For this reason college started out pretty difficult. I’d often been told that college was a time to reinvent myself, to stop being nervous and “take the dive.” For some people, I imagine this is great advice, but for me it didn’t work. The more I pretended I was outgoing, the more stressed I became, and the more I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself.
Ultimately, there is not one-size-fits-all cure to shyness. But if you’re like me, then maybe the following advice will be helpful to you.
Connect with campus resources. Possibly the best first step. Depending on how your college is set up, you may have Residential Advisors or College Masters or something similar, and almost every campus has mental health resources if you are feeling stressed or need someone to talk to. It’s important to feel like you have a support system wherever you live, so this is a good opportunity to do so.
Join clubs. In class, especially freshmen lectures, it can be hard to go up to some stranger and start a random conversation without a common link. While it’s still certainly worth trying, you may feel more comfortable doing this at a club meeting with people who definitely share the same interests as you do. Don’t be afraid to try out several clubs and see how you like the experience, and make sure to make an effort to reach out. Because chances are, there are other people there just as interested in talking to you as you are in talking to them.
Study in public spaces. This has been a very healthy habit for me. If you do your work in your dorm room, you will without a doubt feel isolated. However, doing your work in a public space gives you the opportunity to run into classmates and meet new people at the coffee shop, or just enjoy the ambience of camaraderie without feeling the obligation to perform.
Meet with professors. You’ve probably been told to do this by just about everyone, but this is more nerve-racking sometimes than it sounds. It was hard for me at first because I was worried about bothering them or wasting their time. But this is a total misconception—chances are, they want to get to know you and help you with what you need (and if they don’t, then that’s their problem and they are not a very good professor). Even if it takes you a couple weeks to get comfortable enough to ask, you will not regret talking to them. If nothing else, many of them are highly interesting and insightful people.
Do what you’re comfortable with. College is plenty stressful without the social aspect—tests and procrastination are enough to deal with for one lifetime. If you ever feel like you’re floundering and the stress of friend-making is getting in the way of you grades or mental health, it’s okay to take a break. Take a couple days to yourself to rest, to regain your focus. If you need time, people will always be there waiting once you’ve come out the other side. Meanwhile, try to reach out to your college contacts and your family/friends at home for support.
It can be hard sometimes. But if you stay in contact with people who love and care about you and keep slowly trying to break the ice, you will definitely succeed and defeat shyness.
-- Joanna Slusarewicz