For many students, a good way to recharge their energy from a day at school is to get together with a big group of friends, drink beer and discuss their stresses.

Extroverts may find this to be a good way to recharge their energy but what about the more introverted students?

What about the students whose energy is not recharged by being around people but by spending some time alone? How do they find the time when the university experience is so heavily built around being with other people?

maia sectionheadMaia Domingo, a first year nursing student at MRU, stands by lockers on campus. Photo by Mason Benning

Maia Domingo

Age: 20

School: Mount Royal University

Area of study: Nursing

Maia Domingo is in her first year in the nursing program at Mount Royal University (MRU).

Domingo identifies as an introvert and thinks MRU is a good place for introverts to study.

“Just because of the smaller class sizes, it is a bit easier for introverts to get their opinions across. Also, when you’re talking one-on-one with the teachers, because I do like one-on-one situations a little better.”

Yet, Domingo said it can be a little bit difficult for her in some of the nursing classes.

“It is hard in nursing, because the class sizes do get a little bit bigger, to stand out in a class situation because the people that answer the questions are usually the ones that get that kind of positivity from others.”

Like many others, Domingo said that her introversion is not something that she has fully come to terms with.

I actually love being around people, it’s just that I’m not necessarily super loud and talkative.” – Maia Domingo

“I want it to be something that I’ve come to terms with but I still feel that sometimes it’s a bit tough.”

One of the reasons that Domingo has trouble with this is because of a misconception surrounding introverts as being antisocial.

“I actually love being around people, it’s just that I’m not necessarily super loud and talkative. […] I might give off a closed kind of look but I wouldn’t mind if somebody came up to me and talked to me. I just don’t necessarily start conversations as well.”

This love of being around people is exemplified by Domingo’s interest in going to festivals and markets in Calgary such as Sunfest, the Lilac Festival and GlobalFest.

“I like just kind of being there with the crowd. I’m not very loud or anything, I don’t necessarily get super involved, I’m just there. I’m more of a watcher I guess,” said Domingo.

Although Domingo hasn’t fully come to terms with her introversion, she is taking steps to have a social life while still nurturing her introverted nature.

Domingo has started to work for MRU Cougar Athletics where she, and a few others run the clock for hockey games, she is a member of the MRU Student Nursing Society where she helps with volunteer coordinating, and is part of the Catholic Christian Outreach at MRU.

Going to the movies is something Domingo likes to do where she can be around other people and not have to worry as much about social pressures.

“For me, introversion is about having the energy to constantly feel like you have to be ‘on’ the whole time when you’re with someone,” said Domingo. “When I’m watching a movie, I don’t necessarily feel that way because they are watching the movie too, I don’t feel like I have to entertain them or anything.”

Walks, working out and other exercises are more solitary activities Domingo likes to do to decompress and recharge from a busy, people-filled day.

“It’s a good time for me to just think and have some time to myself,” said Domingo.

mitch sectionheaderMitchell Foulkes, a U of C graduate, fixing up his 2002 Volkswagen Jetta, a project he likes to work on. Photo by Mason Benning

Mitchell Foulkes

Age: 25

School: Graduate from University of Calgary

Area of study: Philosophy

Mitchell Foulkes is originally from Regina, Sask. He moved to Calgary and became one of the brave introverts to commit to studying at the University of Calgary (U of C). He graduated in 2016 with a degree in philosophy.

Foulkes found that in the philosophy program, most of his fellow students’ temperaments were fairly polarized in terms of introversion and extroversion.

“I think that people were either extremely outbound and extroverted or extremely within themselves,” said Foulkes.

When Foulkes looked around as he studied at the U of C, he said he would often see people studying in a different way than he prefers.

“I love to study in the philosophy department itself and there were always people having conversations and discourses. But, for the most part, I had my headphones on and I would be sitting at a table by myself doing my own reading and thinking.”

 “As an introvert, I sometimes feel alien in such environments, I don’t necessarily feel super comfortable or that I entirely belong, and I found a kind of comfort in that.” –Mitchell Foulkes

Even in class Foulkes would usually be more comfortable keeping to himself but many of his professors would try to get him to speak up.

“Some of them noticed that I was quiet in class and they would actually kind of put me in the spotlight like, ‘Mitchell, what do you think?’ And I’m just really kind of flabbergasted,” said Foulkes.

Although he did eventually get more comfortable speaking up in class, it took Foulkes longer to reach that point than it might take for more extroverted students.

“Near the end of my undergrad degree, I became more comfortable speaking in class but it did take me a very long time,” said Foulkes. “It took me like the first four years to really start to kind of open up a little bit more and be able to express myself in class.”

