First Impressions…

Anna McAlpine

Visiting Student

Departments at Trinity: School of English

Home Institution: St. Andrews, English Literature and Philosophy MA (Hons)

“The streets are busy. Alighting the bus at Grafton Street, the city is intoxicating with people bustling all around me, sprawling in every direction. I know my route – dodging bodies on my quest to reach the old building peering over the shops on College Green. The traffic flows constantly through the streets never pausing for rest – carrying vessels filled with people set on entering the town centre as I seek to escape it. I finally clear the corner, following the black metal fence that winds around Trinity campus. Then finally, the ancient wooden gates stand before me, although I am not permitted to stand still and admire them.

In a sea of bodies, standing shoulder to shoulder with tourists and academics alike, I am swept through the doors. The sea reaches its peak as everyone jostles to filter through the small opening before spilling out in a trough onto Front Square. Suddenly the chatter, the camera clicking and the footsteps silence as our collective breath is momentarily taken away.

Regaining composure, the crowd move on and I make my way to stand in front of the Campanile. It is my first day on my own, in a new city, in a new university. It is easy to feel intimidated – the buildings are not shy in imposing themselves on you. Lavish, grand and ornate are the first words that come to mind. The sense of history is obvious in their structures and in the very air that enshrouds the campus. I stand rooted in the shadows of the institution’s history.

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I look up at the Campanile above me before turning to face the pool of bodies now rippling off in various directions across the square. The little blue clock governs time as I take my first steps into the rare winter sunlight that glints off the ice-covered path below my feet. It is a sun that instills hope into my intimidated and anxious mind. Trinity is a place where a wealth of illustrious academics have gone before me, but I am now in the place where it all began for them. The gates are open for me, inviting me to try and join their ranks. I began to wonder if they were once in that same spot, between the Campanile and the clock, dreaming about the journey that lay before them.”

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Above: Anna McAlpine – Trinity Student

I wrote this on my first day at Trinity, sitting in a small café just off Grafton Street. I was surprised by how quickly it all came to me… and I was more surprised still by just how embedded literature is into Dublin culture. Maybe I was naive… after all I did choose Trinity because of its tradition for producing fine writers. However I do not think I accounted for the magnitude this tradition would have: it seems to be as rooted in the foundations of the university and the city as much as the ancient, gnarled oak trees in Front Square. For an English student with a dramatic temperament and a tendency to romanticise it comes naturally to write about Dublin in fictionalised prose format. Just breathing in the air of the city and wandering its busy streets allows me to understand why Dublin has been immortalised so often in words of fiction.

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Hailing from the quaint and coastal University of St Andrews this has certainly come as a shock to me. I sense that this same amount of creativity could not be so easily generated or felt so plainly in my conservative town back home. Although Trinity may feel removed from the city given its glacial silence – I have came to realise after a couple of weeks here that Trinity and Dublin have one and the same heartbeat. This is a campus that is full of life and movement and diversity. Prose pours so easily off the tongue because ideas are created here – they are buzzing around you in every overheard snippet of conversation as you run down College Street; ideas are commemorated in the figures the city chooses to immortalise in statues; ideas are what have given this city and university its reputation. This is a fact I think you can only truly appreciate when you are still, standing, thinking – as I was on front of that blue clock on the cobblestones – only just beginning to realise the creative melting pot I have been absorbed into.


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