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College During COVID-19: Finding my feet as a fresher in 2020

College During COVID-19: Finding my feet as a fresher in 2020

Sophie Coffey

Despite the CAO talks and brochures, college seemed like an incredibly distant concept when I was in secondary school. This remained true even while I wrote my monthly Leaving Cert exam diaries. (Sorcha’s entries this year are well worth a read!)

Traditionally, finishing school is something that signifies to students an endless list of possibilities, celebrations and even, our elusive first foray out into the “real world”.

However, the “real world” that I tentatively envisaged myself joining drew to a stuttering halt in 2020.


After I was lucky enough to have made it through the Leaving Cert debacle with my first CAO choice in hand, I naively presumed that that was the end of my educational drama. And because time has absolutely no concept at this point, it is worth clarifying that this was back in September. COVID-19 cases were low and my chances of attending campus in person seemed to be increasing exponentially.

However, I should point out that it is an English degree I have undertaken and not a Maths one. So naturally this turned out to be a terrible calculation on my part.

I thought my screen time figure was bad before I started college! One semester of online learning later and I have really managed to exceed myself.

Admittedly, that there are some advantages to online learning. The lack of commuting, the later starts and the ability to watch lectures at double speed is among these!

However, any benefits come at a cost. And it is not one that I am particularly fond of repeating.

My bedroom is my campus!

As an Arts student, Trinity was a campus and college I had dreamed of attending when I filled out my CAO form. Now, after completing a 12-week semester as a Trinity student, I have spent a total of fifty minutes on said amazing campus.

This is not quite how I imagined starting university!

But to be fair absolutely nothing that has happened since March has gone how I thought it would!

Naturally, the subsequent focus has been on  the more traditional aspects of college life such as the lectures and tutorials (read: the actual educational parts). As a result, I am incredibly relieved to be enjoying the content of my course.

The diversity of my joint honours degree means that studying Charles Dickens, economic policy, international politics, and Shakespeare is quite literally all in a day’s work!

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Ready, steady, “join zoom meeting”

During the first few weeks of the semester the most I knew about my fellow freshers was the quality of their Wi-Fi! In one of my first calls, I had a momentary panic that my own Wi-Fi had cut out and frozen all of the video’s participants. As it turned out, the cause for everyone’s silence was not in fact, bad broadband – a feat in itself – but instead an intense awkwardness in which we all stared silently at one another through a screen.

My Zoom call view into the background of people’s bedrooms has provided me with plenty of interior design suggestions. It has not, however, offered quite so much in the form of socialising! Getting to know people through video calls is tricky. But as it turns out, the best icebreakers come in the form of comparing 14th century Italian sonnets together! Although, that might require quite a niche group of individuals now that I think about it!

One semester down, one to go!

I am not a complete idiot – this is the bare minimum I can hope as I undertake a third level degree! I absolutely recognise the need for minimising physical teaching. Logical approach aside it cannot be denied that my university experience thus far has been muted slightly (and not just because I forgot to turn my mic back on!).

Despite the fact that it might not be what I or any other college student in the country imagined, we have made it through our first semester! Now just, the end of term exams (in January!) to survive.

My degree is four years long. I’ll get there one day!

How are you finding college during COVID-19?

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