Man vs. Campus
With no money, no food and no place to stay, I managed to live on the campus of Trinity College for five days, relying only on my wits and natural survival skills to make it through this week-long stay in one of the most hostile and dangerous terrains known to a young BESS student. Here is the diary I kept for the week.
Today was my first day of the Man vs. Campus challenge. Feeling understandably apprehensive, I walked into College this morning with no money, no food and no idea of what the day would bring – except pancakes. An Cumann Gaelach, the Irish language society, had organised a pancake morning in Seomra na Gaeilge, the Irish Language room, and this was an event I could not afford to miss if I intended on eating breakfast. It turns out that I had to exert a considerable amount of physical energy in climbing up the several flights of stairs behind the Buttery to actually get to Seomra na Gaeilge, but the trek was worth the effort when I sunk my teeth into the delicious sweet crêpes and Nutella-covered waffles supplied by the society. Although I was busy satisfying my stomach, I could not afford to let my guard down. Indeed, I had to rely on my knowledge of the Irish language to pointedly avoid raising the suspicion of the Gaeilgeoirs present at this event.
At about 2pm, it was time for lunch . I made my way over to the Campanile to meet with the Indian Society who were organising a cookery demonstration. Members of the society present seemed both accommodating and welcoming, which was a relief to my hungry self. Indeed, the tandoori chicken we got to sample at the demonstration was absolutely divine. At the end of the event, the member of Indian Soc who organised the event was even kind enough to allow me eat the leftover rice from the demonstration. With a happy belly, I now felt ready to face the rest of the day.
“Although I was busy satisfying my stomach, I could not afford to let my guard down”
For my supper, I made the perilous journey to Seomra na Gaeilge yet again, helping myself to some leftover pancakes from the morning’s breakfast. Fortunately, there were still lots in the fridge. I was also able to avail of the free tea and biscuits in the society’s room. Though I was eating much the same thing I had for breakfast, I was honestly just glad to get something to eat before night fell.
Darkness was soon approaching. It was important to find some form of shelter so I could sleep, and so I made my way over to the 24-hour library. I knew I risked being caught napping by potentially inhospitable librarians, but at least I would be safe from the cold winds outside. I climbed to the top floor of the library, where I was met by only a small handful of students. Patiently, I waited for the last of them to leave, and at about 2am, I finally felt ready to go to sleep. I lay down on a row of chairs, wrapping myself in my coat and blanket to stay warm. After quite a while, I drifted off to sleep.
I had a rather rude awakening at about 5am this morning as a middle-aged man entered the library with a vacuum cleaner. As soon as I heard the turbulent, blood-curdling cry of the hoover, I immediately sat up in my chair, turned on my laptop, pretending to study so as to not arouse his suspicions. My heart was pounding in my chest from the sheer anxiety spurred on by the incident. At about 6.30am, the man with the vacuum cleaner finally left and a sense of relief washed over me. Putting my head down on the desk, I snoozed for another hour. When I awoke, I had an excruciating ache in my back – the result of sleeping on the chairs during the night.
At 8.30am I walked over to the Chaplaincy in House 27 looking for some breakfast. I discovered a room with a box of porridge oats, a microwave, bowls and a fridge stocked with milk, giving me all the tools necessary to make a bowl of porridge for myself. While chatting to one of the chaplains during breakfast, I discovered that the Chaplaincy was quite a hospitable and welcoming refuge on campus. I returned to the Chaplaincy again for lunch, which was some free soup and cheese sandwiches.
“As soon as I heard the turbulent, blood-curdling cry of the hoover, I immediately sat up in my chair, turned on my laptop, pretending to study so as to not arouse his suspicions.”
In order to avoid being ostracised by anyone campus, I knew I would need to maintain a basic level of personal hygiene, and so embarked on the long expedition through the Hamilton to the Sports Centre so I could use the showers there. This proved to be a more challenging task than I expected. While using the dressing rooms for the swimming pool, I found it very difficult to locate the showers. I thought that I would end up having to use the cold showers provided for the users of the sauna and steam room, where my naked body would be on full display for all in the pool to see. Fortunately, I did not have to resort to this. Much to my relief, I eventually discovered the correct showers after fifteen minutes of frantic searching.
That evening, I made my over to the Global Room in the Hamilton for a lecture on Afrofuturism organised by the Afro-Caribbean Society. I did not understand any aspect of the talk whatsoever, but having very little sleep the night before probably didn’t help in this regard. I was glad, however, to find that complimentary pizza was provided after the lecture. I’m sorry to say that the free pizza was the only part of the event I took an active part in.
When I returned to the 24-hour library at 11pm, I was lucky to find that there wasn’t any else there, so I could go straight to sleep. My back still sore from the night before, I decided that it was better to sleep on the floor instead of the chairs. I crawled under the desk, put my blanket over me and fell fast asleep.
