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UCC Express Freshers Edition - Tips for Freshers

Another September has arrived, and for the second year in a row, I have been looking forward to this month, for a reason other than the possibility of Cork returning from Croke Park with some silverware. Entering year two, of my four-year degree, I am less anxious about the year ahead than I was last year. I feel that this year I can truly embrace the experience of UCC. Of course, my first experience of college, which only started last year, at age 29, will in many ways be decidedly different from most Freshers. But in many other ways, it will be very similar. Therefore I want to use this piece, to pass on my tips to those who have just walked through the beautiful gates of UCC. I will try my utmost to avoid littering the scribes of my advice with clich├ęs, or filling these inches with irrelevant information, so here goes.

First of all, the most critical piece of information I have for those starting out is to enjoy the experience. Engage with people outside your course, avoid cliques and cozy clubs. Spread your wings, join clubs, chat to strangers, always remember your future best friends, colleagues and partners may not share the same classroom or course code with you.

Don’t fall behind on your course work. Us mature students have a habit of asking all the questions, lining out at the front of every class, like the front row of a scrum, ready to engage with the opposing lecturer. But even us mere mortal matures, have a tendency to fall behind in course work, submit assignments late and cod ourselves into thinking we’ll “make up the ground” over the weekend. I still need to “make up the ground” from subjects from last year, so trust me, you never make it up.

For the love of God, venture beyond Washington Street. Cork has some amazing pubs and while the music scene is not as strong here as it used to be, Cork nightlife has so much more to offer other than the regular haunts of the college contingent. Don’t limit yourselves to the back alleys off Washington Street and the pubs named after shoes and witchery. Think of Washington Street as the strip of neon lit pubs in the centre of your holiday destination, where the real gems lay beyond the neon signs and gimmicky drink promotions.

Remember to look out for one another and not to be too hard on one another or yourself. Not everyone is suited to college, not everyone needs college to discover their life dedication. Therefore not everyone will enjoy their time in UCC; many will leave or decide to change course before the end of year one. This is to be encouraged. If you’re not happy doing what you do, don’t settle for it, strive for more. Strive for happiness and contentment in your future discipline. Remember, college education is about enriching your mind with knowledge, challenging the status quo and becoming a more rounded person. You are not in college to provide multinationals with the requisite skills when it suits them. You are in UCC for your mind, not their bottom line. 

Finally, I’m sure many of you are aware of the issues Ireland and the planet currently faces. What the world and certainly Ireland needs now, more than it ever has, is a throw back to the days when student movements were movements that were taken seriously and almost always engaged with. Nothing has diminished more rapidly, since the end of the last century, than the willingness of the younger generation to participate in protests that are so pivotal to the improvement of Irish society and the world. So, I would beg of you all, get mobile, voice concern, raise objections and hold placards, we owe it to the next generation that will walk through the gates of this beautiful college.

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