Trinity College Dublin. I’ve been here a few times before. Visiting, looking at pictures, and researching where Oscar Wilde studied. I finally moved here almost three weeks ago. But only because of the voice in the back of my head telling me that this was the sole place that could make me a writer.
Three weeks ago, I was still in Poland, surrounded by post-communist buildings, reading Wilde’s work and imagining myself in a place quite different from that in which I had come to study. Trinity is only 15 minutes away from my apartment. I considered myself lucky. I got a place close to College. Not that it’s fancy. It is just a room in what is supposedly a bad area by everyone else’s standards. Having been to worse places in my hometown, my little district in Dublin is fairly normal in comparison. I must admit that, like many international students, I chose Trinity based solely on the books I was reading.
One time, after a Freshers’ event, I was sitting on a bench in the smoking area with a friend, sharing our views on the people we had just met.
“Trinity is for posh people, you need money to get in. Normal people go elsewhere”, he said.
“But wasn’t Normal People set at Trinity?” I asked.
Yes, my question sparked a rather intense conversation about calling every student who came here to study because of Sally Rooney a phoney. I didn’t care much. I would consider coming here because of Oscar Wilde (especially when he was the only person I knew of at College) is comparable to coming here because of Connell. So, are there really normal people at Trinity? I wouldn’t know. Although I do attend my lectures every day and enjoy listening to the professors, my fellow continental Europeans and I spend most of our time in pubs, while my Irish friends spend multiple hours tucked away in the library. The drinking culture is very prominent here. We all sit at Doyle’s, Chaplin’s or Cassidy’s at our big table. The Irish quickly down their Guinness, while we sip away on our blonde drinks. Local guys are a lot different from what I’m used to: they are nice and easy to talk to, but they also come across as cocky and they always think they know better. You don’t have to meet them at pubs to realise it. During a tour of campus, an Irish guy and I shared our impression of the city. It was his first time here and he seemed a bit overwhelmed by it.
“I love Dublin, I’ve been here a few times before. I could give you a list of my favourite places”, I offered.
“Please do, it’s my first time here. But as I am an Irish person, I could still show you around”, he suggested.
What a weird thing to say, I thought. It was not the only time I had this sort of conversation, where a guy tried to show or explain things I am clearly well-informed about. I always give them a look filled with annoyance, but they never catch on. They drink fast, but I can’t be bothered to try to keep up. Just by looking at us, one can tell we were brought up differently. After all, we are all from different cities and countries, but we still sit around our big table. We try to hold a conversation but are deafened by the loudspeakers above our heads. So instead we find ourselves looking at the melting wax dripping from the candles, desperately attaching itself to the wooden table. Sometimes, we mock ourselves for our accents and struggle to understand each other because of our cultural differences, but when we are on the same wavelength, we can talk for hours, whether it’s in a pub, on a balcony, or on the pavement of a random street. We always drink cheap wine, cheap beer, and smoke our cheap tobacco from our countries. I don’t think I’ve been sober since I got here.
Sustaining this kind of lifestyle proves overly expensive, so I propose finding a way to cut down on the spending. One of the best ways to save some money is to join a society, as most of them hold free giveaways. For example, some let you drink tea and eat biscuits, and others like the ever-exclusive Hist offer free wine before or after their debates. Although they claim not to embrace being a Trinity wanker, how can you not call yourself that when you act all smart, having drunk multiple glasses of wine in your fancy little outfit, which you wore especially for someone to notice you in the crowd? You sit there listening to Irish jokes you don’t understand and the only thing on your mind is a cigarette. You wish you were smoking. So, you go outside, roll yourself one, and approach a guy who has a lighter.
“Can we smoke here?”
“No”, he says this as we simultaneously inhale nicotine.
No matter what anyone believes, Trinity is not smoker-friendly, although everybody smokes. We have this unspoken rule: everywhere is a smoking area if you don’t get caught. But nobody cares to catch you, so you just smoke and wonder when your life will become the academic aesthetic you’ve been dreaming of. However, the reality is a lot different. You can barely make yourself wake up in the morning and be on the campus in time for your lectures. When you try to get to class, you’re stopped by loads of tourists. It’s almost as if they’re the ones who belong here, rather than you. They walk slowly in groups, blocking the entryway, not letting you through, and take pictures of the buildings, the interior, or even the tired students, as though they are observing us in a zoo. They somehow always line up to use the bathroom when you only have a ten-minute break. They absolutely love to take pictures of the dining hall as you stuff your mouth with cheap food. Because Trinity was made for them to enjoy and for you to get out of their way.
But how can you be mad about that? How can you feel sad or homesick when you are finally here? Here, where Oscar Wilde studied, here where there are Normal People, here where it was supposed to rain but is constantly sunny? Here, at Trinity College Dublin.