What I Learned In My First Year Of College

I feel like orientation day was yesterday, yet I’ve just finished my first year of college. It’s not often that I get personal here, but it’s been quite a year, and perhaps I can pass some wisdom onto those poor unfortunate Leaving Certs soon to be Freshers or at least amuse someone with these anecdotes. College taught me more than how to reference and where the best coffee is on campus, and these are some of those life lessons I picked up as a fresher.

13 Life Lessons From A Fresher


1. Do Not Go In Hungover And/Or Still Drunk

Ah yes, the drunken college student stereotype; I thought I learned this Freshers week when I wanted to die in my second ever Sociology lecture. However, when you still feel like you’re in a different world in Stables the following day -and not even a hot chicken roll is fixing it – you know you fucked up.

2. Say Yes

I didn’t go out much or at all during semester one, so when asked at the start of semester two, I jumped at the chance because I wanted to live a little more and had some great nights out and got to know even better people.

3. Dress For The Cold

The crop top and high-waisted shorts may have looked good on my Instagram, but standing in the courtyard genuinely feeling like blocks of ice replaced my feet made The Academic and Hudson Taylor hard to enjoy (plus the abundance of drunk couples everywhere). Screw looking attractive; I’m bringing a blanket next time there’s a gig.

4. If You Can Find Starbucks, You Can Find Anything

I still believe the main building is an evil scary labyrinth and remember having to be rescued from its unknown depths by friends with the better direction many times. Eventually, you learn the ropes or befriend other people who are just as lost as you are.

My sense of direction is so bad that I used the “lost time” strategy for the whole of semester one, which entailed giving myself at least half an hour to get lost and find my class. Whenever I got a little confident about where I was going, the main building decided to temporarily turn into the moving staircase from Hogwarts. Lord only knows where I’d end up, so I had to abide by “lost time” for the entirety of the first semester.

5. But If You Think The Main Building Is Scary, The Library Basement Will Make You Pee Your Pants

 I wanted to curl up in the corner and call my mam – it was like a sterile, modern version of the labyrinth from Labyrinth. Everything looked the same, it had that weird hospital smell, and there was no signage. I don’t care what’s down there: never again.

6. I Have A Weird Talent For Beer Pong

I never win, but I nail the first few shots, so everyone is impressed, and I look cool for a few minutes. Then I get cocky, and usually, it’s that one remaining cup from the other side that I cannot get the ball to go in, but the first impression is the most important, right?

7. Be A Nerd

Start your assignments early, go to class, do the readings, and take advantage of your tutorials. If your lecture is so unbearable that you cannot bring yourself to go: do the readings, take note of what you think will come upon the exams, get the lecture notes, and message anyone who went to see if anything important was said. You’re in college to learn, and doing all that saves you from having a mental breakdown during Reading Week.

8. I Actually Want To Be A Journalist

 Let me explain; I have heard so many stories about people who picked a course genuinely believing that it would take them to what they want to do with their lives only to get to college and loath it (which kind of makes the whole Leaving Cert experience seem futile then). I feared I’d join the ranks of dropouts who no longer know what to do with their lives (which there is nothing wrong with – don’t waste time doing something you hate!)

I don’t like everything about my course, but I realized that I couldn’t wait to do this. I’m not going to be spamming papers with articles over the summer out of the necessity to build up a portfolio but rather to ward off withdrawals and because I want to. Although, three different lecturers and anyone who asks what course I’m doing like to remind me of the poor career prospects, so… we’ll see.

9. No One Cares

I would have never in a million years even thought of going into school with no make-up on, and the good old Colours Days meant a fair amount of thought went into what I wore. I need to stress this wasn’t out of vanity but rather the opposite. In secondary school, I felt my appearance would be scrutinized if I felt I didn’t look up to scratch; it seemed like there were many things people couldn’t say or do without receiving some backlash from peers.

While I put effort into my appearance most days to feel good, you’ll still find me with no make-up on in a mismatched outfit with a bush for hair and not giving a single shit about it. The most beautiful thing is that no one else gives a shit either, and that’s not just about appearance. When it comes to pretty much anything, due to the lack of cliques/groups, and perhaps after gaining a bit of maturity, college feels less hostile. Of course, there’ll always be assholes, but school was like being a shark tank, and college is liberating in comparison.

10. Things Won’t Go As You Thought They Would

I think most people go into college with a vision of what it will be like. I adored English in Secondary school and was beyond excited to continue it at Third Level. I enjoyed writing essays and studying the likes of Poe and Shakespeare. Still, it soon became my least favourite subject and perhaps to the surprise of many find myself looking forward to dropping next semester.

I also thought that the Literary and Music Societies would be the highlights of my college experience – and that’s not to say that they’re not great societies – but I found myself lacking interest.

11. You’ll Miss School

I detested the first five years of secondary school; nothing can accurately convey just how much I loathed and hated those five years, but come sixth year, I’d finally settled in. Maybe it was because of my own mental shift or things changing for the better, but I quite liked sixth year (when the whole the Leaving Cert aspect was removed). I still miss the banter with the teachers, knowing everyone, and the structure of the day. I took having a locker for granted too.

12. Four Years Is Not A Long Time

My first year of secondary school passed far too slowly for my liking. Every year but sixth year felt like an eternity. I am frightened at how fast this year went; if they all go this fast, I’ll be out in the real world pretty soon,.

13. A Year Away Is Not As Exciting As It Used To Sound

A large part of why I wanted to go to college was for co-op and Erasmus; this was when I could not wait to get out of here, and a year didn’t seem long enough for me. Now I’m not as sure. I hope I’ll enjoy co-op and Erasmus when my time comes, but I won’t be running to the airport like I thought I would.


stock image of a study desk with books and a notebook

So, those are my 13 life lessons from a fresher. Brace yourself for a whole new world if you’re starting your first year this September. I’m already terrified and excited about what the second year will bring.

What did you learn outside of academia if you’re in college or finished your education?

While you’re here, why not have a read of the life lessons from second, third, and fourth-year year? If coming home for summer is difficult, you might find some of these tips helpful.


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