Everyone remembers their first year in Trinity, even if some fourth-year students find it hard to recall how it felt to find university strange and alien. Second-year students, however, are still young enough to admit to the strange sensation of being new in Trinity.
This time last year Hugh Fitzgibbon, a second-year law and political science student, moved into Trinity Hall and attended his first Freshers’ Week. When asked about how he prepared for the move from his family home in Limerick to Dartry Rd, he says: “You just have to show up on the day with your bags and that’s kind of it. You just have to go with the flow.” For many first years, their initial college experience centres around Halls. With the level of activity that goes on there, Fitzgibbon believes that there is often a noticeable difference between people who live in Halls and those who don’t: “Definitely people in Halls branched out more quite early on in the year because they have no choice.”
During Freshers’ Week, Halls is a hub of frenzied socialising, with students still adapting to their new-found freedom. However once the initial excitement calms down it is often a good idea, if not necessary, to put some rules in place. “I didn’t want to be that fresher that came out with the idea of making a schedule for the fridge or who did this and that chore-wise. But I would say that you should try and establish basic ground rules early on in the year about keeping the place clean, otherwise you might find yourself being the only one that cleans”.
Going on your own might be the best thing because you don’t have any pressure, you don’t have to act in front of anyone. You just be yourself and you’ll be accepted
Despite those living in Halls having access to a kitchen and a fridge, it can often be very difficult to resist the temptation of eating out. Fitzgibbon isn’t any different: “There were some months where I spent my monthly allowance in two weeks and I’d have to go back to the bank of mummy and daddy, which was getting very overdrawn by the end of it.” His hard-earned advice is that although budgeting is a great idea, it can be incredibly difficult to stick to, especially if those around you are going out all the time during college: “Some weeks I sat down and literally figured it out. My friends would laugh at me because I’d say ‘OK, I can have a latte today’. Budget in things like that and you can actually stick with it.” Even though he mainly lived off microwavable M&S meals, he suggests doing a big shop on a Sunday in preparation for the week ahead. For students in Halls, they soon discover that they only have themselves to blame if there’s no milk for breakfast in the morning.
The accommodation shouldn’t be taken for granted either. Speaking to me from the US, Fitzgibbon says: “Oh, and my biggest piece of advice to any first year is to look for a house before you go to America for three months for the summer because I’m still homeless for this year.”
For some students, getting a part-time job is the only feasible way to sustain themselves in college: “If you need a job, and you need the money, then that’s perfectly understandable and obviously you need to do that. My parents told me not to get a job in first year because they wanted me to experience things. I definitely would not have been able to do as many society things if I had a job.”
Fitzgibbon only really began to attend society events in November. And, like many first years, his reason for not attending earlier was because he was nervous of going alone – an excuse he calls “ridiculous” now: “Going on your own might be the best thing because you don’t have any pressure, you don’t have to act in front of anyone. You just be yourself and you’ll be accepted”.
Even in societies, you don’t have a position and you’re not on a committee, you’re just a fresher, so you can go to all the fun events. There’s no pressure. You can just enjoy yourself
Sometimes joining a society can happen completely by accident. As a prominent member of Trinity’s St Vincent De Paul Society, Fitzgibbon only really got involved in the society by accident: “I strolled in, I got lost and ended up in the Atrium, and I was told go upstairs to audition for their panto. I was like ‘no I don’t want to do that because I’d already signed up for something else’. I was just completely persuaded by someone who is now a good friend of mine in college. I went up and the next thing you know… I was just in VDP.”
With little of the responsibility that comes with more formal society involvement, first year, he agrees, is the best year to enjoy societies: “Even in societies, you don’t have a position and you’re not on a committee, you’re just a fresher, so you can go to all the fun events. There’s no pressure. You can just enjoy yourself.”
Although Fitzgibbon is sure his parents wouldn’t agree with him, his attitude would be not to worry about the academic side of things too much in first year: “If you’re confident that you’re on top of things then you’re OK. Go with your gut instinct. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.”
With a year behind him, he is already verging on the nostalgic: “It’s not like when you’re in first year of secondary school and all you wanted to do was to be in second year. Definitely, everyone wants to be a fresher again I think. Absolutely go for it.”