An outside perspective on the Trinity lifestyle

Aising Lynch chats with three American study-abroad students to get an outside view of Trinity culture

Although college cultures vary all over the world, I always thought that there was a shared, international university experience. We all drink too much. We all dress weirdly. We all excuse ourselves from lectures because we are hungover. However, it turns out that this is not always the case. Katherine from Immaculata College, Juliet from Carnegie Mellon University, and Diana from Stonehill College are at Trinity for their study-abroad year. Within minutes of conversation, they changed my entire view on this assumed, shared university experience.

For these American students, the first and most obvious difference was the way that we dress at Trinity. They were gobsmacked by the effort that students put into what they wear on a daily basis. They were amazed, not just by the effort that we put into our clothing choices, but by the diversity in Trinity fashion. The range of clothing colours and styles of dress impressed them. Since, through my eyes, the arts block fashion seems to be titled homeless chic, I was taken aback by this perspective. Worn-out docs, oversized trousers and layered tops with holes in them is, to me, the ultimate arts block trend. When someone decides to put in extra effort by wearing a colourful beanie, I always appreciate it. The exchange students said that nearly every student in Immaculata College, Carnegie Mellon, and Stonehill College seems to be content in a hoodie, leggings and, to use the American term, “sneakers.” The three women describe this ensemble as athletic clothing. Apparently, in other colleges, smoking rollies is not the ultimate sport.

I did not simply discover that we Trinity students have superior fashion sense to American students; evidently, we are nicer, too. American college campuses, each woman comments, are “closed off.” According to Juliet, we smile a lot at Trinity, and we like to chat. Some of us, honestly, would probably talk to a brick wall just to have a conversation. The study-abroad women also mentioned that it was much easier to talk to people they had never met here. Considering that they didn’t know anyone here when they arrived, this is quite a good thing.

“In America, students and professors are so friendly that it is common for professors to go to sports matches and cheer on their students”

Katherine told me that she was really surprised by the large size of Trinity classes. She said that her lectures were much smaller at Immaculata College. Even though this means more time to talk to the professors, Katherine insists that it’s a great situation. In fact, in America, students and professors are so friendly that it is common for professors to go to sports matches and cheer on their students. If a professor arrived at one of our sports games, students would probably assume the worst; surely they had done something very wrong, and their professor was going out of the way to share the bad news.  

I asked the three Americans about the nightclub scene in the United States, expecting that it would be the same as it is here. I hoped that, maybe, the stereotype of the Irish as alcoholics was just a myth, constructed by people who want to put us down. Unfortunately, when looked at comparatively, it all seems true. Katherine explains that, despite being in college and pursuing active social lives, American students usually limit drinking to Friday and Saturday evenings. Even on these nights, Katherine comments that it’s normal for the drinking to stop after pre’s. In contrast, Trinity students often get smashed at pre’s and continue their consumption of alcohol throughout the revelries of the night. This was a culture shock for Katherine, who was taken aback at how frequently we drink. Not only are we comfortable going for drinks any day of the week, but, as she said, we seem to drink at all hours. We don’t let a clock or calendar get in the way of a good pint. 

“It’s as if VDP, The Phil and rowing were replaced by free accommodation in houses with your best friends. It makes an Irish student wonder who got the short end of that stick.”

Diana explained that Americans do drink a lot. However, it feels different, because it’s often within the safe walls of the sorority houses. The Americans agreed that sororities and fraternities are, in fact, just like they are in the movies. The girls have to be blonde, thin, and beautiful, and the boys have to be, well, boys. Instead of having a social life steeped in society events, American students have Greek life back home. It’s as if VDP, The Phil and rowing were replaced by free accommodation in houses with your best friends. It makes an Irish student wonder who got the short end of that stick.

For Juliet, the ultimate and defining experience of her Trinity life was nothing other than the lack of black beans in Dublin. She was devastated by the absence of this vegetable in our supermarkets, describing it as a staple of the American diet, yet acknowledged that at least Irish vegetables aren’t pumped with chemicals. I tried to defend Dublin’s shops, saying that our supermarkets may have dropped the ball, but you can always count on a burrito restaurant to serve black and brown beans. Despite my enthusiasm, she did not seem convinced.

Although Diana, Katherine and Juliet admitted that there are definite differences between their home universities and Trinity, they fully agreed that they love both college experiences. Their professors may be friendlier here, their accommodation may be cheaper in the States, and students may be dressed more comfortably back home, but there’s really no way of knowing whose college is better, in the end.