I awoke once again this morning at about 5am to the sound of the vacuum-cleaner. Better prepared this time, I sat up on my chair and pretended to study until I was left alone again. I fell back asleep and woke up at about 8am, and returned to the chaplaincy for some more porridge.
At about 10.30am, I arrived at the Buttery for An Chéadaoin @ an Bhutrach, for free tea and biscuits organised by Oifig na Gaeilge, the Irish Language Office. Afterwards I went to the Eliz Room in House 6 for Coffee and Croissants organised by the French Society. To my absolute horror, all the croissants were gone! I could nearly feel the tears emerging from my eyes in light of this traumatic experience. At this point, I realised that campus was starting to play tricks on me and that I would have to remain mentally strong if I was to survive until Friday.
“To my absolute horror, all the croissants were gone!”
In the afternoon, I exhibited a feat of extraordinary physical agility yet again by climbing the vast number of stairs to get to Seomra na Gaeilge for some free broccoli soup. I was also able to avail of some tea and biscuits while I was there, with a few words of Irish allowing me to blend in with the Gaeilgeoirs present. After my lunch, I made the trek to the Sports centre for another shower to maintain a basic level of hygiene.
It was that evening that I experienced the most horrifically difficult challenge so far in the week; I couldn’t find anything to eat for my dinner. As I wandered around campus all evening with a grumbling stomach, it was at this moment in time that the campus began to feel like an open-air prison. When I returned to the library, I found it very difficult to get to sleep as I longed for a little bit of food.
As per usual, the vacuum-cleaning human arrived at about 5.00am this morning. Having observed him for the past two mornings, I concluded that the subject in question was not particularly hostile or life threatening. Indeed, this morning I particularly appreciated one of the benefits of sleeping in the library; I got up at about 8.50am and was still five minutes early for my politics tutorial at 9am, a most remarkable feat. After my tutorial, I visited the Chaplaincy again for my much-needed porridge.
At about 12am, I decided to begin my hunt for some dinner. I strolled over to the Eliz Room in House 6 where the Food and Drink Society were organising a sushi-making workshop. They showed me how to make sushi with the ingredients provided they provided, and there was lots of left-over rice that I was able to eat to, one of the best aspects of the workshop.
“The cheese was actually pretty good and the wine wasn’t bad either. In fact, it was the only society event I’ve ever attended where that could be said of the wine.”
At 5.00pm I returned to the Eliz rooms where the French Society had organised a Wine and Cheese evening. The cheese was actually pretty good and the wine wasn’t bad either. In fact, it was the only society event I’ve ever attended where that could be said of the wine. After this, I paid a visit to the GMB where I helped myself to some of the snacks provided for the Phil debate that evening.
Nighttime came quickly, and so I headed back to the library for what was to be my final night on campus. For the last time, I wrapped myself up underneath one of the library desks, and fell fast asleep.
I awoke to the sound of my friend with the hoover at about 5.00am for the last time. However, as he was leaving at the usual time of 6.30am, an inhospitable, inconsiderate young student entered the library to do some study of all things. Every single one of the desks on the floor were free, but of course, being the empathic gentleman that he was was, he insisted on sitting in desk opposite me, where he could clearly see I was trying to get some rest, my blanket still wrapped around me. Not only did this particular student not care about disturbing me, he seemed to go out of his way to do so. I was nearly blinded as he turned on the light at the desk, and then he proceeded to tap his pen against his laptop for the duration of the morning. I did not have a very good start to my day.
At about 9am I headed over to the Chaplaincy for my final saving bowl of porridge. Later I attended the Bricfeasta Mór Gaelach in Seomra na Gaeilge for a lovely satisfying full-Irish breakfast that partially made up for my abysmal morning.
“Not only did this particular student not care about disturbing me, he seemed to go out of his way to do so. I was nearly blinded as he turned on the light at the desk, and then he proceeded to tap his pen against his laptop for the duration of the morning.”
At 1.00pm I finished my final lecture of the week. I was now a free man! I gleefully rushed straight back to my apartment in Trinity Halls where I went for a deep and reinvigorating nap in a proper bed for the first time in a week. had actually grown used to sleeping on the floor, but felt exceptionally grateful to be afforded the luxury of sleeping in my own bed.
On reflection, I didn’t find the experience of the Man vs. Campus challenge as to be bad as I initially thought it would be. The first few days were exhausting because it was hard to sleep on the floor in the library, but I soon adapted and became used to it. Apart from having no dinner on Wednesday, I really cannot complain about my diet for the week when taking into account that everything I ate was free and supplied by societies. Though I certainly faced a few challenges during the week, I will always derive a deep sense of satisfaction from being the man who took on the campus of Trinity College Dublin, and emerged victorious.
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