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If a modern Dante were to write the Inferno for introverts, specifically, he would probably paint a picture of something similar to opening week of college.
For introverts, the greatest battle is between the desire to not miss out on life and the craving to be alone. The frenzy of orientation week, with its constant social events and a thousand introductions a day, can be incredibly overwhelming for people who get drained easily by social activity.
As an introverted freshman myself last year, I simply felt, well, peopled out. Despite the knowledge that I had to get out of the room to meet new people and expose myself to my surroundings, I quickly tired of all the meaningless introductions with people whose names and faces faded immediately after. Most of all, conforming to the standard of what a Harvard student should be doing left me disconnected from the person I really was.
For most students entering college, there is a certain preconceived image of what college students should be doing. Those activities include: laughing uproariously with friends in the Yard while wearing stylish aqua-green rompers from Teen Vogue; partying it up in frat houses with red Solo cups amidst sun-bleached hair; and attending every visiting dignitary’s speaking event at the IOP. Those prescribed activities did not include reading a book alone, crying from homesickness, or feeling intimidated by the incessant stream of social activity.
As someone who entered with those same preconceptions, my initial thought was that I was simply not suited to the college environment. I like reading poetry and drinking tea with a small group of trusted people. It is hard for me to not check my phone during IOP forums, much to my own dismay. From my dorm window, I would hear the sound of people laughing in the yard, people that I should be joining in their small talk and socializing, but I simply couldn’t muster the energy to.
It made me think of the very first time I went to a conference with adults, confronted with pantsuits and business cards. I went into the bathroom and splashed myself in the face, admonishing my own reflection in the mirror, “You are adept at socializing in large groups. You have lots of business cards, which makes you adept at socializing in large groups.” The bathroom attendant looked at me in confusion.
Saying it, however, didn’t make it true.
So here’s my advice for the introverts of the Class of 2018: Don’t push it. There will be plenty of opportunity to make friends at any point in time—plenty of opportunities more suited to forming genuine connections than those initial weeks of mass introductions.
Furthermore, don’t feel pressured to be social the same way everyone else is, especially if it isn’t your scene. You will not miss out on life or on college simply by taking a much-needed break.
Rest assured, no matter what you do, you will still make friends. You will make plenty of friends, in the most unexpected of ways. Through your roommates, through clubs you never join, through chance encounters in the dining hall, and even if you never go to a single finals club, you will still be doing college right.
One of my longstanding dreams ever since I visited Harvard was to sit in the Yard under a tree and write. And in fact, one of favorite experiences my freshman fall was sitting under a tree in the Yard with an old notebook and a couple of fellow introverts, one of whom had a guitar, sipping tea from our ironic red Solo cups. There is room, within the ivy-laden walls of Harvard, to take a break from the noise and the people and to just be yourself.
So carry through, fellow introverts. Despite the seeming hell of opening week, you can take time to be alone, without feeling alone.
Eva Shang ’17, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Eliot House.
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