Friday, September 26, 2014

NSO vs. Fresher's Week

Wholesome (and alcohol free) fun
at NSO.
     There is a fabled tradition at American Universities that goes by many names: “Freshman Orientation,” “New Student Orientation,” “Welcome Week.” Billed as a great way to meet new people and find your way around school, they’re also a thinly veiled attempt to keep you from getting homesick during your first week at school. One can easily identify them by the large number of student groups roaming campus, each led by a peppy upperclassman in some brightly coloured garb. It is generally considered the most exhausting part of freshman year – even classes are a welcomed relief. At Trinity, a similar tradition takes place – Fresher’s Week. In many ways, it is quite similar to its American counterparts. There are gaggles of freshmen excitedly rushing around, always looking a bit bewildered. An overwhelming assembly of clubs and societies trying to solicit said freshmen. Endless presentations on using the library, registering for modules, navigating Dublin.

Fresher's Week opening
     The biggest difference between Fresher’s Week and anything in the US is what happens after dark. In the US, school-sponsored and alcohol-free events dominate the social calendar. At Trinity, it’s quite the opposite. The college still officially sanctions the events, but they generally occur in bars and clubs. Alcohol is involved. In a way, it helps make the whole thing less awkward – people are free to socialize in a ‘more natural’ social setting. But nothing can remove the awkwardness of being asked (for the thirtieth time or so), “What’s your name? What’s your course? Where are you from? Oh, the US, cool!” Trust me, it’s just as uncomfortable at the bar as in the dinning hall. Of few of us, foolishly, decided we would buy these wristbands which gave you access to all of the week’s events. (We discovered later that these bands cost €2 more than simply paying at the door.) This meant that we got to spend the week branded as freshers, something that greatly wounded our newly minted upperclassmen pride.

     The bands did serve as a nice symbol of our odd, indeterminate position. We’re new to Trinity and haven’t made many friends yet, just like the thousands of freshmen swarming around. But we’ve been in higher education for two years now and generally know how ‘college’ works, like the third years we’re sharing classes with. We went to a few events throughout the week, some of us more than others. But by the end, most of us accepted that you only have the energy to do college orientation once.

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