College Chronicles of a High School Introvert
I would like to start off by saying that I hate exercise. More specifically, I hate sweating. I despise it with every fiber of my being. So imagine my surprise, and more specifically, my disdain, when I discovered on a Sunday morning that my new dorm building sat atop a steep, grand hill in the farthest northeast corner of campus, away from my classes, the town, and, it seemed, civilization. My eyes grew far wider than I knew they could, and I grudgingly dragged my suitcases up the expansive steps.
I was only one of two people from my high school to attend UC Berkeley this fall, and the other girl I knew only very vaguely. I had merely visited the campus twice before; once was only in passing when my parents made a sad attempt at a college road trip. I knew absolutely nothing about the place I was supposedly going to spend the next four years other than the looks people gave me when I told them where I was going. I felt as if I was going in blind and clueless. It turned out, in fact, that this was exactly the case.
Being timid and quiet is most definitely not the choice one would want to make when starting Berkeley, or any college for that matter. You are new and alone, as is most everyone else, and everyone is a lot more open to making new friends and meeting new people. This is something I have slowly learned over time. For people like me, however, it would have been far more beneficial if the RA had written this little fact on a large neon banner and strung it across the dorm entrance, because I did the one thing no college freshman should ever do during the first week of school: I kept my room door closed. To use the most obvious teenage cliché, it was social suicide, in its most literal sense. I later learned that my suitemates had thought that I was shy and antisocial, so they opted to leave me alone.
This, though technically true, was not the present case. All throughout high school I had been known as the quiet girl who kept to herself. I had friends, of course: a small group of friends I keep in touch with to this day. We did our own thing, though, never really venturing into what we all know to be the “teenage experience.” College, as everyone is aware, is a different experience entirely. I was most definitely nervous, but it was never my intention to alienate myself. In fact, I was as determined as ever to make some friends, explore the city, and have fun in between all my upcoming classes and homework. After settling into my dorm and getting to know my roommate, we went on to explore what my school had dubbed “The Big Night.”
And big it was. Beginning with a spirit rally of sorts, new freshman and transfers sat in a large stadium as the marching band played and cheerleaders leapt, trying their hardest to pump the rest of us up. Following that, until one in the morning, was an enormous, almost carnival-esque, display of games and ride-like attractions. Rock climbing, zip lining, petting zoos, mazes, giant bouncy slides, and yes, even human foosball and human bowling. I still don’t know whether they were truly excited or just trying to impress us, but we were nevertheless impressed.
The Monday and Tuesday that followed were a little bleak and slow, as everyone was dreading the start of classes on Wednesday. My roommate and I went with some suitemates and friends from our dorm to the New Student Convocation, where administrative and student speakers congratulated and welcomed us into the new school year. Then Wednesday came, and our classes began. The following three days blew by in a blur of icebreakers, syllabi, and a hell of a lot of walking. Like seriously, an enormous amount of walking.
That weekend, my sister was having a Sweet Sixteen birthday party, so I needed to fly back home. Granted, I didn’t want to go back home after only a week of having been in the Bay Area, but my parents had already bought the airplane ticket to fly back home to Los Angeles, so it was set. My last class ended at 2 on Friday, and my flight was set to leave at 4:55. It took an hour to get to Oakland Airport, so after class I rushed to my room, grabbed my bag, and walked all the way to the train station. It was 3:00 by then, and I had never been on the Bay Area Rapid Transit before, so I hastily bought a ticket and got on the next train like my phone navigator told me to. It told me to get off after 7 stops on Coliseum, and then connect on a shuttle to the airport.
Well, after seven stops, I had yet to see any sign or hear any announcement that we were even approaching the Coliseum stop. It was 3:55 by then, and I was beginning to panic. Being the introvert that I am, I refused to ask for help and instead opted to get off at the next stop and try to decipher the rail map. It was then that I discovered that I had crossed the bay and was near San Francisco, heading towards San Francisco International Airport. Frustrated and exhausted, I looked at the map, found another rail that was heading towards Oakland, and made sure I read the sign correctly before boarding. By the time I got to the airport, it was 5 and I had missed my flight. After pleading with the lady at the kiosk to let me take the next flight out and rushing through TSA to catch it before it left, I was sat in my seat on my way home.
That Sunday afternoon, I was headed back to Berkeley. After hopping off the plane and getting on the (correct) train back towards campus, I was beyond tired. I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep and not wake up for the next two days. But alas, I was now in college. I, of course, had class the next day, and being home over the weekend, I already felt as if I was behind. And, me being me, there was no way I would say anything, or complain, or even attempt to take a break, because that’s just what we quiet people do: we choose to figure things out ourselves.
Speaking from first-hand experience, I can honestly tell every high school introvert that is applying to college that this is most definitely not the most optimal personality to possess in such a large and social environment, as most colleges are. I cannot change who I am over night, but I am trying my hardest to make little tweaks to help make the next four years more bearable and a lot more enjoyable. In some classes I speak first and introduce myself to someone. I now keep my room door open almost always, hoping my suitemates like me enough to stop by. In between classes I sit in the MLK Student Union working and meeting people that happen to sit at my table. Am I terrified and sometimes mortified? Oh absolutely. But I’m learning.
So, as I walked back to my dorm, up that stupidly huge hill, hoping against all hope that no one was watching as I tried to discreetly wipe off the sweat forming on my upper lip, I trudged on with somewhat of a new resolve. I could not do what I spent all of my high school years doing. I could not hide. Sure, it’s an enormous campus, so, in theory, I could hide. But I’m not.