To mark the start of fall term, student and self-described introvert Sarah Lohmann '21 took a fond look back at her own early days at Knox and how she made the transition to living and studying among hundreds of fellow students.
When I first started looking at colleges, I harbored a lot of anxieties about, frankly, everything. How far was I going to be from home? Did this college have the major I want? How did I even know what I actually wanted to study? What was I going to do in my free time? Surely not go to parties. Surely not.
I’m an introvert. I’ve known this about myself for years. This, needless to say, does not jive well with the image of college life I saw in movies and heard in the stories of my relatives. That image, too, however, has ceased to jive with the state of the world. So, what can introverts—naturally occurring or otherwise—do in college? Specifically, what can they do at Knox?
The short answer is anything and everything. Go where you please and leave when you’re finished. Keep yourself safe and happy and healthy. I’ve included a couple of specific examples, but these are not boundaries.
Expand your horizons, literally and figuratively.
Especially in my first year at Knox, I unintentionally trapped myself in the bubble that is our campus. It had everything I needed, and, besides, it wasn’t like I had a lot of money to blow by going to dinner in town or poking around in the cafes every weekend. That said, you don’t need to spend money to explore. Galesburg especially has a lot of nooks and crannies that I find particularly inspiring.
Additionally, this could just mean not locking yourself in your room to do your work. Sit on a bench outside. Go to the library. Visit the legendary Galesburg Antique Mall. Even if you’re not interested in going to parties or particular events, just placing yourself in new environments can be enlightening.
You don't need to limit your exploration to the physical world, either. I grew up in a largely non-religious household, so when I met someone in my first-year preceptorial who was deeply connected with Christianity, we were able to have conversations and share perspectives that, often, neither of us had encountered or even considered. When reading Othello or Frankenstein, we offered completely different readings informed by our dissimilar backgrounds.
Have conversations on topics you’ve never considered. Listen to others. Be wrong and learn something new. The world is so much bigger than what you’ve seen, thought, and heard thus far. The folks around you have a lot to offer, and you have a lot to give in return. Whether it’s visiting a professor’s office hours for a chat about your paper or just asking your roommate what they think about something, ask some questions and be open to letting them ask you, too.
This is a piece of advice I’m sure you’ve heard about a thousand times. That is because it is legitimately good advice, so don’t discount it too quickly. When I came to Knox, I was pretty sure that I knew myself. I delved further into interests and hobbies that I’d already been acquainted with, but I was also introduced to new things that I can’t imagine my life without, now.
A great way to do this is to ask your new friends to share what they’re interested in with you—my first close friend at Knox taught me how to sew, another introduced me to a new genre of music, and my roommate encouraged me to experiment with my style. I also did a lot of puzzles and played a lot of Assassin’s Creed. Enriching yourself is a great way not just to fill your time but also to develop meaningful relationships.
Don’t be afraid to be alone sometimes.
Making friends is great (and inevitable), but don’t let being alone stop you from doing things. Become okay with getting meals on your own, popping into events unaccompanied, or sitting between two empty seats in class. Comfort in solitude is vital for self-acceptance, and that quality will bring genuine people into your circle naturally. You’ll find yourself surrounded by folks who love what you love, and you’ll fall into friendships quicker than you think. So, check out that club meeting, go to that film screening, visit that coffee shop downtown. Don’t limit yourself to spending your alone time locked away in your room (though that’s okay, too, sometimes).
Advocate for your comfort and your preferences.
Your friends want you to have a good time, and they want to spend time with you. Ask them to stay in and watch a film. Cook dinner together. Play cards on the floor. Along with this, make sure they know your boundaries! Tell them if you only want to stay at this event for 10 minutes, if you’d rather they wait in line with you, or if you’d prefer if only two people come along tomorrow night. You are not a buzzkill for this.
Take advantage of the Knox Community.
Knox is one of the most accepting places I’ve ever had the pleasure of inhabiting. No one minds if you party or don’t, if you drink or don’t. And it’s not just the students. The faculty and staff have their doors and minds open for you. Your perspective, your thoughts, your comfort: You matter, and everyone acknowledges this.
You’re not wrong for not wanting to go out. You’re not wrong for wanting to go out, either. You’re not wrong for spending time in ways that you enjoy. You’re not missing out. That being said, try not to put yourself in a box. I prejudged a lot of experiences, thinking I wouldn’t enjoy them because “I’m too shy” or “I’m an introvert,” and, though those things are true about me, they are not my only traits. Let yourself grow, but don’t feel bad for not trying every single thing or attending every event. Balance is key.
Feel free to say hi if you see me on campus. Or don’t. I won’t mind either way. But, anyway, welcome to Knox! I have a feeling you’re going to like it here.