Written by StudyPerth International Student Ambassador Hasta Mahatara
An introvert is like the ripples in a lake after throwing a stone into calm water. They do not react as much as extroverts, but they are listening.
This is my story about how came to realise I was introverted, how I challenge myself everyday forge new relationships and engage with others, and why I think introverted students should step out of their comfort zone and take up their own challenge to study overseas.
What is an introvert?
A few years ago, I had never heard the word ‘introvert’. What was it? Who did it apply to? It turns out the word is often how people refer to a shy or reserved person.
I have heard stories from my family of how talkative and cheeky I was when I was younger, but as far as I can remember, I have always been shy. I guess that I changed as I grew up, and as people say, “with time, everyone changes.” I always kept myself rather isolated and never engaged in the gossip many would typically expect from a child. When someone would approach me in class, I used to pretend that I was sleeping.
Being introverted helped me a lot when I was in school. I was no longer part of arguments or fights, and teachers pointing me out as a model student that everyone else should aspire to be like. This lead to me being given responsibilities in class, like ‘English-In-Charge’ and ‘Discipline-In-Charge’, and this led me to be a School Captain during my final year in school.
Although I was acknowledged by teachers and said hello to everyone in school, I wasn’t that close to any of my peers. During my school days I had no close friends except one or two who I talked to sometimes. As time went by, I started college and the loneliness increased. I used to feel lonely even when I was in crowds and amongst friends.
My move to Perth
Moving to Australia was one of the bravest decisions I have ever made. In a way, I felt as though I was escaping the person I used to be and trying to find a new reality. It can be hard to change and I sometimes find myself slipping into old patterns, but coming to Perth has made me try to open up.
I won’t lie, it was hard to start my life from scratch. I was often too nervous to ask for directions so I would get lost for hours walking around. I even missed trains because I didn’t know how to get on and off! Being an introvert makes moving to a new country even more challenging, but it is certainly possible.
While I meet a lot of people from my community in Perth, as it is a very multicultural city, my advice would be to step outside your immediate community group and try to interact with Australians and other international students. I love my community but I have also had some negative experiences, so having a network outside of this has helped me.
I have always feared that I will be judged by others and I have hesitated in opening up, which made it easy to listen and observe others. I have learnt so much from the people I’ve met in Western Australia and I respect then so much. Each person is different and I see qualities in everyone that I would like to have in myself. I would meet new people all the time when I volunteered and worked, and it gave me a good idea of conversations to initiate with other people. I am not an expert, but I am better than I was before.
My advice to introverted international students
Being introverted is not a bad thing, but it can make some things more difficult when moving to a new place as you have to create completely new networks, friendship groups, and develop your career.
I know it can be tough to take the first step, but I would recommend joining up to groups and clubs, and volunteering wherever possible. I used to be a member of Toastmasters International where we met fortnightly to practice public speaking and engaging in casual conversations which really helped me.
I would also recommend breaking away from your typical community and interacting with other local and international students as it can be easy to get stuck in the same group.
Moving to Perth may have been a scary move, but I’m so glad I took the step. Take a little step with me today and start a conversation.