Being an introvert, especially while abroad, can manifest itself in many ways. It can sometimes feel like a sort of hindrance – something to overcome, to eradicate, to change. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being on this earth for nineteen years, it’s that people cannot, and should not,  fundamentally change an integral part of their personality.

Throughout my life, I’ve either pushed myself too far spending all my time in social situations, and been unhappy or completely blocked others out (also making me unhappy). There is a balance though, of interacting with others and spending time by yourself. As a lifelong introvert, I have a few tips and tricks while abroad to help find this balance, so you can feel happy and energized while living in a foreign country.

1

SIGN UP FOR ACTIVITIES THROUGH BARCELONA SAE’S TEAMUP APP!

This is good for those with minor social anxiety because it does the planning for you and gets you out of your comfort zone in a safe and controlled environment. My first weekend in Barcelona, we went on a day trip to Montserrat. Since the whole day was already planned ahead of time by the Barcelona SAE program, the stress of making plans with other strangers was lessened, and it allowed me to relax and get to know other students that I’m currently abroad with.

Me and mi amiga, Grace, during the group day trip to Montserrat!

2

JOIN SOCIAL MEDIA GROUP CHATS WITH OTHER STUDENTS

Try to join a GroupMe, WhatsApp, or Snapchat group made by the students. As someone who gets anxious talking to strangers face-to-face, I find that having the barrier of social media helps when meeting many people at the same time. Often these group chats will have students in the same boat as you wanting people to hang out with and explore Barcelona together.

3

TRY TO SPEND MORE TIME IN SHARED SPACES

This is more for Residence Halls, but instead of keeping to yourself (which is VERY easy to do!) try to do some private activities like reading, eating, or studying in an open environment so striking up a conversation will be less daunting. Places like the shared kitchen, the courtyard, or the study room are all good places to be while doing these tasks. I found that when living in The Student Hotel, you will run into lots of students who want to talk to you about your internship and other easy topics to engage in.

4

INVITE OTHERS – ESPECIALLY IF THEY SHARE YOUR INTERESTS

If you want to go visit a certain place or do a certain thing – ask others if they want to do it too! You can ask them directly if you’re feeling bold, or ask on a group chat so you don’t feel so anxious! Chances are that many others will share your interest.

5

SPEND YOUR ALONE TIME OUTSIDE

On quieter, less social days, take your headphones and a book to a nearby park and practice some self-care. Get yourself some nice food and enjoy people watching in Barcelona. The key is when you want to be alone, do it outside! Of course, you can spend time inside, but while you are in such a beautiful city, you might as well walk alone in the streets to recharge your drained social barometer.

6

DON’T FEEL THE NEED TO SAY YES TO EVERYTHING

When you’re only here for a short period of time, I know there is pressure to make every day count…but if you are feeling drained, the best thing to do is just sit it out. This is not a vacation! You will have plenty of adventures and group dinners, but you will want to enjoy it. Make sure you practice self-care, even while in a different country…and although it may seem like you’re missing out on a fun evening out, your mental health should always be the first priority. Take it from me – when you feel more energized, you will enjoy the activities you do take part in a lot more.

In short, stepping out of one’s comfort zone is never an easy thing to do, it takes courage, perseverance, and a leap of faith. If you are anything like me, the concept of working and living in a foreign country with strangers for a month and a half was just that – a step outside of comfort into the unknown.

That being said, there is no reason to feel the need to change yourself completely because you feel pressure being in a new environment with new people. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be as small as reading in a shared space and as big as asking others to go somewhere with you. Your experience abroad is dependent on how you feel while doing these activities, not the activities themselves. From one introvert to another, don’t try to change yourself for the sake of a good story.

Sophie Angleton

Sophie Angleton

Sophie is a TODOS Scholar from UC Riverside, and interned abroad in Barcelona in Summer 2021.

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