Advice from a senior freshman to incoming first years

Lara Monahan gives guidance to students new to Trinity

Even in the best of times, making the transition from secondary school to college is a daunting enough experience without the added stress that some students have of moving to a new city, or even country, and being away from family for the first time. Like nearly everything, the pandemic has only exacerbated the difficult elements of this change. However, with a year of Zoom meetings and limited social contact behind us, current second year students have lived and learned, and have some advice to give the incoming freshers.

Dublin is not renowned for its affordability. Meal planning is one of the more effective ways to keep within your budget and make sure you are eating properly. Using supermarket apps  particularly Lidl Plus  can help to save some cash. Moreover, making meal times sociable can also be a way of sharing the financial burden that is enjoyable; every now and again cooking and eating together, either with housemates or some new friends, is a really low pressure way to socialise and save some cash. Sharing food staples is also a winner  nobody walking the face of the earth needs as much salt as a first year flat, so why not buy it together and save? On the topic of sharing, DiFontaine’s Pizzeria on Temple Bar does a 20 inch pizza which serves between five to six people depending on how hungry you are, with prices starting at 24 euro and individual slices for just 4 euro. It is really filling, delicious and, crucially, does not break the bank.

“It is an absolute necessity to invest in a Leap Card when it comes to public transport in Dublin.”

Bike subscription services, such as Dublin Bikes, are a cost-effective way to get around while also being environmentally friendly and good for exercising. Driving in the city as a student is notoriously difficult and expensive due to parking, but more accessible options include Dublin Bus, the LUAS, or the Dart for those living further afield. Therefore, it is an absolute necessity to invest in a Leap Card when it comes to public transport in Dublin. At any Luas stop you can top up your card and use it at a discounted student rate while riding the tram. It also enables you to purchase a student weekly or monthly ticket, which saves a lot of money in comparison to a normal ticket. Your Leap Card can be easily purchased online through their website. Another bonus is that you get discounts in a selection of high street shops, such as McDonalds!

While a Leap Card is any student’s best friend, sometimes it can feel like your only one. First year is a great time to branch out and meet new people. Particularly with there still being uncertainty over the delivery of teaching this year, making group chats with a smaller number of people in each, such as for tutorial groups, can be a really fun and low pressure way to get to know different people and to figure out the course material together. Being the one to make the group chat can feel daunting, but remember that everyone is just as nervous as each other. I promise being inclusive and reaching out to others is very well-received. As Senior Fresh psychology student Kate Schnoebelen put it: “People are just as desperate for social interaction and friendship as you are, so don’t hesitate to just randomly DM people whether they’re from your course, year, or if you have anything in common… you’d be surprised at how happy people are when you reach out”. 

Clubs and societies are also vital to the college experience; this year they encouraged socialising and networking through weekly emails and online events. If socials are held online, these events have the potential to feel forced, but they are not to be dismissed offhand. Often, it actually creates an environment to connect with other like-minded students. As a third year history student explained: “the group of friends that I’ve found through sport have made my college experience, and throughout the pandemic gave me something to look forward to when I could get back on campus and play”. However, it is really important to prioritise your well-being. Don’t feel guilty for feeling too drained from society events and make sure to have some time to yourself. College often feels full on, online or not, so resting is really key.

There is so much to do around Dublin, and in first year it is a good idea to explore the city and all it has to offer; the heart-stopping and scream-inducing cold of the Irish sea is a surprisingly helpful antidote to homesickness. This rite of passage can be found half-an-hour away from the Dart station on Tara Street, at the Vico Baths, the Forty Foot, or for a more sandy spot, Burrow Beach. Howth also makes for a lovely beach day out, perhaps for some bonding with new pals. Accounts on social media that are geared towards tourists, like @lovindublin on Instagram, often have good suggestions for things to do, be it taking a long walk in the Wicklow mountains or  more realistically  a short one through St. Stephen’s Green. With the weather here consisting mostly of all four seasons over the course of one day, taking an umbrella with you everywhere you go is a good idea. But, really, the hallmark of anyone living in Dublin is the unfortunate lack of an umbrella in a downpour, so wear your dripping hair and streaked mascara as a badge of honour if, or rather when, this happens to you.

Getting your student card and navigating your way around campus as early as possible will both make you feel more comfortable and prepare you for when you will eventually use the library for more than just being the main character. This year it has been a necessity to have your student card to gain access to the building, so it’s important to have it on you at all times. Loading money onto your student ID is also a missed trick in Michaelmas term for a lot of freshers; the Buttery gives a discount for those using their student card on top of already being a bargain.

“First year is for growth and enjoyment, so squeeze every good moment out of it, and know that the ups and downs of first year are paths well-trodden.”

No one comes to college for the first time completely prepared. When dealing with more complex college issues than not owning a tin opener, remember that you are not alone in feeling lonely at this big change in your life. Seeking out help is very necessary; the student counselling service is there to be used, and can help monumentally with the difficulty of this transition to adulthood and the feelings of disillusionment it can bring. Talking to other students, both peers and those further into their Trinity education, helps too. Most, if not all, students will struggle with at least one aspect of college life in their time here. Confiding in someone who has either gone through or is going through the same things can be really reassuring. Above all, first year is for growth and enjoyment, so squeeze every good moment out of it, and know that the ups and downs of first year are paths well-trodden. Add your own footprint with as much enthusiasm as you can.