, reflective, and shy, they tend to interact less, focusing their energy on reflection rather than action. 

On the other hand, extroverts will tend to be more social and reactive. 

Most people are actually ambiverts, their introvert and extrovert traits are triggered by specific situations. Meaning that they could be extroverted with some people and introverted with others for example. 

If you want to know if you’re an extrovert or an introvert, you can take the MBTI test (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) that was created in the 60s following Jung’s analysis. It is a test that defines people’s personality types and breaks them into 16 categories. 8 categories are extrovert personality types (E) and 8 are introvert personality types (I). Look up how it works and you’ll be amazed by the accuracy of the results! (you can believe my INFP self)

Should you study abroad as an introvert?

Of course, you should! Don’t let anxiety stop you from accomplishing your dreams. It might be hard to study abroad as an introvert but it’s nothing impossible! Introverts enjoy those experiences as well and it might even help you to do and go beyond things you never thought possible!

Studying abroad is a wonderful experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories and broaden your horizons. 

Social anxiety: the devil twin of introversion 

Social anxiety, this evil twin of introversion, he might be the reason you ended up reading this article. It’s the one that makes you overthink, feel like throwing up, not getting off your bed in the morning, shut yourself from others,…basically it’s the one that feels like it keeps trying to ruin your life. 

But even if you can’t really beat him like that, still you need to understand him, he might be nicer to you if you at least know his name and what he likes and don’t like. 

Think of him as your enemy, but not the one you fight with without a warning, the one you get to know in order to stab him in the back more easily. For sure, you’ll have to deal with him more while studying abroad but it might as well be your call to find your way to stab him in the back. It’s your time to shine, shouldn’t you make him uncomfortable, shouldn’t you try to make him understand that you’re the master of your life and not him? 

Pieces of advice you should (or shouldn’t) follow 

Easy to say you can and should beat introversion and his devil twin Social Anxiety. But now arguments should follow, right? Then here is a list of advice you should (or shouldn’t) follow. 

(Don’t forget you’re the master, you can’t let yourself get swallowed into discomfort only to follow a stranger’s advice!)

  • Find YOUR introvert-friendly destination, go to a place that makes you feel at home, or perhaps one that will make you feel thrilled
  • Find your support extrovert friend or support friend group 
  • Challenge yourself, slide down for a list of challenges to try out! 
  • Find your perfect field of study, do something you really like, it could scare away the boredom at times. 
  • Go to social events…or just avoid them (there is no true science on whether or not introverts should go to social events)
  • Enjoy your own company, easy advice for an introvert, I know. 
  • And above all, don’t push yourself too hard!

Because there is no perfect advice, it’s like saying “don’t be too stressed” to someone anxious or “try to talk to people” to an introvert! As an introvert myself, the key is to do what you’re comfortable with and don’t push yourself too hard. And of course, to not forget about your enemy 😉 

Making friends abroad as an introvert 

This might require a bit more words than a bullet point because making friends is probably one of the hardest things to do as an introvert. Leaving to study abroad makes it even harder, you’re back to 0, starting it all over. 

Unfortunately, there is no guide on “how to make friends as an introvert”. Often friendship happens without a warning, sometimes it gets harder than expected. But we know a few things that might help with connecting with strangers abroad. 

First, it’s always easier to connect with people that can relate to you, international students are a much easier “friend target” than local students. It’s quite bland, isn’t it? If you’re staying in an international students dorm, at a youth hostel, or in a flatshare, it might make things easier. Maybe you’d want to try and find those types of accommodation before leaving.

But the most important thing; lookout for opportunities! Don’t miss your chance by declining a lunch with this student you don’t know or this integration party that might make you connect with new people. It’s hard to engage in such social activities but it’s worth it, I promise you. 

Challenges you can try out 

Here is a list of challenges you can try out to beat the enemy classified from easiest to hardest (might not work in that specific order for all introverts) : 

  • Plug your headphones out in public places, hearing the world is not always scary. 
  • Try to speak the language if you’re not familiar with it. 
  • Sit next to someone you don’t know in class, they don’t always talk. 
  • Climb in that busy bus. I saw you trying to wait for the next one to be more empty…you’re wasting your precious alone time at home. 
  • Forget the self-checkout for one day, and if you don’t have a grocery shop with a self-checkout, I’m sorry for you… 
  • Raise your hand and engage in class. 
  • Go to a restaurant, yes the yummy social place. 
  • Smile when a teacher announces a group project (which might be the hardest one)
  • Accept to have lunch with someone (this is the moment to find your extrovert support friend !)
  • Attend a social event (+1 point for a party)
  • Get involved in a student organization (sports clubs, associations,…)

And yes, you can use this list as your own challenge checklist, it’s all yours! 

Special mention for artist introverts

And for my fellow artist introverts, a little bonus point! 

We often notice that introverts tend to be more artistic, INFP personality type for example is known for being the personality type of a lot of writers and poets. 

Whether it’s painting, drawing, making music, writing, taking pictures, or any type of art, it seems like many introverted people are active in at least one. 

That’s why we should consider an artistic point of view for studying abroad. How inspiring can it be to leave somewhere you’ve never been to and experience things you’ve never experienced before? Traveling, meeting new people, and walking along the streets of this new scenery, are probably some of the most effective ways to get inspiration. Inspiration could happen and beautiful art pieces would follow. 

And if you’re still not convinced about the artistic value studying abroad can have, think about how famous artists traveled around the world to improve their art. Among them, we have the French painter Eugène Delacroix, the American video maker Bill Viola, the British writer Agatha Christie, the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and so much more…

When are you leaving?

Here is all the advice and tips I can give you for your studies abroad. And don’t forget! You don’t have to get out of your comfort zone, you can try, you can fail, or don’t do anything at all about it. No need to put yourself in uncomfortable situations just to fit this extrovert-based advice to get out of your shell, you should be your own reference. 

Now, the only thing left is to plan your trip and go off on that plane. Enjoy it the best you can, we hope you’ll love it! 

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