College Trips: Good for more than just the sesh

Image Credit: Erik Odiin on Unsplash

Lyndsey McKiernan shares her experiences of college trips abroad and if they are purely ‘for the sesh’ or a good opportunity to explore new places.

College societies are a great way to make new friends and explore your interests during your time at university. Many societies offer a trip abroad, or to the countryside, usually related to their interests - SurfSoc heads to Bundoran, MusicalSoc to London, and SnowSports to a Ski resort. A common misconception of these trips is that they are purely an excuse to go on the tear. Sure, nights out are almost certainly guaranteed; but in my experiences of college society trips there has always been a balance of exploration and sightseeing with drinking and dancing.

The first trip I went on was in my first year of Architecture to Florence in Italy. This trip was actually organised as part of the course so there was (unfortunately) some structured learning involved. Though this forced us out of bed perhaps earlier than we would have liked, it also opened my eyes up to the incredible architecture of Florence from the iconic Duomo to scattered decorated pillars and arches. We walked every inch of the city for four days, sketching what felt like every building in Florence, and ate pasta and pizza on rotation for each meal. This sounds like a highly cultured and refined experience, but what the tutors didn’t need to know was that we were also lying down outside the Duomo at 4am, marvelling at its grandeur in a more existential way. 

Nothing quite captures a student holiday like the pre-drinks in a hostel before a night out. It became something of a routine during our time in Florence: fall out of bed and race to our meeting point of the day, walk around the city sketching and eating, pre-drink in the hostel, head to the club, fall in the door, and repeat. I’ll never forget being viciously hungover, desperately searching for paracetamol, and walking thirty minutes to the other side of the city only to realise we had the wrong meeting point and should have been at a location only five minutes from the hostel. Though drinking and clubbing took up a large part of this trip, it did not define it, and what I remember of Florence is the culture we experienced as well as the laughs we had. 

“Though drinking and clubbing took up a large part of this trip, it did not define it, and what I remember of Florence is the culture we experienced as well as the laughs we had.”

The other society trip I have been on was the SnowSports trip to Avoriaz in France. Similar to my experiences in Florence, going out with friends to the club or sharing a few drinks in the hostel room happened pretty much every night, but we were still up and on the slopes by the morning. If anything, I’d say the dulled senses as a result of a night of drinking curbed my fear of skiing, and allowed me to pitch myself off a mountain (that is the best way I can describe my skiing skillset). 

We hit the slopes relatively early each morning to get the most of the daylight, stopped by the apres ski for a couple of drinks, before heading back to the hostel for some food and pre-drinks, and then onwards to the pubs and clubs of the small resort town. There were no crazy clubs in Avoriaz, but lots of lively pubs and cocktail bars which meant you could still chat with friends and recount the day’s activities with laughs - nothing is funnier than watching your friends fall in the snow countless times. I met a lot of people on the nights out that I wouldn’t have had the chance to during the day (actually skilled people who were on the real slopes), and enjoyed all the atmosphere of the UCD clubhouse in a remote French town in the Alps. 

Don’t be deterred from going on a college trip if you have no interest in drinking or nights out - the bases of these trips are the daytime activities such as sketching buildings and skiing. Socialising goes hand in hand with this and will allow you to make friends and memories through engaging in something you love. Better yet - go out of your comfort zone and try something new, you might surprise yourself! I had never skied and it was possibly the best holiday I have ever been on.