Foulkes also found a way to learn at the U of C that better suited his introverted nature than the more traditional, overcrowded lectures.

“In the philosophy department there’s something called directed reading courses where, if you are passionate enough about something, you can go to the professor and create a class just between you and them and it’s just a one-on-one class type of thing,” Foulkes said.

Directed reading courses were by far his favourite experience at the U of C.

“It was just the professor, myself – and in this case – two other students,” said Foulkes. “Which just seemed to be the perfect kind of mix.”

Foulkes knows that after a long, busy day, he needs time to himself. He has even given a name to the private time he needs to recharge.

“I call it ‘introvercial periods of solitude,’” said Foulkes.

During these periods of solitude, Foulkes likes to spend time in nature going for hikes (which he also often does with a few close friends) or doing activities where he can work with his hands. He has taken up carving soapstone, he frequently works on his 2002 Volkswagen Jetta and even bought an old, broken fiberglass canoe he is fixing himself.

Despite his acknowledgement that he needs to spend a lot of time to himself, Foulkes likes to challenge himself and push past his boundaries as an introvert. His next big challenge is to put himself into a completely foreign environment by moving to Japan for a year to teach English as a second language. This presents obvious stresses for an introvert like himself.

Foulkes said, “I don’t speak Japanese, I’m going to be probably thrown into large amounts of crowds, I kind of expect to be awash in a sea of chaos.”

Foulkes said that he feels he is up to the challenge of throwing himself into an alien environment because feeling alien is something introverts might be used to.

“Most settings, I would think, are very much made for extroverts – perhaps not all – but of course most businesses, cafes, bars, pubs, are all very much group based. As an introvert, I sometimes feel alien in such environments, I don’t necessarily feel super comfortable or that I entirely belong, and I found a kind of comfort in that.”

ian sectionheaderIan Parsons, a student at MRU, studies in the new Riddell Library – his favourite place on campus. Photo by Mason Benning

Ian Parsons

Age: 23

School: Mount Royal University

Area of study: Cellular and molecular biology

Ian Parsons studied briefly at Memorial University in Newfoundland before moving to Calgary where he attended U of C. However, as an introvert, Parsons found that the large class sizes of these schools were too overwhelming.

“Trying out U of C, you get a classroom of 300 people. Try not feeling claustrophobic in that environment,” said Parsons.

Parsons has since moved his studies to MRU and is in his second year majoring in cellular and molecular biology. He finds MRU to be a much more accommodating school to his introverted nature.

“Here, it’s nicer where it feels like a more stable classroom,” said Parsons. “It feels more like what you’re used to in high school and what you’ve been built up for for the past 12 years of school.”

Despite the smaller class sizes of MRU being a bit more accommodating to introverts, Parsons said that he still has a lot of trouble studying at the campus and around too many people.

“I’ve tried studying up in Wyckham [the food court area of MRU], I’ve tried getting used to other people around me in those situations. When I want to focus on something, I can’t do it, I can’t have anyone else around me.”

Parsons said that if he studies on campus at all he has to book a room in the library that is as closed off as possible.

“Otherwise, I’m just in my basement, soundproof headphones on, in the dark.”

Parsons and other introverts like him are not the only people that a day at university really drains. But, unlike his more extroverted peers, the way that Parsons regains that energy is not by participating in highly social events and being around people. For an introvert like Parsons, some alone time is usually what is needed to gain back all that lost energy.

I’ve tried getting used to other people around me in those situations. When I want to focus on something, I can’t do it, I can’t have anyone else around me.” –Ian Parsons

One of the more solitary activities that Parsons does to recharge is painting Warhammer figures. These are miniature figurines of futuristic soldiers that people can assemble and paint.

“It’s the perfect thing for recharging where you just set up everything,” said Parsons.“You set up your environment around you. The water goes there, the paints will go here, and I’m now in my own little bubble.”

Another activity that helps Parsons to recharge is parkour. This activity is a little bit more on the social side of things but Parsons said that it still helps him to recharge.

“You learn the space around you, you learn that there’s other people around you in the other spaces,” said Parsons. “But then you just focus on a single action and you just keep going through that single action again, and again, focusing on just you and how you’re interacting with it.”

Parkour is just one step that Parsons has taken to be more social. He is also a member of Club N3rd, which, according to its Facebook page, is “a place for any and all nerds to gather, socialize and participate in events pertaining to anything ‘geek’ culture.”

He is also a member of MRU Greek Life, which is a club at MRU with the goal of creating community on campus.

Parsons acknowledges that, in order to have the social life that he wants, he sometimes has to push himself past his introversion.

“It’s just a measure of how hard some people are willing to push themselves for it.”

Editor: Amy Simpson | 

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