Freshers hold breath as semester begins under tight restrictions

Lectures begin for new first years this week

As the start of their college years kick off online, Junior Freshers are approaching the semester with equal parts anticipation and apprehension.

Campus activity for Freshers’ Week and the first weeks of the semester has shifted almost entirely online following the government’s decision to place Dublin under Level 3 of its Covid-19 restrictions framework, and the Irish Universities Association (IUA) request for colleges to apply enhanced protective measures against the spread of Covid-19.

New students starting out in Trinity have raised concerns about meeting people in their course and experiencing the traditional atmosphere of college life while engaging in orientation activities remotely.

Speaking to Trinity News, Junior Fresh student Ellen Aylmer said that a key concern as is that it will be more difficult to form connections and make friends compared to a typical on-campus Freshers’ Week.

Aylmer, who studies Middle Eastern Jewish and Islamic Civilisations with French, said that “when Dublin announced the Level 3 lockdowns, I got really worried, because I knew the few events on campus would be moved online”.

“I’m really shy on Zoom, so I’m just not going to be able to make friends as easy as I would in real life. Realistically, I may not meet my classmates until after Christmas, and it’s heartbreaking for me,” Aylmer said.

“Making friends and joining societies was one of the things I was most looking forward to about college. I know it’s necessary for things to be online, but I still feel cheated.”

Teaching for courses in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) faculty has moved online.

Some on-campus teaching has remained in place for Health Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics and Sciences courses where classes, such as laboratories, are required for professional accreditation.

For arts courses with a physical element, such as drama, new students are uncertain what their classes might look like.

Speaking to Trinity News, Junior Fresh Drama and Theatre Studies student Lucy Bruton said that she understood it was usually a “collaborative course”, so she was “worried as to how my classes will look with social distancing rules and masks”.

“I’m also very worried about meeting new people and how Trinity Hall is going to be,” Bruton said.

“After visiting my sister in Halls a few years ago, I have an image of the Halls experience that I think will be very different to my experience. Nonetheless, I’m very hopeful that the JCR will be able to organize ways to meet new people in line with government guidelines.”

Bruton, who sat the International Baccalaureate, had a long wait between receiving her results and the release of CAO offers, which was compounded by the delay of Leaving Certificate results.

“I took a huge risk waiting for the CAO offers, as had I not received an offer, I would have been late arriving to my backup university in the UK due to quarantine rules. So this actually made me uncertain about waiting, but I decided Trinity was worth the risk,” Bruton said.

Similarly, the wait for CAO offers to be released was an unusual time for Aylmer, who finished school in 2019.

“When it was that announced predicted grades wouldn’t be standardised, I began to panic – I’ve had this dream of going to Trinity for my whole life and all of a sudden inflated grades could see my 2019 points almost worthless,” Aylmer said.

Speaking to Trinity News, Junior Fresher James Mahon said that the Department of Education’s indecision on the Leaving Certificate had compounded a “sense of surrealism” to the end of school and approach of college.

“It was always my aim to attend Trinity irrespective of Covid-19,” Mahon said. “However, the four month wait between the calculated grades announcement and the results being issued felt like it would never come to a conclusion, especially considering the difficulty of getting any kind of summer job or employment.”

Mahon, who is beginning his History and Political Science course this week, said that he is “concerned about the impact Covid-19 will have on the university experience, especially for a fresher”.

Freshers’ Week has ran alongside lectures for returning students, and first years are due to start lectures on October 5.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.