Thought college would be all sorority parties and togas? Fionn McCausland busts the American stereotypes when it comes to Irish college life.
1. No Fraternities or Sororities
In just about every American, university-based comedic movie, there is at some point a scene wherein some shenanigans ensue at either a fraternity or sorority. Outlandish parties, usually keg-stands and some fish-out-of-water nerds engaging in uncharacteristic behaviour. It’s endearing and is often accompanied by a rather on-the-nose moral lesson about the importance of friendship or staying true to who you are; you know the craic. This isn’t so much the case in Irish universities. We do have clubs and societies, which ostensibly serve the exact same purpose, but you do not have to do any daft initiation challenges to get in, they’re gender inclusive and have no connection to Greece. What is the fuss all about with these peculiar, cultish creeds anyway? It’s not like you can’t procure a beer keg in Ireland if you’re so inclined.
2. The characters you will meet are not as black and white as in film
The dumb jock isn’t really as prevalent in Ireland as he is in the films; he probably isn’t in actual American colleges either. It is a college after all, how dumb could he be if he got that far Cheerleaders, stoners, bookworms, the one-dimensional litany of caricatures goes on. People’s personalities don’t generally orbit around one of their hobbies, they tend to be a bit more nuanced than that. Irish universities are a great mixed bag. You will meet people who display glimpses of the archetypes we see on screen but to judge students because they enjoy sports or read a lot is shortsighted and will hinder your growth as a person. Students of every colour and creed walk around our campuses and that just means that you can make new kinds of friends and become an overall more cultured individual.
3. Sports teams are different
One prevailing sport amasses an enormous fan base and is loved by all in many college shows or films. This is not so much the case in reality. In Ireland, students take part in every conceivable sport whether it be MMA, Scuba Diving, Badminton or Soccer. The GAA teams and the Rugby teams do bring interest from outside of the campus but not to the extent, that American media portray. Rowing in ‘How High’, Football in ‘Rudy’ and basketball in ‘One Tree Hill’, there is always one sport that lies at the centre of an American college movie or television show. In Ireland, there aren’t huge masses of screaming fans leaping around in the stands. There are a relatively small number of friends and family shivering in the cold and waiting for their athlete to finish so that they can provide them with the obligatory “you were brilliant” and go watch Netflix.
4. Pranks aren’t a thing
Pranks are a fun albeit cheesy part of the American college stereotype. Legendary examples come to mind such as John Belushi’s zit scene in 'Animal House' and that dog scene in Van Wilder that now gives me PTSD every time I see someone eating an éclair. I have never seen large-scale prankage like this and I dare say few Irish students have. I once chucked bread at my flatmate only to find later that he had strewn the bread across my bed. Simple, elegant and utterly stupid, but nothing spectacular like our cousins across the pond would have you think. Maybe we just need to be more imaginative with our banter.
5. Students are not as well off here
American university fees are astronomical. I realise that my reference point so far has primarily been films and TV, admittedly a shaky source. This needs to addressed. I don’t even want to type out the figures for the Ivy League tuition fees, the very concept of handing out that kind of money makes me shudder down to a molecular level. Irish fees are hefty sometimes but very manageable - not the case for our US friends. Some of these establishments charge tuition fees upward of $60,000. That is ten times more than some Irish universities. I realise this is more grounded in reality than in stereotype but even when you see the typical bro-bash college parties like in the Jump Street films or ‘Project X’, it begs the question. “How can they afford that?” Think about how much all that beer costs, it must be insane. Students do often spend a significant slice of their grant on alcohol yes, but kegs and seemingly endless rivers of vodka are not usually a staple in Irish student parties. They buy what they can afford, drink it in their flats and then try to look cognisant for the bouncers. Not glamourous but it is cost effective.