I have just finished my first year at university and can safely say it has been one of the best years of my life. I have made more friends than I have ever had, am really enjoying the degree I chose, have thrown myself into a heap of rewarding extracurriculars and have surpassed nearly every reservation and expectation I had about starting university.
And yet, upon further consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I do not want my time at Trinity to be the peak of my existence.
The idea that attending university is the highlight of your life has long permeated into my psyche. It has been said to me by family and friends in numerous ways throughout my life. Some told me that they had the “most fun” as a student, followed by wild tales of their debauchery. Many told me that the majority of their current friends had been made at or through university. All of these factors combined to set my expectations incredibly high for my time at Trinity, and I felt an immense amount of pressure upon my arrival last September to have the best time, make friends for life and return with stories equally as outlandish and entertaining as those of my family.
I feel that it would be a shame for the “best years of my life” to be over at twenty-two. With the average lifespan being in the early eighties, having to live out three-quarters of my life knowing that nothing would ever live up to those few short years would be utter misery. If you are absolutely certain that nothing will ever beat your time at university, is anything else worth doing? Is anything else even worth trying? Personally, I want to live my life in excitement for, as opposed to dreading, my future.
The grim truth of housing is something that many seem to gladly forget the moment they leave third-level education. In both my experience and that of my friends, university halls can be rodent infested, mould riddled places, not to mention the exorbitant rates they charge for the pleasure of living there. Private flats – if they will rent to students – often have similar conditions and an equally extortionate rent, minus the university being bound to provide habitable conditions for students. Personally, I would like the best years of my life to be spent in a space that is clean, rodent-free and reflective of who I am.
Though one’s time at university may be life-affirming and raucous, there are other factors to consider. Most of us will spend our four or more years eking out an existence between student loans, money from parents and poorly paid part time jobs. In my experience, these student jobs are usually fairly miserable. I work in hospitality, where I have been demeaned by customers more times than I can count. Existing between a reliance on parents and jobs I am neither passionate nor excited about is not what I want my prime years to consist of. I would far prefer to spend those years financially independent and in a job I truly care about.
In a way, attending university and the time spent there are quite self-indulgent, but that’s how it should be. Everyone is grappling with how they wish to spend the rest of their lives while simultaneously figuring out who they want to be at university. It is a time of great introspection, when one lives mostly for themselves: getting a degree, socialising and working to be able to keep up with those activities. Although this period is incredibly important and should not be dismissed, I would like to spend the finest years of my life making some sort of positive difference furthering others’ lives as well as my own.
With all that said, I do hope to look back on my time at university and laugh at the fond memories I’ve created here, but I would also like to imagine that the best years of my life are yet to come.