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!

What to Expect During Your First Year of College

Obviously, your experience will be somewhat different, but, if you’re painfully awkward, a little sheltered and have no idea how to use a stove, your first year may bare some semblance to mine.

Day One: The first day of college will be terrifying. You will stress about things you did not think you could stress about. You will hear a million new names and forget all of them. At some point throughout the day, you’ll think everything is actually going to be okay, because some of the people you’ve met seem pretty darn nice. This false sense of security will quickly drift away when night time rolls around and you are alone in a strange bed. You will miss your family, your friends from back home and your dog, even though it’s only been a day. Don’t worry, this eventually passes! Everyone goes through this in some capacity and it’s totally normally.

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Week One: This is when you realize how great it is to not have your parents breathing down your neck because you can leave the house whenever you want and come back WHENEVER YOU WANT. You can also eat whatever you’d like, which is pretty cool, except you will also notice that your cooking skills are less than adequate. That’s what take-out is for though, right? You will notice that your legs and feet are sore from walking everywhere but you just think you’ll get stronger and it won’t bother you in the future (it will always bother you). You probably won’t have much course work yet either, which will make you think college is going to be a breeze. It will all catch up on you, just wait for it.

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Month One: Your housemates will start to annoy you. Your feelings towards them won’t be too intense, you’ll just wish Jack wouldn’t hoard ALL the forks in his room (why can’t he at least leave one?). Also, it would be great if you didn’t have to take out the trash every week. You’ll still like certain aspects of living without your parents though, this won’t change because independence is a wonderful thing. You will start having group projects due, this will be hellish because nobody else will want to do anything for them. You may feel helpless at times, just know you will eventually finish the project even though the animosity you have towards your group mates will probably never leave you. You will start to wonder how you managed to get up consistently before seven for the past eighteen years of your life because now, getting up for 9AM seems nearly impossible. Group projects aside, month one is a good one, enjoy it.

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Month Three: This is when you realize you kind of miss having your parents around. You have gotten sick by this point. Turns out, staying out late drinking and eating fried foods catches up on you. Damn. You want to eat healthier but fresh food goes off so quickly and it’s just not worth the twenty-minute trek to Aldi to keep your health in check. College will start to get tough. A seemingly endless stream of essays, assignments and tests will hit you all at once. Don’t worry, Christmas break is just around the corner, you’ve got this!!

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Semester Two: The mild disapproval of certain habits of your housemates will quickly evolve into hatred. Their strange habits are no longer vaguely amusing. You’ll tell yourself you’ve only got a few months left, but if you open the fridge and find that your Crème Eggs have been swiped from your shelf one more time, somebody is going to get hurt. Pizza might no longer be a treat, just cheap and easy. Getting up for that 9AM class only gets harder. Somehow, even though the glamour of student life has faded by this point, your semester two days will slip through your fingers like you’ve never experienced before. You will constantly find yourself wondering how it’s already week ten and how you already have one billion assignments to catch up on, when you only just got back from your Christmas holidays. The pressure of figuring out what you’re going to occupy yourself with over the summer will creep into your system as the weeks fly by. Final exams will reserve a permanent spot in your train of thought as break approaches. You’ll feel a mixture of dread and excitement and disbelief because soon enough, you’ll no longer consider yourself to be a first year, which is crazy.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

-Sinead

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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