In an ordinary year, Freshers’ Week is characterised by Front Square brimming with society stands during the day and nightclubs leaking eager new Freshers at night. 2020, of course, has been far from an ordinary year.
As Freshers’ Week comes to an end, three Freshers look back on their first week in Trinity and the unusual experiences that came with it.
Rhiannon Ní Chinnéide
Ah, Freshers’ Week. A time for mixing and mingling, indulging in nightlife, celebrating the thrill of getting into college before the real stress kicks in. This is one of the most highly anticipated college events for students. But for incoming Freshers, 2020 had something different in store.
Picture this: You’re sat on your bed, a bottle of room temperature water by your side. There’s a timer on your phone, taunting you, counting down from fifteen minutes. Your finger hovers above your mouse, the cursor ready to click, ready to join the Zoom call. You check your hair in the webcam one last time, and you’re all set to meet your classmates.
But hold on – that’s not how you imagined it.
You hoped for the hustle and bustle of walking through Front Square, moving from stall to stall. You wanted a free pen, imprinted with the name of a society you knew you’d never join. You wanted to make eye contact with someone three rows behind in the lecture theatre and spend ten minutes working up the courage to approach them afterwards.
That’s the way we envisioned our college careers taking off. But this, my friend, couldn’t be any further from that.
In short, this week has been strange. Although admittedly, I don’t have anything to compare this experience to, I can feel that this isn’t quite right. I’m finding myself drained after two Zoom meetings; the formality of online socialisation is undoubtedly underwhelming, yet so tolling. Zoom fatigue is certainly a real thing.
“There have been moments of forgetful tipsiness in which I have felt as though dozens of us were all sat in the same room.”
However, I will say that some of the societies’ Zoom events have been fantastic. There have been moments of forgetful tipsiness in which I have felt as though dozens of us were all sat in the same room. Boundaries have been dissolved through genuine connection and joy. The spirit of fellow students is not lost, it’s simply transforming. We are figuring out how to navigate this strange time alongside one another.
It hasn’t been very busy though. With a whole year of events ahead of them, potentially all online, societies have had to pace themselves this Freshers’ Week. Many have only had one or two events, sometimes clashing with another group’s plans. This has made it hard for us freshmen to suss out all our options; without the convenience of a ten second walk between stalls, it’s difficult to gauge where we might belong in college.
Trying to organise reading lists and notes for upcoming modules on my own has been challenging. But I think the advantage here is that we are more prepared for the independence of college life than maybe any other year before us. Through adapting to online schooling, we are learning to take control over not just our own education, but also forging our own friendships.
So maybe Freshers’ Week wasn’t what we expected, but we still have four long years ahead of us. Years of excitement and opportunity. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to embrace the new normal; take care of one another and make the most of these unusual times. The best is truly yet to come.
In an ordinary year, Freshers’ Week would look very different. If I told my parents I was going for drinks with classmates I imagine I’d be met with looks of horror, a movie reel of their own alcohol-infused hangover flavoured first week of college reeling thought their minds. This year, they remind me to wear a mask and social distance, knowing a drink with a classmate means a coffee in the park.
“I LOVE your outfit. Where did you get it?” doesn’t quite have the same effect when one can’t actually see anything but your shoulders.”
The biggest worry this year was the seemingly impossible task of making friends over digital video services, whether they be Zoom or Google Meets. I was frantic before the first day – am I supposed to privately message people in the middle of lectures with a compliment that’s sure to get the conversation going. “I LOVE your outfit. Where did you get it?” doesn’t quite have the same effect when one can’t actually see anything but your shoulders.
However, societies provided an answer to my worries. I created a short list of society events I’d be interested in. Poetry and Pancakes with Lit Soc and the Hist, despite the notable lack of pancakes, was lovely. It was a refreshing way to start the first week of college – the poems gave food for thought and the people who read them were just some of the most welcoming voices I’d heard. I also attended a French Soc quiz. The “Nice Guys Finish Last” comedy debate had me in stitches. I’m supposed to be attending a cooking Zoom this evening – we’ll see how that goes.
