By: Tiesha Anderson
“College is not for everyone,” I often hear this statement being uttered. I interpret it to mean that everyone should have the opportunity to go, but some individuals will struggle to succeed or enjoy the academic environment due to factors outside of their control. These factors usually include an individuals’ inability to grasp the fundamental subjects like math and reading or a person’s natural desire to be free-spirited, disabling them from finding mental peace in the very structured academic environment.
For years, the education system has made accommodations for people who experience these struggles. For instance, there are slower-paced courses, smaller sized classrooms, and individual help like tutoring. A free spirit can utilize online courses or even online colleges. Education Connection’s TV advertisement has a standout line that says, “You can get your degree on your on time.” Considering the past, these are major adaptations, but what has been done for the introvert?
In this case, an introvert is someone who may not struggle academically any more than the average student but instead struggles with the overtly social expectations from college professors and the college environment. It should go without saying, not every introvert is the same. Some have more complex situations.
I’ll define introversion in terms of myself. I consider myself a softer case. I’m a person who can become drained or even uncomfortable with too much interaction, especially as a Black woman from the hood at a PWI. The culture shock added with the constant requirement of needing to assimilate in interactions can be draining. Once drained, I’ve learned to take the time to reboot my energy.
I had to learn this the hard way, might I add. It took falling into depression for me to discover I may be different and need to go about life a bit differently. During my sophomore year of college, I became so drained. At the time, I was taking a sociology class full of spoiled White kids. During every class I had to be the voice of the Black community and explain how there were many poor Black people without healthcare. Every day, I had to describe to a class of over 30 students what it’s like to be poor. Afterward, I had to drag myself to an accounting class run by a professor who found a way to make every day of class, a day that required group work.
That year I was also dealing with being the only woman in my white male-dominated computer information systems classes, having to explain the strife of every African American to the privileged, and being forced into groups who didn’t consider me smart enough to provide input because I spoke differently. In the midst of it all, I never took the time to center myself. Before I knew it, I was locking myself in my room all day, only emerging for food and to release my bladder at about 12 am when I knew my three roommates were asleep or gone.
I ignored phone calls from my family and friends. I skipped classes. I allowed myself to believe I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t deal with telling my proud mom that the family’s soon to be first college graduate might not be graduating at all because she was tired of dealing with people.
I tried to complete the online assignments but as the year progressed things became tougher without hearing the class lectures. After missing two weeks I felt like I couldn’t show my face in any classroom. Even if no one questioned me, I’d still have to deal with being so far behind the rest of the class. Laying in bed all day made me feel like a bum. I just wanted a fresh start.
Growing up, I always had a good academic experience. My grades were good, teachers enjoyed me, and I enjoyed school. College is not much different. If I put in the effort, I can succeed. However, my struggle comes from being drained. Nearing the end of every semester, I find myself needing time to myself. I don’t want to be around anyone or do anything I don’t consider relaxing because my energy is gone. This makes me skip class. Don’t mistake me being drained for laziness. I still complete assignments. I just miss out on some due to my absences.
This whole condition sucks for me because in the end it is detrimental and something I feel helpless about. My future is partially dependent on a system that was not designed with me in mind. A system I have to financially invest in, might I add. Sometimes it takes a couple weeks to reboot myself, but the thought of me missing class and the consequences are draining me simultaneous. Missing class makes me feel like a lazy disgrace, but I can’t help it. Only adding to the way I feel are the looks and questions I receive when I come back. It’s all so annoying.
These people rarely spoke or bothered to listen to me when I was there and now they have so much to say. The timeliness of the Black woman’s invisibility and hypervisibility is so convenient. I say that with the phoniest of smiles.
“Where have you been,” a professor might ask in front of the whole class. “
Wassup? What’s been going on with you?” Students will ask me. What should I say in response? The truth is seen as bullshit. No sympathy would be given. In fact, I imagine the opposite. In all my three years of college, out of my some 25-30 professors, I’ve only had one assist me in the effort to make up what I had missed and he only helped me because I was sick at the time of my absence, as well.
What accommodations should we demand as introverts? I’m certain there are people whose struggles are more complex than mine. People who struggle with the forced group work and end-of-the-semester presentations. Should we offer more opportunities to watch or listen to class lectures online?
Do we offer the choice of opting out of group assignments? My university offers hybrid classes for certain courses. I’m not sure what solution should be implemented or if there are any schools with systems in place. Some may feel no solution should be implemented at all. I would like to just bring attention to and create discussion about a topic that is important, yet overlooked.
What if anything, do you think should be done to make sure all students, especially introverts, have a comfortable learning environment?