Survival Guide

Reflections on the first semester

People always say that your first year in college will fly by and I don’t think that you fully realise the truth of it until you’re already entering week three of your second semester. To be perfectly honest I can’t make up all the time of my first year that has passed already and I’m finding this thought somewhat daunting. Anything can happen to anyone at any time and you could never possibly predict every step of the way unless you live so cautiously that you simply just exist. So as I look back on my first term of college and I look forward to the next, I can see the different choices I have made so far along this journey that was for so long just a dream that drifted in my head.

I have trust in myself that I will continue on the good path that I have started to pave out, though not forgetting that it’s perfectly fine to make new paths along the way, so long as I don’t lose sight of myself. I’m sure a lot of people can agree that college is the type of place that you’re plain sailing one day and drowning the next. It’s an endless spell of rainfall at the best of times with the incredible workload involved and the pressure to stay afloat. But if I’ve learnt anything from my first three months in college, it is that everyone is in the same boat.

Despite often being the laziest person in the world, especially when nobody in college really cares if you miss a lecture, I do in fact have a tendency to be quite hard on myself, especially regarding assignments and examinations. But I like to remind myself often that college has gifted me with two of the best things that I had so desperately longed for during my seven year period in the weary second level school system – continuous assessment and to be in a class with people who care as much about their studies as I do. I know there are times that we as students groan at the sight of deadlines but you have to admit that going into summer exams with over 30% of Biology covered through CA is quite an extraordinary feeling, despite the many late nights it took to get to this.

There is a widespread tendency to speak of college as a first taste of freedom, but it’s important to keep in mind that you do have to actually pass the year. The odd lie-in, here and there, is perfectly acceptable. We are incredibly fatigued students after all (especially after a night out dancing somewhere along Harcourt Street). However, a short lived college experience, I imagine, is quite a tragic one if you don’t make it through the exams, so fingers crossed for the lot of us. I’ll be sure to keep in mind that miracles come few and far between the next time I consider binge watching a series on Netflix instead of hitting the books.

While the transition from school to college hasn’t been too much of a difficulty for me, I won’t hide the fact that there are times when I have felt like the most stupid person in the room. So I find comfort in being surrounded by people who not only want the best for themselves, but for others too. Encouragement is easily brought to another person’s life with a kind word and a smile. And when you find yourself surrounded by such people on a day to day basis, you tend to forget the difficulties that life sometimes brings because their presence overtakes the superficial feelings of inadequacy and replaces them with truly memorable moments that matter so much more. The way we progress in life has a lot to do with the company we accustom ourselves with and the mindset of an individual can easily influence your own. Looking back on last year, I’d never have imagined my luck in spending every weekday with such a supportive and positively-natured group of people. And I understand more clearly now that nobody can really make you happy, but you can make yourself incredibly so, by letting the right people in.

A key element of my first semester, that I’ll be sure to carry with me right through my next few years in college, is the concept of comparison and the necessity of every individual to avoid it at all costs. I think at this stage of life, we should be able to look at our own situation and decide for ourselves what are capabilities may be and to alleviate the tendency to base our own actions on somebody else’s circumstances. I wholeheartedly feel like a new individual has emerged from the precarious and quite unhappy soul that shadowed me this time last year. One who moped their way around life and found little to be satisfied with; I always hoped that college would be the change in me that I so desperately needed. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy,’ so Teddy Roosevelt put it, and I can really envisage where he was coming from. Walking through a vast campus, I am at last perfectly content in my own skin, and spend less time prying through ideas of all the what-ifs. It is in that magic moment that you understand, that to be at peace with yourself, is to open your eyes to the greatness that surrounds you. Searching endlessly for a sense of approval and belonging will only end up with realising that it is actually non-existent.

Besides the social aspect of college, that has delivered me with a new lease of life, I’m most grateful in that I’m surrounded by people who want to excel in their studies. While continuously challenging, my course so far has proved to be so much more than I could’ve wished for. When you’re in sixth year pondering over CAO choices, it can be tough to know what will be a best suit for you, and more often than not, you won’t really know if you’ll like the course at all, until you’re sitting in the lecture theatre in late September. You choose a course in the hope that your true calling will be fulfilled and I’m overwhelmed in my course that I’ve already been given the opportunity to study modules that have always sparked my interest, such as anatomy, despite how often I give out about its demand for all my time and efforts.

As well as the academic based lectures, I have to say that I’m delighted that I also get to learn more about people, their thoughts and our interactions with one another, through other, less strenuous modules. All in all, I could say that I have the best of both worlds. Fortunately, being in a course where you have to keep a strong pace throughout, I haven’t personally found myself in difficult, peer-pressured situations, regarding study. However, it can easily be the case for anyone and maybe some of you readers too. You should be mature enough at this point to not compare yourself to someone else and what they do in the run up to exams. Self-awareness will open your eyes to evaluate how much work YOU have to put in to reap the reward. College is still a learning environment, no matter what way you look at it. I’m pretty sure it’s not merely an excuse to be constantly intoxicated, so nobody has the right to make you feel bad for spending time in the library. But equally, nobody has the right to keep count of how many nights you go out every week. Live and let live, or else you should be questioning whether you’re level-headed enough to be four years away from when adulthood officially begins.

I’ve found already in college that there are no limits to what you can do to expand on your own personal credentials. Hands up if you joined a few societies and clubs over Fresher’s week? I have to be honest and say that I’m regretful that I haven’t shared more of my time to clubs and socs and I really have no excuse other than the fact that I spend way too much time procrastinating. Apart from my failed attempt at clubs and societies last semester, I did make sure I got involved with college in other ways. Running for, and being elected as class representative has not only allowed me to have closer relations with my own classmates but also to be a member of the college’s Student Union. This aspect of my college life is one that I mark with a great deal of importance. A step outside of my comfort zone has been incredibly beneficial to me, what with giving me a greater abundance of confidence and the opportunity to meet new people that I’d have never come across otherwise.

Time passes by and just like with everything in life, college is what you make it and I can’t wait to see where this adventure will take me. Each element of my experience so far has aided in pulling me out of the weary existence I was submerged in by the Leaving Cert and it’s great to finally be able to appreciate what living is all about. So Trinity College is certainly treating me well, after all, what more could I really ask for, than to smile every day.