Using Facebook, I joined several Freshers’ pages, set up to help people meet their classmates. I spent my evenings on Zoom calls with people I’d never even met before and found myself texting people I’d otherwise never have found. I met up with a handful of these people, and I’m thankful for the few afternoons filled with sunshine. Socially distanced lunches in Stephen’s Green are a lot nicer when we’re not soaked to the bone.
The most unexpected thing about starting college was the amount of support Trinity has on offer to Freshers. As I’m now an “adult” I really was expected to just be thrown in at the deep end, a sink or swim situation arising for most of us. The S2S mentor programmes eased my worries about drowning quite quickly, and assured me it would be ok because “hey! here are two students who were in a similar position to you last year and they’re fine. Having a tutor made me realise I’m not alone. I still got a run-through of what the classes are going to be like and who our professors and lecturers are.
Technology has had an astoundingly positive impact on my Freshers’ Week. I have enormous gratitude for the sheer amount of effort that has gone into Freshers by students and staff. A less dedicated group would’ve failed to create anything that resembled Freshers’ Week. And, so, for maybe the first time, missing an online event due to technical difficulties literally means “I can’t get my wifi to connect to my stupid laptop what am I supposed to do” as opposed to having had one too many at a pub quiz.
It was a good week. It was a really good week. It set a lovely tone and proved that despite trials and tribulations, anything is still possible.
Freshers’ Week. The week everyone looks forward to, and the week many have hailed as the “best week of your life” (although I’m pretty sure we all know that it’s not, but this year was perhaps particularly bad). Usually full of partying, drinking, socialising and exploring the city, Freshers’ Week is all about getting out and about… or sitting in bed with your laptop on 1% hoping it doesn’t die halfway through the zoom call you dragged yourself to and awkwardly spoke one word in before turning around to see your new flat mates bursting in interrupting and asking where you put the tea bags, even though you never bought any in the first place.
Coming from the UK, my first two weeks of university were spent alone quarantining in my flat. I waited so long to meet new people that I began to doubt any would turn up at all. Eventually they trickled in, all equally overwhelmed and trying their best with small talk. After getting over the initial shock of how expensive food is, how difficult laundry is and how confusing cooking is, I was able to focus on what I came to university for in the first place – the degree, and before that, Freshers’ Week… or maybe the false hope that I’d bump into Connell and relive the posh parties and holidays in Italy whilst becoming a scholar and trawling round coffee shops discussing poetry.
“Despite the disappointment of not actually being allowed onto campus, I found something oddly comforting about being able to meet new people and try new things within the walls of your own room.”
Undoubtedly, my Freshers’ Week was not the week I had envisaged, but regardless, I ended up having a lot of fun. My week started off with Pancakes and Poetry with Lit Soc and the Hist (online of course), and as an English student, it was comforting to hear some of my favourite authors being read out loud and discussed by people equally as interested in the subject as I was. ‘Feminism in literature’ and the ‘Virtual pink picnic’ ensued, exposing me to lipstick feminism and reinforcing the importance of strong female characters in society. Taking part in panel discussions such as ‘Sustainable Solutions for Fast Fashion’ and ‘Irish women in music’, I began to get an insight into the great speakers that Trinity has to offer, and I felt lucky to be at a university that can give me the opportunities that Trinity can. Surprisingly, I managed to find events and societies I was really interested in, and equally as surprisingly, despite the disappointment of not actually being allowed onto campus, I found something oddly comforting about being able to meet new people and try new things within the walls of your own room.
Essentially, Freshers’ Week is seen as a time to throw yourself into college life, meet new people and explore new things. The whole process of moving on from school is undoubtedly a seminal period in the lives of most young people, studded with various rites of passage and important memories. This year isn’t the year we all hoped for – in fact it’s far from it. In spite of my initial reservations and anxieties, Trinity’s societies successfully organised a multitude of engaging and lively events, and I was lucky enough to meet some of the nicest people and have some of the most interesting conversations with them! Although it seems difficult, it’s good to remember that our college experience won’t be less interesting, important or enjoyable than those who went before us. It will just be different, and the most crucial thing of all to remember is that the best is yet to come.