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Making Space for Introverts at Bates

When you have to stand up in front of the entire class and present, do you feel your stomach drop? Does visiting your professor’s office hours make you cringe? What about being at a party or a dance? Do you find these events to be anxiety-inducing beforehand, even if you have a good time in the end? Do you prefer deep and meaningful conversation to small talk? Do you have a few close friends rather than many friends? Are you not much of a risk-taker and tend to mull things over before finally proceeding with caution?

If any or all of these feelings and experiences resonate with you, then you are likely an introvert.  I say this not as an expert in psychology, but as somebody who has struggled with similar emotions and at times thought something was wrong with me. Once I realized I was an introvert, however, I understood that nothing was wrong with me and that introvertism is a personality trait — not something that requires fixing. Despite this fact, many people who are introverts feel they must conform because we live in a society where extroversion is considered ideal. That is particularly true of college environments, where it can be difficult for introverts to keep up with the demands of social life.

If you are an introvert, your college experience may look a little different than what is commonly portrayed. You might not attend every party or dance and might dread them if you do. If you are like me, you may prefer a close network of friends that you can have a deep and meaningful conversation with, but you also may need a lot of time to yourself.

Introverts are everywhere, even though many tend to fly under the radar. Bates is no exception, and the college needs to do more to address this personality type. I would like to see more organized low-key events on the weekends to serve as alternatives to parties and dances. Things like paint nights, poetry slams, movie nights, bowling, and much more. There could be more long-term events like an ongoing book club or discussion groups that delve deep into a topic but are not formalized in nature like a class would be. While it is healthy for everybody to push their limits once in a while, it is imperative that there be safe spaces for fellow introverts to come together.

Another problem is the lack of quiet housing on the Bates campus. For the upcoming year, both Cheney House and Whittier House are going to have quiet hours around the clock. However, combined, these houses only host 48 students, meaning only about 2.67% of Bates students will be able to reside in quiet housing. As we all know, college dorms are noisy places to be, and it is hard to truly find alone time. Especially in one’s first year with an assigned roommate, dorm life can be challenging for introverts. We need time to unwind, reflect, and decompress in peace and quiet.

It is key to emphasize that there is not one way to be an introvert, and that shyness, sensitivity, and introversion are not the same. Many introverts may be shy and anxious when it comes to social interaction, but that is not a prerequisite for being an introvert.  And some introverts tend to be more sensitive to their surroundings and external stimuli than others. In essence, being an introvert is about how one becomes energized. They typically gain energy from being by themselves or in small groups. That is why a wider variety of low-key events and more quiet housing would be so beneficial to introverts.

At Bates, it is time to move away from the extrovert ideal that is so hegemonic in society. Unfortunately, it can be easy for us introverts to be left behind and for our contributions to go unnoticed due to the extrovert ideal. More needs to be done to accommodate the introverted way of socializing and processing. Introverts just operate a little differently and those differences ought to be embraced. Introverts have so much to offer and to contribute to the Bates community and the entire world. Bates should demonstrate that it values introverts just as much as extroverts by bucking this societal norm.

P.S.  If you see yourself as an introvert or would like to further contribute to this conversation, please reach out to me at adumont2@bates.edu!

P.P.S. If you are ever looking for quiet spaces, the Multifaith Chaplaincy has plenty of resources that can help.

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