If I asked you to describe home, what would you say? Cosy? Warm? Loving? If you ask me, I would say comfortable. Joining a college was the kind of the opposite of this. It did take me out of my comfort-zone; but it really was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.
I’ve always been extremely shy and introverted. If you ever try calling me without telling me beforehand, I’m going to watch the phone ring. In social situations I’m even worse. The thought of holding a conversation and having to talk… I feel a cold sweat break out even as I type this! But since joining a college, this has improved significantly; and here’s why.
Joining Vanbrugh College
Being in Vanbrugh College (which has a reputation of being extremely social and outgoing) didn’t exactly line up with my introversion. There’s usually always someone our shared kitchen, so I couldn’t avoid a conversation without appearing a little off. So, it was a bit of a challenge to myself; even as my hands trembled, or my throat felt cotton ball-dry, and I stumbled over and under words eager to partake in this social tango.
Occasionally I got the steps wrong; followed where I should’ve led and danced off beat. But, the dance went on despite these mishaps. I felt myself grow more at ease with engaging and staying in social interactions. I started to enjoy them and seek them out.
So, I attended as many Vanbrugh College events as I could; from board games, to karaoke nights in V-Bar, where I left the familiarity of my flatmates and ventured into unknown social territories.
I got to know other people from other houses within the College. Because of this I met so many people from different backgrounds to me. I learned so much as my perspective shifted and I saw life as someone from Bradford, the Philippines, Chelmsford or Nigeria. This social awakening allowed me to meet people from all walks – something I may not have been able to do if I’d stayed within my shell.
Conflict and resolution
However, with so many different personalities, there is sometimes conflict, and in college accommodation this is unavoidable. It might be an argument about who left their plates in the sink, or noise, or tension you just can’t seem to find the root of.
I found myself caught in the middle of a conflict. Because I didn’t know how to address it, I retreated back within myself, back to the safety and ease of my shyness and introversion, using them as a crutch so I wouldn’t have to face it head on. Eventually, the other person approached me and we hashed it out. We laughed at the silliness of the situation and parted as friends.
Somewhere to grow
Being in a college provides a type of emotional and mental growth that I can’t imagine finding anywhere else. It makes you do things you may not quote feel comfortable with, but have to do in order to come out of your shell.
Vanbrugh College allowed me to grow in a way I may never have experienced at home, where comfort allowed me to stay stagnant in who I was. Being a member of Vanbrugh pushed me to approach a stranger and ask how their day’s been; to join in a flat quiz (and lose); to sing ‘All I Want for Christmas’ while jerking my body in motions that are meant to be associated with dancing. Now, if you tried to call me without notice I’d pick up without a moment’s hesitation.
When I sat down at our flat Christmas party, secret Santa gifts under the tree, I looked around at this strange bunch of people the university algorithm had put together and I smiled because, frustrating as they may have been sometimes, I wouldn’t change them for the world.