My first year of college.

In August of last year, which seems like a lifetime ago now, I found out that I had been offered a place at the University of Limerick to study Journalism and New Media, my first choice, and I couldn’t have been happier.

After doing my leaving cert, universally agreed as one of the worst years of a young person’s life, I was looking forward to a fresh start, to having new experiences, moving out of home and beginning the next chapter of my life.

So, I set off for college with a lifetime supply of any item I could ever possibly need, courtesy of my mother, and hope in my heart (and vodka).

However, like many, I got off to a bit of a rocky start at UL.

I was nervous about meeting new people, intimidated by the size of UL’s massive campus, and after a rather overwhelming orientation day thought I had made a huge mistake coming here.

My first week was tough, I didn’t seem to be able to get the hang of anything and felt like I was failing at every turn.

I decided to try my hand at ‘Total Body Workout,’ an absolutely torturous exercise class in which everyone knows the routine except you and I can only suggest be renamed ‘Total Death Wish.’ I ended up completely humiliating myself and left feeling deflated.

If life is like a boomerang, mine had come back and hit me in the face, repeatedly.

However, UL has a way of making you feel all at once at home. When you go to UL you instantly become part of the family, or should I say the “wolf pack.”

By the time week three rolled around, I really felt like I was finding my stride. After being quite apprehensive to begin with I had fallen in love with my course and was slowly getting used to the different ways academics work in college.

I struggled for a long time, and still do to a degree, with my workload being left entirely up to me. After fourteen years of being told what to do and how and when, I wasn’t sure if I was doing too much or too little or if I was even focusing on the right things.

This subsequently lead to many a late night feverishly hammering away on my laptop trying to finish essays due the next day. This still happens from time to time (weekly), I am a procrastinator extraordinaire after all, but I feel like I’ve found my pace now.

I even found myself, a former loather of night clubs, really, genuinely enjoying the night life in Limerick, the abundance of takeaway pizza on tap afterwards may have sweetened the deal for me somewhat.

The end of semester one seems to sneak up on everyone at UL and I was no exception. I was so busy with assignments that at times all I could do was lay on my floor and simply contemplate all I had to get done.

The library was my saviour. If you’re like me and find yourself too easily distracted when you try to study at home, I cannot recommend it enough. After a few six hour stints and possibly a few frustrated tears later, I was packing up my bags to go home for Christmas.

Semester one kind of sums up the emotional rollercoaster that to me, is college. Semester two goes by quicker than you can say “Three euro Mondays in Angel lane!” and you will find yourself, like me, looking back on what has been one of the best years of your life.

UL is one of the most accommodating, diverse, and fun places I have ever been. I’ve found my first year challenging but so rewarding. I have grown so much as a person, learned so many things bo,th in and out of lectures, and had so many amazing new experiences.

My only regret from first year was not getting more involved in some of the amazing clubs and societies offered at the college. Living off campus, I was honestly just too lazy to make the effort to go back onto campus in the evenings and I really wish that I had.

Most importantly, I was exposed to and made friends with some of the best and most interesting people in my first year at college, none of whom I would have had the pleasure of meeting if I had given up when I was struggling in that first week.

If I were to give any advice to incoming first years to UL, it would be to do something you love because it makes study and assignments so much easier, and while you’re in first year try not to get too bogged down with grades, as long as you are trying your best. It will take time to get into the swing of things.

I guess you could say that my boomerang is back on course!

8 Things You Should Bring With You to College

I forgot to bring a lot of these things with me, hope my misfortune can help you!

1. Noise Cancelling Headphones:

For whatever reason, college students find the hours between 12am and 5am to be the best time to serenade their fellow student accommodation residents with whatever song they were listening to when they got kicked out of the club. If you think you won’t find being woken up to this drunken frenzy charming, I suggest you invest in something that will silence these drunken performers in this wee hours of the morning. Noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs should do the job.

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2. Washing-up Liquid:

I am dubious as to whether you will have a dishwasher in whatever student accommodation you’re in, so you should definitely stock up on washing-up liquid. I know this sounds like a weirdly specific item to bring to college, but you will be cleaning a lot of dishes because chances are, at least one of your housemates will do a poor job of washing their dishes (if they even attempt to do so). Therefore, you will end up cleaning two times the amount of dishes you would normally be cleaning if you care in any way about the cleanliness of the objects you will be eating with. That’s a lot of washing-up liquid!!

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3. Good Walking Shoes:

College campuses are massive, so even if you are lucky enough to obtain one of the limited on-campus accommodation rooms, you will be doing quite a bit of walking. I was not fortunate enough to get on-campus housing, so I end up having to walk for at least around and hour to get to and from college. I learned pretty quickly that my Superstars did not well-equip me for the daily trek. I recommend investing in some comfortable boots or runners. Trust me, your feet will thank you.

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4. A Bicycle:

Bikes will cut down the amount of time it takes to get you from point A to point B drastically. I owned a bike for the entire first semester and foolishly did not utilize it whatsoever, due to my being terrified that I would either get run-over by a car or that I would run-over human. I recently started biking to college and have not done either of these things and have since discovered how wonderful biking is. It cuts down the travel time from twenty-five minutes to just around ten.

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5. A Coffee Machine:

During final exams week coffee on standby is vital. There was a point in last semester when I had to write an essay on a book I hadn’t even started with only three days remaining. I pulled an all-nighter in order to finish the book by drinking a shot of espresso per hour for six hours. It was not fun but it could not have been done without my handy-dandy espresso machine. If a coffee/espresso machine is too pricey (which is completely understandable, mine was a Christmas gift from my lovely parents), I recommend a French Press, they’re only about fifteen euro and make great coffee!

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6. Culinary Skills:

You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay for this one, but if you know how to use more than a microwave/toaster to cook things you’ll probably be okay. I shamelessly ate toast, peanut butter and an apple every night for the first month of college because I literally had no cooking skills and hadn’t discovered Just Eat. However, knowing how to cook at least three meals will save you a lot of money in the long-run. Ordering the odd takeaway here and there is inevitable but you will hate yourself less if you don’t order them so much, I promise you.

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7. Going-out Clothing:

I don’t have much going-out clothing because I’m not really the going-out type to begin with but going-out in college is going to happen no matter what kind of person you are. I ran out of new ‘nice’ outfits within the first month of college. Most of those outfits I had never even worn prior. I recommend bringing skirts/pants/tops you can mix around with each other to create new outfits without having to buy loads of new clothing. This should prevent you from getting sick of wearing the same thing outfit each and every week.

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8. Battery Pack:

I don’t know how good the battery is on Android phones, but as an iPhone 6 user, I wholeheartedly support this one. I typically put my phone on the charger before going to sleep, leave for college with a full charge and two lectures in, I’m already at fifty percent. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll have access to a place to charge your phone throughout the day, having a battery pack on you at all times is essential.

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I hope this list will help you prepare yourself adequately for college!!

– Sinéad Murphy

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