Final year students’ bittersweet farewells to Trinity

Two soon-to-be graduates reflect on the highs, lows, and unpredictable end to their time in college

This year’s Senior Sophisters have ended their time in Trinity abruptly. Thursday the 12th of March is a date that few in Trinity, especially its final years, will forget in a hurry. At 11am, Leo Varadkar announced from his state visit in Washington DC that all schools and colleges would close from 6pm that evening. Students were left with a frenzied day of trying to make arrangements before college closed indefinitely: clearing out lockers, checking out mountains of library books, and saying uncertain goodbyes. Some on-campus residents also decided that evening that they would leave their accommodation and return home. For thousands of final year students, their journey in Trinity was suddenly over. Tears were shed as students finally left campus, laiden with bags. As security stood watch, one thing was clear: there would be no re-admittance onto campus for the foreseeable future. Many final year students even submitted their dissertations in the week that everything shut down. Annual class photos were cancelled and it became obvious that the bonding experiences of the final weeks in college would be lost for many final years.

As significant as this is, it makes up just a segment of four years in Trinity. Trinity News spoke to two final year students and asked them to discuss their experience in Trinity and offer advice to their past selves and incoming first years.

Roisín Quirke is a Senior Sophister Student in Science. Asked what she might say if she could turn back the clock and speak to herself on her first day starting in Trinity, she says: “I know this place seems super daunting and scary, but do not be intimidated!” She stresses: “I guarantee you most people you will meet here will be the nicest friendliest people around, and you’re gonna make some great friends. So don’t be shy, just be yourself, not one single person here is going to judge you, even though it might feel like it right now. Just relax, have fun, go to your lectures, and for god’s sake lose the super dry jacket.” Discussing the highlight of her time, Quirke lingers over the “community spirit” in Trinity. “There’s something so comforting about this place, it just feels like home. I feel like I really grew up here, and I have made so many amazing friends and met the most insane people.”

“There’s something so comforting about this place, it just feels like home. I feel like I really grew up here, and I have made so many amazing friends and met the most insane people.”

Offering advice to incoming first years, Quirke says: “I only really started to ask questions and give my opinion in class when I was in third year and it honestly made my life so much easier.” She emphasises that it is quite a different experience to school, with speaking up a lecture of 300 people is undoubtedly intimidating at first. However, Quirke adds a line of reassurance: “If you’re completely wrong, who cares!”

Of course, college life, as glamorous as it can look, is not always smooth sailing. Just like all parts of life, whatever you end up doing, college has its bad moments. Quirke says: “You are currently looking at the undisputed queen of repeats right here. I found general science really difficult, especially transitioning from a tiny Leaving Cert class in a Meanscoil to being crammed into Goldsmith with 300 first years. I failed exams again and again, and even ended up repeating second year off books.” However, Quirke’s experiences certainly ought to offer incoming students reassurance. She remarks: “What really got me through was my friends, who kept pushing me to get through it; my tutor and the SU both who were so helpful especially with going off books; and of course, freepeats. I would simply not be writing this today if it wasn’t for freepeats.”

The abrupt end to final year due to coronavirus has, as for so many, caused Quirke stress: “I’ve had a few breakdowns over the last few weeks. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster.” She focuses on her final moment in Trinity before it was shut down, admitting that she “did have a little cry walking through Front Square for the last time as an undergrad.” This poignant moment will undoubtedly strike a chord with many from the class of 2020. Quirke asserts that she is angry about her time in Trinity being cut short, “especially these last few weeks which are always the best of the year. No more cans at the Pav, no sitting in the sun between lectures and no Trinity Ball.” However, she concludes: “I can only be grateful for the amazing times I’ve had over the last five years, and honestly I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”

“Those couple of minutes of nerves might lead to a whole academic year of positive experiences.”

Geena Godley, a final year student of German and English TSM, told Trinity News that if she could tell her first-year self something, it would be: “this will be different, but in a good way,” and remarks that Freshers’ Week is unpredictable – some people you meet may become lifelong friends, whilst others you might never see again. Yet, she emphasises that this unpredictability is beautiful, “all you can do is go with the flow to find where you fit. And you will fit, I promise!”

She lived in Austria during her degree, working as an English language assistant in two schools. She says: “It will probably always be one of the best years of my life. Such cliché things as building incredible friendships, falling in love, and experiencing independence, a sense of purpose, joy… it can happen to you too!”

Godley also talks about the importance of societies during her time in Trinity. She says: “I joined Germanic Society in second year purely because my friends were in it and talked about it all the time and I felt like I was missing out.” She continues, “in a wild turn of events, I fell in love with it and ended up becoming someone who talks about Germanic Soc all the time!” She admits that running at an AGM can be scary or intimidating but stresses how rewarding it can be: “Those couple of minutes of nerves might lead to a whole academic year of positive experiences.”

“You are not weak or damaged or broken or useless or whatever you think you are, you simply need some support. That is the most okay thing in the world.”

Godley, similarly to Quirke, emphasises that college is far from easy. “You’re suddenly responsible for your own schedule, budget, grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, transport, study, homework, sleep, cleaning, cooking, socialising, going out enough, not drinking too much, deadlines, maybe society work or volunteering or a job or all of the above. I have had plenty of college days where I just simply could not get out of bed and face it all.”

Like Quirke, Godley stresses that it is normal to struggle with your course. She adores German in Trinity: “The people, the modules, the little community of it has been incredible… despite being a slightly chaotic Department, organisationally, German is my home in Trinity.”

In contrast, she struggled with English but emphasises that this was her personal experience and does not want to discourage people from studying English. She says, “for me, English was too much. There are so many people in your year that it’s harder to make friends. There are so many books to read every week that you always feel behind.” Godley offers encouragement: “if you are passionate about English then all of these issues will dissipate, you will find your people in it and you will love it.” She concludes, “if you think it will make you happy, then do it! You’ll always find a way. Trinity is great – you are smart enough, you will make friends, you can do it!”

Comhall Fanning

Comhall Fanning is a Deputy Features Editor for Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister German and Sociology student.