Far from Front Square: a Freshers Week abroad

Illustration by Jenny Corcoran

For the majority of returning students, Freshers’ Week is a week of stability. A week which brings with it the unbeatable feeling of walking into Front Square for perhaps the first time in months, bumping into freshly tanned friends and throwing yourself back into Dublin living.

However, we often forget about the people who walked out of Front Gate in May last year after their final exam, and won’t return until Michaelmas term next year. For Trinity students abroad, Freshers’ Week can bring mixed feelings about their lengthy stay in their host university.

Undeniably, we find a comfort in the life we create for ourselves in Trinity but we’ve talked to students who’ve been plucked out of this life and thrown in at the deep end to see how they’re feeling this Freshers’ Week.

Caitlin Pearson, University of Southern California

I am a Junior Sophister BESS student and am currently studying at University of Southern California (USC) for Michaelmas Term. I am lucky to be in Los Angeles where the average temperature is 27 degrees and my campus looks more like a resort than a college. Now entering my third week, it has been the beginning of an unbelievable experience.

Although there was no Freshers’ Week, there was still a good buzz about campus in the first week as Greek life was starting to take off.  One of the biggest differences between USC and Trinity is Greek life, which is a dominant force at this university for settling in. It provides an excellent opportunity for new students to meet lots of new people and join a sorority or fraternity where they immediately have a group of friends.

Despite not being able to walk through Front Gate and into Front Square every morning, the view of palm trees and fountains decorating USC’s campus is not something I am going to complain about. However, like Dublin, Los Angeles is also an amazing city and at every student’s fingertips.

We have access to major tourist attractions like Universal Studios, Disneyland Park, Hollywood Boulevard as well as beaches that are only 20 minutes away from campus. Having a change of pace and being able to have an experience like this is really a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel lucky to be here.

Joe Mangan, ESSEC Business School

I’m a Junior Sophister Business & French student on exchange near Paris. Taking an Erasmus year is a compulsory part of my course and given the option of four different French universities and business schools, I naively chose the one located in an urban town outside Paris.

Having been here for two weeks, my biggest realisation has been the extent to which I took both Trinity and Dublin for granted. While ESSEC, as a business school, is ranked much higher than Trinity, the experience so far has been in no way comparable.

The ‘campus’ is a maze of interconnected buildings housing classrooms and lecture theatres that are proving harder to find than the entrance to the roof of the Museum Building. Lectures are three hours in length but much smaller in size and the notion of ‘Christmas exams’ has already been thrown around more than I’m comfortable with. On the plus side, we got to pick our own ID card photograph.

Stepping outside the main door, you’re greeted by Cergy: a town built from scratch in the 1970’s that has been largely untouched since. Its 14 top attractions, as named by the website Tripadvisor, include three taxi companies and a two listings for the same swimming pool. There is also a man who cooks and sells corn-on-the-cob in a shopping trolley at the train station. It’s an interesting place to say the least.

Despite it’s shortcomings, the mere 40-minute train ride to central Paris is a redeeming aspect. As someone who had never been, I can truly say that is fast becoming one of my favourite places.

A complimentary boat tour on the Seine, organised by ESSEC’s International Student Society, followed by a night of drinking from wine bottles on Rue Princesse, gave a speck of hope for the year to come.

The idea of ‘Fresher’s Week’ is pretty much unheard of. The students’ union (or BDE) here, have so far held a barbeque and a club night, neither of which even remotely compare to a Trinity event.

All in all, it’s too soon to make a judgement on what kind of year lies ahead. But who can say? Maybe the sprawling, cosmopolitan ville of Cergy, and all its offerings, will capture my heart before the year is out.

Méabh Ní Mhuilleoir, Australian National University, Canberra

As I am on my Australian mid-term break, a slight fear of missing out kicks in when I see the Facebook events on my news feed for Trinity Freshers’ Week. It is particularly hard this year as, being third year, a lot of my friends are on Ents committees and I want nothing more than to support them!

I can’t complain though, of course. It was a lot of fun to experience how ANU do Freshers’ Week, or ‘O-Week’ as they call it here. It was in mid-July with very cold weather and with constant activities that you could never be bored, from 7am rooftop yoga to inter-hall pub trivia.

During the day there was free food at every turn and music all around campus. I did swallow my pride and attend all the international “ice-breakers”, but am very grateful for that as I met most of my closest friends there. Luckily, most students here live on-site in different colleges so everything was right on our doorstep.

There is such an amazing sense of community in each lodge. We all represented our colleges by casually playing and watching Australian sports, such as Australian Football, followed by barbeques in our lodge.

After this, every evening at the ANU bar there were bonfires and $10 jugs of beer from 5 – 7pm, which was a great way to meet other students before going to the local club every night. It’s safe to say that they do nightlife in the same way in Canberra as in Dublin, I felt right at home!

Although nothing compares to the Front Square buzz of Trinity, I have to say I am quite content touring Australia on my break in 25 degree heat. Harcourt Street can wait until fourth year!