I'm Very Quiet. How About You?

by Maria Teresa Hidalgo | 10/3/18 2:10am

Ever since I was a young girl, my classmates described me as a “violeta timida” (timid violet). This meant that I was always the quiet one in every social circle, which at that time was composed of my family, school and neighbors. In elementary school, I believed that being quiet was a valid state of nature and one of the many characteristics that made me who I am. Nonetheless, as I grew and made my way to middle school, external societal pressures made me want to reconsider my otherwise proud title of introvert. I believed that if I ever wanted to succeed in these social circles, I needed to act more extroverted. Therefore, throughout my high school career, I slowly began to evolve into something of an extrovert, both in the classroom and with my group of close friends. On the other hand, while at home, I still felt as if I was in a safe place where I could be an introvert without any negative consequences.

As I began searching for the right college, I researched those where their student body felt the most confident and happy. In addition, I looked for an environment that, unlike my high school, valued those who were different and embraced their unique personalities. While researching the Ivy League institutions, the one that stood out the most for me was Dartmouth. Even though the Big Green is not as well known in Puerto Rico, I felt an immediate connection and allure given its smaller size and the attention and support provided to each undergraduate. Another big plus was that I identified with the institution itself, given that throughout most of my life I sometimes felt that regardless of my academic and personal accomplishments, I often went unnoticed. I saw in Dartmouth an institution outstanding in practically all fields of academics, yet potentially unknown to a wide array of people.

Once I did more research, it seemed that Greek life was a dominant aspect of the social scene. Although Greek life may appeal to many students, I never believed it was for me. Therefore, I remained somewhat skeptical about whether an introvert like me could fit in a school with such a seemingly dominant Greek centered social life. Was Dartmouth the right choice for this “timid violet” to bloom?

When it was time for me to visit the different colleges I was accepted to, my parents believed that my quiet and shy personality would be better suited to a small liberal arts college. Nonetheless, I firmly understood that at Dartmouth, anyone could find their own niche, and that being an introvert was not a limitation, but rather one of the characteristics that may define your uniqueness. While at Dimensions, I met students who were thriving at Dartmouth, even if they did not necessarily fit the stereotype of our student body. Dimensions also proved to be an academically eye-opening experience, as I was able to learn more about the opportunities available for all students across various academic departments, even to introverts like me. Therefore, I realized that Dartmouth was where I truly belonged.

Once I arrived, I began to feel the butterflies in my stomach. After all, I was embarking on a new phase of my life. How would I find my own niche, my own small community, so far away from the comfort of home? I had always struggled to find friends who shared my interests, so how would I succeed here in that regard? Even though I’m a proud American, there are still many cultural differences between Hanover, New Hampshire and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Would that be a bigger challenge than expected? During freshmen orientation, my biggest fear remained — could an introvert fully succeed at Dartmouth?

As the freshman orientation came to a close, I realized that other than my roommate, I was mostly by myself. Even though I had made some good acquaintances, I questioned myself if my years at Dartmouth would be characterized by loneliness. Yet, somewhat unbeknownst to me was the fact that I began to meet new fascinating people with whom I shared different things in common. Nevertheless, I was totally unaware how this would play out.

Once classes began, I was presented with a mixture of challenges and amazing satisfaction. Each course was an experience in its own unique way. Still, even though I’m totally fluent in English, it has never been the language of instruction for me. Moreover, as an introvert the challenge seemed even more daunting. Would I be able to effectively participate and discuss issues in class? Would my knowledge and class preparation be recognized by my professors and my fellow students? Would people make fun of my Puerto Rican accent?

By the second week, I began to feel much more at ease. A few things began to pave the way for my full integration: developing a few good friendships, finding an ever-developing comfort zone regarding class participation, joining a few good student organizations that reflect my personal interests. For the first time in my life, I felt as if my introversion was not holding me back.

My third week at Dartmouth was the moment when I finally realized that most things were beginning to fall into place; though I’m sure that in earnest, the adjustment period might still last for the whole academic year. Given my hectic schedule, I have realized that at times one may need to be alone to study, rest, meditate or even think about the future. No longer do I feel intimidated by being alone; not even at the Class of 1953 Commons or Collis Café where everyone seems to have a friend by their side.

Looking at the future, I feel it is appropriate to conclude that being an introvert at Dartmouth is not easy, and sometimes it is even hard. Even though the College has gone the extra mile to provide support for each of its students, there are still many other aspects of daily life where you as an introvert are still on your own, and where challenges still persist. Amazingly, now I feel more comfortable with my introversion. Rather than discard my own cocoon, I finally understand that my introversion is part of my personality and that I can still be successful and thrive in Dartmouth and in life being that way.

To my fellow introverts, as I said before, life is hard, but I have faith that it will get better. In the words of the acclaimed television show Bojack Horseman, “Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”