First Impressions


After completing her own first year in UCD, Natalie Voorheis casts her mind back to her own sudden introduction to Belfield and offers sage advice for first time students

WITH THE LEAVING Cert behind them and the best days of college life ahead, thousands of first years have begun their new life in UCD this month. So: does it feel like home yet?
Recalling my own experience of First Year, a year ago, I find my memories of Orientation and Freshers’ Week blurry at best. The first days of college play in my head as if it were a DVD on fast-forward. I remember feeling I’d only drawn breath from the initial confusion and trepidation of meeting my fellow Freshers in Orientation, when the rest of college returned and campus seemed more zoo-like than ever.


Not much stands out from this blur, but I do remember one nightmarish tour of the library in my first week. I got stuck talking to a guy who quizzed me at great length about the exact details of my Leaving Cert results. First Years, please, don’t make this mistake! After losing a year of your life to the Leaving, there is absolutely no point in rehashing the past, and sacrificing more of your time to that nightmare. The Leaving Cert is over; you have arrived. So seize the day and move on.

“The Leaving Cert is over; you have arrived”

When asked about their initial impressions of UCD, students will often describe their first venture into the Newman Building. Dodging club promotions girls, ascending the steps, drinking in the soon-to-be-familiar student aroma of cigarette smoke and coffee fumes. And finally, finally entering the wonderful shrine to the architecture of the 1970s that is the Arts Block – through the door marked OUT, of course.

Theatre L in the Newman building, one of the largest lecture theatres in the country with a capacity of 505, is a daunting place for the new student. While talking to students in the course of writing this article, many said they might skip lectures held there, feeling totally overwhelmed by its scale. Each year without fail, the new generation discover that a lecture in Theatre L really means a solid hour of playing Tetris and instant messaging with friends. Only then does UCD start to feel like home.

Observing new first years is a spectator sport by many seasoned UCD students. For some first years, starting college is a long-awaited chance to reinvent themselves. Others will be solely preoccupied with finding the extension of that clique they were in at school. These antics provide great fodder for the rest of the student body, as Cork accents become thick D4 drawls and wellies are swapped for Uggs.

“Get involved in the smaller communities, clubs, societies and groups within the mammoth student body and everything else will fall into place”

What’s the best advice a First Year can get? For me it’s the advice uttered so often to newbies that its impact is diluted, becoming the backing track to their first weeks. Yet through experience, I deem it a crucial piece of advice: get involved.

Every year some First Years miss this memo and end up complaining about the size and impersonality of our campus. What they fail to realise is that it’s up to them to get involved in the smaller communities, clubs, societies and groups within the mammoth student body – and that everything else will fall in to place, guaranteed.