The first few weeks of the college term is a time for the societies of Trinity to pull out the stops when it comes to showing what they have to offer. On Freshers’ Week, Front Square is taken over by stands and stalls, with promises of goody-bags, student discounts, and maybe even some doughnuts. For newly arrived students, this is an opportunity to find their people, and this is not an opportunity that expires as your time in college passes.
Trinity’s wealth of societies and clubs offer a chance to find a new passion, to create strong and meaningful friendships, and to become more engaged with the college community. They are spaces for personal growth, and can thoroughly enrich your college experience. They also offer us a chance to maintain a hobby that may fall outside the limitations of our chosen courses of study.
The main problem is that we are spoilt for choice. Walking into Front Square during Freshers’ Week can seem a little overwhelming; with countless societies vying for your attention, who do you pick? Realistically, we all join about forty, but surprisingly your well-meaning ambition to take up juggling, dance, and Ai Ki Do simultaneously may not work out for you, but by all means, dare to dream. By the end of Michaelmas term, your Freshers’ Week picks have been whittled down to the societies that fit you, and by then you’ve thrown away the dancing shoes or karate kit that your mum sent €40 to buy.
The intensity of the academic side of College life can sometimes be overwhelming. The trek from class to the library to bed can become a bit monotonous, so the social side of College is absolutely invaluable. University life is not just about academic growth; personal growth is also an important facet. Meeting people from different backgrounds and places is a strengthening experience, and teaches you a lot about yourself. Society life is an excellent way to achieve this. Some of the larger societies are more demanding, though an equally fulfilling part of College life. Jack Kennedy, a former committee member of The Hist, said that his experience was ‘’the kind of thing that’s unique to a large society’’ in that it has defined his time in College. He continued: “Pretty much all my college friends are in The Hist”’.
The larger societies can sometimes act as a separate little universe within College life, a space which can flavour the entirety of your college experience, and offer countless opportunities. However, it is not totally necessary to join one of the largest societies to have an engaging social life in College; all the societies and clubs offer this chance. Aisling Clark, of VisArts, remarked on the common ground of a shared passion as an important part of meeting new people, and the excitement of going on to share incredible experiences with these people. ‘’I’ve made fantastic friends who, I not only share a common interest of art with but, really gel with as people,’’ she noted. ‘‘A few us made art installations for Trinity Ball, which was hugely exciting.’’
Though our main aim is to leave college proficient in our chosen course of study, this doesn’t mean that we should rule out learning new skills and embracing new opportunities outside of our course. Societies offer a fantastic avenue to try new things in a supportive and encouraging environment. In many instances, the skills learned from getting involved with a society are hugely beneficial and help us later on as we enter the working world. John James O’Reilly, of FemSoc remarked on how his time in the society helped to spark his involvement in student activism. ‘‘I really appreciate how FemSoc has given me a way to get involved in activism on campus for a range of causes over the years. Societies like ours can put you in touch with like-minded students who are active in organising for issues like the repeal campaign or the movement against direct provision.’’
He added how the society offered him an opportunity to work on organisational and interpersonal skills too. ‘’Personally what has been most rewarding about my time with FemSoc has been how it has helped me develop my confidence and social skills. As someone with Aspergers, I can see how over my time on the committee I have put myself in situations that would have terrified me in my first year of college. Running coffee hours and addressing groups of strangers, along with the responsibilities involved with helping to run events with the support of my wonderful peers have all contributed to a growth in my confidence that I would not have acquired otherwise.”
It’s often difficult to decide which societies to join and which just aren’t for you, and as the balancing act of college work and society life heats up, some will inevitably fall by the wayside. Dillon Rodgers, a ZooSoc member, offers some sage advice on the temptation to over-indulge ourselves when it comes to joining societies. “I know from experience that at Freshers’ Week, especially in first year, it’s really easy to sign up for loads of different societies, because it’s fairly cheap and they’re giving away loads of cool stuff, I’d recommend everyone to instead focus on finding one society you really like the sound of and committing to it (and then going and joining all the others anyway because they have a great goodie bag on offer).”
He went on to describe how he didn’t really get involved with society life until his second year, but this didn’t rule out him becoming an active member. “As someone who has had the experience of being lightly involved in a society in first year, and then going to nearly every event throughout second year, I can attest how much of a difference there is between just joining a society and actually getting involved. I’ve met people at Zoology events who I now consider friends, developed better relationships with people I’d already met in my course who I’ve seen at events, and also just got to see a tonne of cool things to do with something I’m really interested in.”