Fresher’s take two

Dropping out of college can be difficult, but sometimes it may be worth it to do a course that you love

In September 2016 I was amongst the ranks of Fresher’s flocking into Front Square. As I darted dizzily from one society to the next, waving an excited hello to people I recognised, stopping in awe on several occasions to admire the campus – any homesickness or initial doubt was dispelled and replaced by reassurance that I had made the right choice.

I was a BESS student, albeit a slightly reluctant one. The arts had always stretched out their arms to me yet I waved them away, leaning towards business in pursuit of “security”, “a good job”, “you can always go back and do something you like later”. Caught up in a flurry of social events and introductory lectures, it took a few weeks before I turned my attention to address the unease scraping away inside me. It didn’t take much analysis to conclude that I hated my course and longed every day to join the English and History students poring over texts in the library. Pushing away notions of prestige or “financially stable” degree options, I scrambled for a place on the course transfer wagon and spent an eternal three week window convinced that soon I would seamlessly transition out of BESS. When rejection eventually came it was cold and unvarnished- something about the course being fully subscribed. The fears that dogged me throughout sixth year swooped in to become a tauntingly harsh reality: I had made the wrong choice. And, not only that, but I had done so in spectacular fashion.

To quote Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. That line rang truer for me last December than anything I’d read before. And it was with those words in mind that I made the decision to leave Trinity. As the student who had always done well in school, with the Leaving Cert being the pinnacle of my academic achievements, no one could have predicted that I would be heading for home after a mere ten weeks, labelled a drop-out. However I found myself reverting to the wisdom of Aristotle, quickly realising that my semi-gap year could provide an education that might not fit the academic mould but which would still allow me to grow in a multitude of ways. Through work, travel, reading, writing and volunteering, I stopped feeling like the person who had failed at college and instead gained an immense appreciation for how this whole saga played out.

My “gap year”, however, was not without its downsides. There were nights I sat home alone when friends were out clubbing or endured long work shifts whilst wishing I was in lectures rather than counting change at a till. Frequently I felt displaced and detached from my peers, the typical question at parties “So what do you study?” met by admiration from some and awkward laughter from others. May was the hardest month, seeing almost everyone I knew absorbed in exams, acknowledging that they would soon all be Second Years whilst I had yet to even begin First Year round two.

And now, in less than a few weeks, I shall stream through Front Arch again as a twenty year old Fresher. Unlike the scepticism which tinged every experience last year, I am enamoured with the idea of finally following my intuition and pursuing a degree in two subjects I adore. When I received my second CAO offer this August, seeing the chance to study a degree I had always thought was elusive stirred up an intense excitement for my Future — the sort I’ve not experienced since childhood. Despite this enthusiasm, pinpricks of worry do give a sly stab in the chest every now and again. I’ve spent millions of existential moments over the past nine months wondering what will happen if I don’t like this course; will I become a permanent dropout? To paraphrase Ashlee Simpson, who’s gonna catch me when I fall? An innate fear of failure lingers over everything and, as hard as I try to shake it, a stubborn little part of me still worries about the possibility of dropping out again.

In my time away from academia however, the greatest lesson I’ve learnt is the subjectivity of failure. By choosing to leave college last year I came to realise the importance of “following the dream”, of allowing perceived failure into life, without internal guilt, and of bounding after what your heart desires rather than trailing half-heartedly behind the crowd. I can speak only from personal experience rather than offering nuggets of esteemed wisdom or advice. However, to any fellow Freshers reading this, I urge you to be unafraid in ruthlessly seeking out happiness never settle, always strive. Educate your mind but remember to simultaneously seek out whatever it is that most uplifts your heart and soul.