Moving to Trinity: first impressions from a UCD graduate

The road to Trinity is paved with notions.


I had heard tell of a place of sustenance. Word in the post‐graduation wasteland was that one could be shielded and find safety from the outside world behind high, thick, respectable city centre masonry. Its location could not be called the “inner city”, as to do so would convey impoverishment.

As I am nearing the quarter‐century mark, a well‐meaning, far‐flung relative asked did I have a husband and children of my own. I needed shelter. Maybe I was ok with – no, was in need of – an identity change. Principles seemed of little importance when I needed nourishing. When I craved something more.

I say this as if I can identify what my “UCD principles” are. Though as I’m third‐generation UCD, raised on tales of Earlsfort Terrace in the 40s, Not Going to Trinity is definitely one.

The myth trotted out at Colours Debates, in Freshers’ Week publications, Open Days and University promotional material is that entrance into Trinity is something special, that Trinity is a point of unification for cultural and intellectual nobility. Yet with a UCD 2.1 and a rake of money I was let in and welcomed. Myth disposed of? Well, you still see “Trinity College, Dublin” as someone’s sole descriptor in a Tinder profile (while lone references to UCD are a rarity).

Orientation day arrived. There were no vats of soup. A hearty and enthusiastic welcome was doled out instead. I had conned myself into not anticipating significant differences from my UCD home/hinterland. This was run of the mill. You go to lectures, go to the library, do your job. I thought it would be the same. I denied the differences that would come into contact with me and I could go about my own business. But Trinity demands conversion. And herein we find the essence of the College – notions.

Things can’t be straightforward or called what they actually are. Everyone is in on this. We’ve got to pretend that buildings are houses. Houses with numbers. Numbers not visible from the outside. Theatres are named in remembrance of people you oughtn’t to admit to not knowing, certainly not out loud or in a college publication. Numbers seemingly are too common or accessible. Either way Trinity has something against them. Each year has a title, which becomes an acronym, which becomes the norm, which needs decoding because quite frankly I don’t know when it stopped being dodgy to have a large group called the “SS”. If this were UCD I could share a knowing glance, roll eyes and say “Notions” to anyone in the vicinity. The same goes for semesters, or rather, terms. You try your best, you learn the nomenclature off. This results in the creation of a Christmas‐sounding celebration of all the world’s Michaels and your peers mentally filing you in the “Dope” category of their social interaction filofax. Like I was saying, at Trinity things can’t be straightforward.

Trinity love their tradition and want students to join in with the veneration. My email came complete with an inbox invitation for a World War I “Hall of Honour Memorial Stone Unveiling”. Emails are a key component of the indoctrination apparatus. Estates & Facilities emails serve as a reminder that the beauty and history of campus is not enough. We have to hear about tree pruning and building cleaning. Trinity is precious; needs care. It doesn’t have grounds or fields. It has estates, in the plural. We are nobility, graced by conjured surrounds. We get email invitations from the Embassy of Mexico. Evidently there’s less greenery than UCD, but nobody cares when you have estates. Grass is greener, nay, more verdant, in estates.

Tradition has its catches. You cannot get proof of attendance online. You must queue up for an unattractive student card photo rather than uploading a coiffured, thinly veiled night out photo. It’s best to not know if you’re really registered to modules or when they will appear in Blackboard according to the registration system. Trinity breaths new air into playing it cool and hard to get where UCD laid it all online. You can’t navigate without realising this is the Trinity way. Embrace it, or spend the year frustrated and fighting. This is the system; join it to get by. Anyway, you have no choice.

The students love it. A classmate set up a Facebook group in preparation for the year ahead. This served as another opportunity for self‐growth and realisations. Enthusiasm is not for me. Classmates want to do social media introductions, proclaim their excitement, let us know their special interest areas, feed the deer in the Phoenix Park and describe themselves as “dynamic”. In UCD we turn to each other in a lecture, say “Well”, and a fast friendship is born.

The tourists love it too. Deep into September and the walkways are still clogged by visitors gifted with the vision of endless photographic opportunities. And I honestly thought the move was just back one letter in the alphabet; trading U for a T, holding on tight to the CD.

There is a newspaper that thinks readers may care to look at my opinions. There is a yoga society with cut‐price, on‐site classes and some sort of involvement with Lush. There is a person somewhere in the administrative maelstrom of officialdom who thought postgrads ought to “find a comfortable on‐campus napping spot” as part of their orientation duties, to such an extent that it has a place on the official TCD postgraduate orientation checklist, next to the emergency campus numbers. Trinity, I think we’re going to be inseparable. That is until I track down that nap-approving‐official/soulmate and we launch our crusade to make public midday napping acceptable. Watch this space.