Two weeks have passed since we set off on another academic year at NUI Galway, and from the point of view of this second year, it has been a complete shock to the system. As one of the unfortunate graduates of the class of 2020, leaving secondary school one random Thursday, beginning our university careers completely online, finally getting to walk onto the campus grounds was bound to cause a shock to our secluded selves.
Let’s face it, everyone was in the same boat last year. Isolated. We are now slowly but surely getting back to a new form of normal, but I do wonder if many people were actually prepared to go on campus for the first time. I have noticed a great range on the enthusiasm spectrum in 2nd-year students. There is a cocktail of emotions, anxiety and excitement being the most prevalent.
I am still struggling to find my way to each of my lectures, and I find myself asking one question. Who really knows how to work the campus map? I think that I am en route to the human biology building and find myself in the wrong lecture in the Arts Millennium building. Last Thursday, I thought I was walking into Constitutional law and realised a few minutes into the lecture that I was in a science class. I didn’t have the heart to get up and walk out, but at least I now know about chemotaxis. Did you know that bacteria can swim towards or away from chemicals? I didn’t, but I do now.
Being a second-year student, normally one would understand how the library works, or at least where it was. I don’t know about you, but I just sit wherever I can find a desk and start reading through the countless emails from people asking if I would be interested in giving tours to the incoming first years. Let me tell you now in case you haven’t figured it out already, I am not qualified to give a tour of campus. I would intend to take the poor first years to the library and somehow end up at GMIT.
Studying this year, with a mixture of online and in-person has been so much easier. As the lectures are back to their old ways of seeing their students in person it has been easier to gauge their reactions to the material, and continue working from there. Students are finally speaking up and sharing ideas in class because unlike on Zoom there are no names to see and people to judge. We can take comfort in being just another voice in the theatre, and there are no more awkward breakout rooms.
I cannot believe the amount of reading I have to do, and the number of books I have bought is ridiculous. Out of curiosity, I measured the height of my new stack of schoolbooks, and I was horrified. I, for context, am 5ft7’, and this stack of books stands at the tall height of 4ft 9’.
Since Covid took over the world in 2020, studying has changed drastically, but I am hopeful that we will find our way back to normality. We have hopefully been through the worst of it, and survived. Surely it can only get better from here. Let’s wear our masks and take every day as it comes and try to enjoy the year.