By Michael Singer, Fordham University student, studying at Trinity College Dublin
Walking onto Trinity’s campus for the first time felt, in all honesty, a bit intimidating. After passing through a grandiose hardwood door, I entered into a plaza filled with dozens of tourists and students all gazing up at the heavy stone façades of the veritable city of buildings that ringed the courtyard. Directly in front of me stood Trinity’s campanile, much larger and more imposing than I’d imagined it, standing dramatically in the dead center of the bustle. As excited as I was to be there, a couldn’t help but feel a twinge of fear.
As I became oriented to life at Trinity and started my classes in earnest, it quickly became apparent to me that my trepidation was not entirely unfounded. Although my professors and classmates all welcomed me warmly, making the switch to a totally different educational system felt like no easy feat. The pacing of the semester, the expectations for students, the degree of independence required all seemed like great unknowns. Deep down I couldn’t help but fear that I would prove entirely inadequate in this new place.
To make matters worse, many of my peers seemed to know exactly what they were doing. I felt nervous asking them what I assumed to be silly questions. Being in a new environment even made making new friends seem much more daunting than back at home. Would I come off as clueless or seem ignorant talking to people? Without any familiarity with life in Dublin or at Trinity, I worried that I could never be sure.
Gradually, things started to get better. With some time, I found I no longer got lost among Trinity’s many buildings. With frequent questions to my professors, I started to feel a little surer in the classroom. Yet one of the most helpful changes to my mental scheme came from an unlikely source—the College’s architecture
At the beginning of term, I’d enrolled in an Irish Art and Architecture course as a fun elective. In the huge lecture theater, I learned about the street plans of Dublin and mid-century landscape artists, but the most enduring lessons for me examined the construction of the very University itself. I discovered that Trinity’s Old Library had initially been built to house a collection of books that could barely even fill the first story of shelves. The Provost’s house which sat next to it had been designed to entertain lavish parties which so successfully attracted wealthy patrons that the cost of construction swiftly paid for itself. And that grand campanile; much to my surprise, it had been ruthlessly ridiculed as a glorified stone birdcage when it first opened!
Knowing a little about the architecture of a place can bring a feeling of intimacy with that place. Now when I walk through campus, the grandiosity of the buildings no longer intimidates, but rather inspires me. In the stones and windows of Trinity’s libraries and towers, I am cognizant of the stories that this place has been witness to, and find a little comfort in knowing my journey is one of many that have wound its way through these halls. Although I can’t claim to have everything figured out, I feel happy to have gotten to know Trinity—with its classes, people, and yes, campanile—just a little bit better.