Semester Start Up Programme – A Reflection

By Abigail Borges [Visiting Student]

Hi! I’m Abby, a third year, single semester visiting student at Trinity College Dublin and a junior at Brown University in spirit. I am from the small town of West Greenwich in the small state of Rhode Island, where I attend Brown and study History and Political Science. I am in the same course at Trinity, and have been spending my time studying (of course), sampling desserts (necessary), and exploring as much of Dublin and Ireland as I can squeeze into four months.

Most first-time Trinity students’, whether fresher or international, first experience at university is when they arrive on campus mid-September for the festivities of (in)famous Fresher’s Week. My experience, however, began three weeks earlier, as a participant in the School of History and Humanities Semester Start Up Programme (SSP), a requirement by my university but a mystery of a program to many I’ve met during my month and a half at Trinity. I thought I’d take the time to reflect on my time in SSP, for those curious about what exactly it is and maybe even for those considering studying here and enrolling in this valuable – and I do believe it was valuable – program.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, SSP is sort of like an optional three-week international student orientation, aimed at getting students acquainted not just with Trinity but with the city and country they’ll call home for the next phase of their life. The program was structured around daily lectures and weekly tutorials (sections, seminars, whatever your school calls smaller discussions). The academic element of SSP was organized around three strands of learning: The Story of Ireland (Ireland’s history), Visualizing Ireland (art history run by that department), and Representing Ireland (examining Irish literature and symbolism, among other representations). As a history major, I enjoyed the first strand the most, but I felt by the end that all were integral to giving us outsiders an authentic and thorough introduction to Ireland. Though schoolwork is regrettable by default, the three papers assigned (two shorter and one long on topics from the strand of your choice) really gave us room to delve into what interested us. Another element adding to the overall experience were the field trips – it was like going back to elementary school trips led by your teacher, except to amazing and meaningful places with actually interesting tidbits to learn. The Abbey Theatre, Hill of Tara, Trim Castle, Croke Park, and Glasnevin are all trips unique to Ireland and definitely worth the visit, and SSP made it easy by bringing them all together for us. And all this while leaving ample time to meet people and explore on our own – what could be better?

Reflecting, I felt that my experience with SSP was truly beneficial and allowed me to approach my interactions with the country, my modules, and the Irish people with much more understanding thanks to its teaching. I also met some of my greatest friends at Trinity through the program, and it was comforting to start Fresher’s Week without the added stress of meeting people hanging over my head. Though SSP was, in essence, still school, the knowledge it gives is more practical and more enjoyable than both the typical dry, ice-breaking nature of orientations or the monotony and rigor of classes. To try out my newly acquired Irish lingo, I’d say it was grand (I’m basically a local). I hope this clears up SSP for those curious and those considering it alike – now onto tackling module registration!


Above: The Hill of Tara and its famous Wishing Tree, one of the day trips we took with SSP. So far my wish for an unlimited supply of Butler’s chocolate truffles has yet to come true.

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Above: Croke Park, home of GAA sports like Gaelic football and hurling, distinctly Irish traditions. Not pictured: the 82 thousand fans that usually fill this stadium, the third biggest in Europe.

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Above: Trim Castle, my favorite of the SSP field trips. I couldn’t decide if I felt like an extra in Harry Potter, the Hobbit, or Braveheart, but the last of those was filmed in this medieval fortress.


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