The Valentimes

Settling in to a version of college life that involves a whole lot less college, Aoife Valentine considers the wisdom of spending your gap year on campusThere are many reasons why students take a year out of college. Most want to travel the world or volunteer, or just escape the mundanities often present in day-to-day college life, in a course they’re not overly infatuated with. Some want to test out this ‘real life’ business with the safety net of the remaining years of their course behind them, just in case your college years really are the best of your life. Some have simply seen the ‘Gap Yah’ YouTube video, and fancy taking a crack at being a total legend.For me, none of those are quite the case. I’ve abandoned the final year of my Law degree not to see exotic places, save the world, or captain the legend team, but to work in student media. In this newspaper, to be exact. The only place I see most days is the new Student Centre, and as lovely as our office is, the only remotely exotic thing about it is the bright yellow wall. While we endeavour to bring you all the UCD news we can find, I don’t think we could ever be described as saving campus, never mind the world. And as I write this at 5am on a Sunday morning with only our designers for company, I don’t think I’m quite living up to my legend potential.Taking a gap year but still coming to college every day, now often spending longer on campus than I ever have in my three years in UCD, is a very strange experience. Separated from the people who have been my friends and class since my first day on campus, I am no longer concerned by modules and GPAs, how many plugs there are in the library or how soon an essay deadline is approaching. I no longer need to complain about Roebuck being located practically in another Universe, as I have little need to leave the student centre at any time. They’re taking the Google mentality up this end of Belfield, and providing us with every possible amenity from pools to cinemas in an effort to keep us in the building at all times. They’ve even given us 24-hour access, lest we consider leaving once the building closes for the night.I’ve been working all summer with our editorial team to prepare for this volume of the paper, knowing that once September came, instead of attending introductory lectures, I would be preparing the first issue of our volume, but this didn’t hit me until a friend needed me to register for him. I was battling with UCD’s ridiculous registration process, endlessly searching for modules, which as it turned out, had been withdrawn with no notice given, or which had filled up impossibly quickly even though I had logged in to his account at the allotted time slot. The whole time I was thinking not only about how UCD seem to manage to mess up registration every year, but how easy it is to distance yourself from your course, despite being right on top of it every day.While I was glad I didn’t have to attempt to fight with the programme office myself to try and get out of whatever dodgy modules were left, it was still extremely weird to be registering but not registered. This was only compounded by my class’ Facebook group exploding with people worrying about modules filling up early, and which to choose to get the best grade. Rather than trying to decipher module descriptions, my worries centred around whether we would manage to fill all 68 pages of this newspaper and its supplements without dying. So far, so good.Most of my old classmates have met my decision to briefly postpone my legal career in favour of a year of sleep deprivation and writing every word I know every two weeks with quiet confusion. The alternative isn’t much better. Staying true to every description of a stereotypical law student ever, it seems at least half of my class have been putting in long days at the library since the first day of term, fearing not that the coursework is too difficult to keep on top of without regular library sessions, but that our collective competitive nature will see them left behind. Helping a cat write horoscopes and dedicating sixteen pages to taking the piss out of every single part of UCD life doesn’t seem like a bad deal when my other option would have been researching the intricacies of Bank Regulation or Administrative Law.Though I am infinitely happier to be in the position I am rather than beginning the final year of my undergraduate degree, there is just something tremendously strange about no longer having a class; about being in University, but at the same time, not; about knowing where I would be, the classes I would be attending and the lectures I would likely be finding boring; yet not being a part of it at all.I’ve spent the last two weeks running around campus conducting surveys and interviews, and though it isn’t perhaps the most typical of gap years, and though I could probably do with bulking out my legend credentials before the year is out, at least my year won’t be spent chundering everywhere.