Study Groups (and why they make me queasy)

I’m an introvert. To many, being an introvert is synonymous with being antisocial, which I don’t believe at all. I’m quiet in social situations, I like having a sizeable chunk of alone time (reading a book is a one-person activity), and I have a small but tight-knit group of friends. This doesn’t mean I dislike people, or that I want to spend all of my time in solitude (I mean, conversation is hard to carry out with just one person); it just means that I’m not as gregarious as the next person, really. I’ll step out of my comfort zone when I must, but when I needn’t, I keep to myself, and I go on with my pleasant little life.

But I’ll admit, there are a few instances where I can’t reconcile with the hermit inside of me, and one of the things that I can’t bring myself to like is studying with others.

Any time I’ve ever been in a study group, I’ve found that there’s an imbalance between the study parties: one has the answers, and the other does not. It isn’t always this black-and-white, of course. Sometimes the gap between the parties is minimal, and you end up with a set of two near-equals simply bouncing and confirming knowledge between them. I’ve only ever been in this kind of study group when I was in classes with my closest friends, and these were the few times where I was okay studying with others. Every other time, however, I’ve been either one side or the other: either I was the one with all the knowledge teaching the other person, or I was the dumbfounded party staring blankly at my well-versed companion(s). Neither situation is a comfortable one for me.

This stock photo is the opposite of how I feel in a study group.

When I’m the least-prepared one in a study group, being there tends to make feel insecure, and I can only feel ready once I’ve left the group and gone over the material on my own. When I’m the most-prepared, I feel awkward correcting my own peers. I used to be okay with it, because I like imparting any accurate facts I hold, but after a while people would stop listening, and I was eventually called a pretentious know-it-all. And then, of course, there are other factors at play: rather than focusing 100% on the material, I end up shifting about in my seat, playing uncomfortably with my hair as my self-esteem knocks at the back of my head saying, “Do you look okay? Do they think you look weird? I hope they’re not thinking poorly of you. Ooo, that was wrong. You should correct her. Oh god, are you sounding pretentious? Quiet down, quiet down–wait, now you’re silent. Are they going to think you’re dumb?” Yeah… no.

The solution? I study on my own. This doesn’t mean I sit by myself in the darkest corner of the library as far away from other beings as possible–in fact, I really enjoy studying in the company of my equally studious friends, as long as we’re not studying for the same subject together. They study their stuff, and I study mine. The grade I earn is the fruit of no one’s work but my own.

I say all this because I’ve now been asked by two separate people to study for tomorrow’s history exam. The thing is, I feel pretty prepared for this exam, and I wasn’t really looking for any study buddies. History is my thing; I’m naturally pretty good at it. I gave the first person a leaning-to-yes maybe, but I can’t exactly say no to the second person; she’s my floormate and knows exactly where to find me. Why don’t I just say no, you ask? I don’t know. If I asked someone to study with me, I wouldn’t want to be rejected, so I can’t expect that turning these people down, no matter how nicely I phrase it, could possibly reflect well on me. I don’t want to seem like I’m snobbishly hoarding away my knowledge, or that I’m an unfriendly recluse unwilling to deal with other people. So the too-nice part of me impels me to quietly say, “Yeah, maybe later tonight?” even when hermit-me is croaking, “But noooooooo.”

If they coming knocking at my door with study material in their hands, I’ll by all means let them in. But if they fail to turn up… well…

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