In an ordinary year, incoming freshers would have been eagerly awaiting and nervously anticipating the beginning of their first year in university. Back in July, during the height of the spectacularly good weather, students throughout the country would have felt the unique release of placing down their pen for the last time, having endured the gruelling rite of passage that is the infamous Leaving Cert exams. Having received results and hopefully a satisfactory CAO offer in mid-August, thoughts would have turned to the securing of accommodation, packing of bags, and saying of goodbyes. Instead, this year can only be described as monumentally anticlimactic. After a two-year cycle and months of long, lonely hours put in, students were left without a chance to prove themselves in a traditionally even playing field.
The focus is often lost on what the Leaving Cert really is: a means of being accepted into further education. This year, that focus was shifted as the effects of Covid-19 tremored across the globe. For some, the removal from the pressure-cooker that is the exam process was a major relief, prompting a certain faith in their teachers to give a fair and honest reflection of the work they had put in and what they most likely would have achieved. Others were left replaying in their minds every dispute they ever had with a teacher. Every misdemeanour and every note sent home had many scrambling for a sense of security that otherwise would be a given in a fully non-partisan set of examinations.
This concern lingered until August, when students were greeted with either delirium or devastation. While some were fortunate enough to meet or perhaps even exceed their expectations, others were left despondent, unable to shake the feeling of aggrievement having been robbed of their dream course. The lack of transparency with regard to the grading process added to the overall sense that students’ future prospects were taken out of their hands entirely, left instead to the discretion of unseen analysts in the Department of Education. For those unhappy with their results, they have the option to sit the rescheduled exams in November, to defer the year, or to take legal action. In spite of these options, the majority of students are continuing as usual, and looking forward to what lies ahead of them in first year.
The exams themselves are not the only experience that have passed the class of 2020 by. Aside from the upsetting cancellations of a conventional graduation ceremony as well as the Debs, there were no flights booked for the infamous Leaving Cert holiday. Even more preparation will have gone into the research of flights, nightclubs, and impossibly cheap hostels than for the future-defining assessments. The cancellation of this was, of course, another negative side effect of Covid-19. With that said, it may have come as a relief to some, particularly those who may not have had the courage to vocalise their fears about spending approximately €500 on an experience with which they are not comfortable.
Yes, there will be other holidays and other summers, but it is unfair to say that other getaways will be as uniquely care-free as the post-Leaving Cert summer adventures.
For the majority, it is an overwhelmingly positive experience that many would describe as the best week of their lives. It can also be a great chance for those who are going their separate ways after secondary school to have a week of unadulterated joy and memories to reminisce on for years to come. Yes, there will be other holidays and other summers, but it is unfair to say that other getaways will be as uniquely care-free as the post-Leaving Cert summer adventures.
The end of the usual Leaving Cert summer is marked by the beginning of college and the experience of Fresher’s Week. This entails the packing of bags and moving into cramped bedrooms, which are later decorated with an excessive number of photographs in an attempt to make it feel like home. Despite the cultural effects of Covid-19, much will remain the same for incoming freshers and the sense of feeling slightly alone in the first few weeks will also linger. Be that as it may, one major change will be the lack of nightclubs, which will be sorely missed as the first week in Trinity is organized chaos. Naturally, nightclubs play a major role in solidifying friendships. Buses from Halls bring varying levels of intoxicated eighteen and nineteen-year-olds to the Button Factory, Opium, and Dtwo, amongst others. Pre-drinks and going clubbing are typically necessary and exciting ways for students to meet new people. The process is known to bring everyone out of their comfort zones and into an enjoyable environment.
The buzz of the college in its opening week and the hustle of clubs and societies trying to entice unsuspecting Freshers with talk of free pizza and trips abroad will be sorely missed.
But the changes to Freshers’ Week know no bounds. Another change will be the lack of a Freshers’ Fair in Front Square. The buzz of the college in its opening week and the hustle of clubs and societies trying to entice unsuspecting Freshers with talk of free pizza and trips abroad will be sorely missed. Though events will be moved online, and those who wish to engage in the variety of clubs and societies will still be afforded the opportunity, the atmosphere associated with the promise of something completely new will be lost.
This year will be different, but you can rest assured knowing that the JCR and the Ents committee will come up with some equally cringey, but inclusive, plans to get incoming Freshers to mingle. College is about inclusivity, having the time of your life, and snagging a degree. This will remain the same post-Covid, with or without the added bonus of Dublin nightlife. There’s more to college than overpriced shots of tequila and waking up brutally hungover, only to force yourself to an introduction to economics with approximately 10,000 other BESS students, but it will be missed all the same. Memories will still be made and friendships will be forged as every fresher enjoys their newfound freedom and begins to navigate their own unique path through Trinity.