Usually, when I say I’m an introvert, people react in disbelief.
“You? An introvert? You are not shy!”
And indeed, shy I am not. I can be quite blunt (at least, by British standards), have zero problems speaking in public (I actually enjoy it!),
I am known for striking up conversations with strangers and in general, I can be quite sociable. Still, I am an introvert. Big time.
So what does it mean to be an introvert, then?
Simply put, an introvert is someone who needs alone time to recharge. Extroverts are energized by being with others: they need the connections, conversations, and human company to feel fulfilled. Introverts can enjoy these same things, but as time passes, their social and emotional batteries start running low, and they begin shutting down until they reach the point that they need to retreat and recharge.
It took me a good chunk of my life to find a definition for what I was (and felt) growing up. I thought there was something wrong with me. I grew up in Italy, where I believe the majority is fairly extroverted, so I always felt like the odd one out.
Ahead of starting my Executive MBA at Hult, one of the big questions looming in my head was: will I be able to sustain the intensive and immersive four full-day modules without feeling exhausted? Turns out I was, I actually came to look forward to my time in London. But it took some adjustments to be able to show up and manage to use my energy in a way that allowed me to perform at my best.
So if you are a fellow introvert (let’s unite! But separately, in our own home, please) here are a few tips to thrive while studying for your EMBA.
- Get a place to stay near the campus. I could not stress this enough. If you are within walking distance from the campus this means you can make the best use of your lunch break or other longer pauses between classes to strategically “check out” and recharge. And even if you end up not doing it, the thought that you could do it if you wanted will do wonders for your peace of mind. It’s an investment worth making.
- Get a place on your own. Or if it is too expensive, at least make sure you have a room all for yourself, where you can unwind undisturbed at the end of a long day.
- Tell your fellow students you are an introvert. Chances are, you will have to educate them on what an introvert needs and does. We tend to appear rude at times: I had a classmate scold me because I kept my headphones on in the elevator when everyone else was chatting. But I needed some time alone and music is my safe place.
- Tell the professors you are an introvert. During a very noisy and lively simulation, I realized I needed some time off because of sensory overload. So, I approached the professor and explained the situation and he let me take a break without any penalty for me and my team. It might not always be possible, but professors are generally kind and understanding if you ask nicely (they have basically seen it all).
- Find a way to catch your breath during the long days in class. Teamwork might last well into the wee hours, so it is vital that you carve yourself some solo time. Besides the usual breaks, you can add some individual work (even in team projects, tasks are usually distributed so you can work in solitude) and take strolls around the campus when you need to.
- Find your own way to decompress. In my case, listening to music on my headphones was a great way to self-isolate in the middle of a crowded space (and will also signal to people that you need to be left alone). Also, there are a couple of silent rooms on campus: find them and use them! You can stay there to think, rest, do yoga, and even if other students join you, it is understood nobody should talk. Chances are you’ll find your fellow introverts there!
- Enjoy some free time with your cohort. Counterintuitive, but: do not say no to social hangouts and fun stuff. It is the best way for you to network and make new friends (yes, even introverts need friends!). Just make sure to allow some buffer time before and after the modules to decompress, so you will arrive at the campus actually craving human connections.
Find out more about Hult’s part-time Executive MBA and studying in London—download a brochure.