I completed my 4-year degree at Trinity College Dublin in Management Science & Information Systems. I was diagnosed with ASD towards the end of my third year. As such I feel I have had a unique experience having experienced college as
- An undiagnosed autistic student not availing of disability service supports
- A diagnosed autistic person (yay!) availing of disability service supports
My diagnosis, as well as tackling my sophister college years amid the pandemic certainly made for an interesting (but certainly positive ) experience. Here I share some of the many pearls of wisdom I have gathered!
Asking for Help
The most important thing I have learnt about life in college is that help does exist, and there are staff members whose responsibility it is to help you. Most importantly, you should know that you will not be automatically given help. College is very different to secondary school in that you sometimes must stick your neck out for yourself and ask for the support you need.
At Trinity you can get help and guidance from your peers of course, but also your tutor or your lecturers. If you are lucky enough to have an official diagnosis you can register with the disability service. The disability service is your friend! The staff are all very helpful and nice and you can get free Occupational Therapy.
Sometimes you may have to email a couple of people before you end up in the right place, but it is all a learning process! Another piece of advice is to not ever feel annoying for contacting people, their job is to help you! Most Trinity staff are extremely nice!
Trinity certainly has one of the most beautiful campuses (I would like to say in the world, but I may be slightly biased!). I would advise exploring the campus and surrounding city as much in your own time to find areas you like to study, chill and eat in. Find a couple of places you like to eat out from that are not too expensive. My go-to would often be a burrito as they are (relatively!) cheap but also filling You can very easily accidently go bankrupt buying oat lattes and lunch each day, so try keep a tab on your expenses.
Find an area in the library you like to study in. I always chose the lower floor of the Hamilton in the corner! Being close to the exit meant I could always pop out to refill my water bottle or take a quick break. I liked the familiarity of studying in the same area each time, and it helps with a study mindset.
If you have certain sensory preferences, find quiet places such as the rose garden to chill in if you need to. Trinity offers sensory rooms too which you may find helpful.
The thing about college is that sometimes your plans go out the window. This can be uncomfortable for some of us autistic people, however you sometimes you just have to roll with it. Group projects are always a little chaotic, so do not be worried if plans go astray. Lectures can be cancelled last minute or moved to different locations. You may end up spontaneously going out for food even though you packed lunch! The horror!
In general, you have to be a lot more organised in college than in secondary school. It always feels like a lot of effort to plan out your week – allowing for events, assignments or exams – but it pays off not to experience the stress of freewheeling it. If you can, always put a little effort into developing schedules that work for you.
Socialising & Societies
If you’re anything like me, socialising is made easier by having a shared interest. It can be easier to talk to new people when you have something to do together, rather than in an unstructured setting where you have no ties together. Societies are the perfect place to do this.
I for one am still blown away at the range of societies Trinity has to offer. Even now I hear about, say, a rifle society and am completely taken by surprise. Someone even tried to set up an aquarium society when I was in first year.
You can be sure to find a society that caters towards your special interests. If not, there are lots of initiatives you can get involved in for disability inclusion. This can be a great way to meet other neurodiverse students, or those who are interested in inclusion. Trinity has a new society for Neurodiversity – DUNeS. An official diagnosis is not necessary, so self-diagnosis is fine! You can even just be interested in neurodiversity. If you are interested in disability activism, accessibility or anything else to do with disability the Ability Co-op is a great one to join. they carry out various initiatives to promote inclusion around campus.
Either way, there is such a wide variety of societies available you are sure to find something that matches your hobbies and interests!
Fresher’s week can be a bit of a sensory nightmare – be warned that at the societies fair people will come up and actively try to recruit you . This is completely fine, but you may not be expecting it!!! The college is usually very crowded as people always turn up to the first week of events. It can be nice to carve out some time for yourself to look around campus for spots you find relaxing and quiet. These can be helpful later in the semester. Sometimes I would walk to St. Stephen’s Green at lunch. Even if it is a bit of a walk, it can be quiet enough midweek. Find out where the main parts of campus are, as well as all the various libraries. Even if you don’t end up having lectures at one end of campus, they might have a really nice library space. I was a STEM student myself but often went to the Perch in the Arts block for snacks or the Lecky to study when I wanted a change of scenery. The Rose Garden is a lovely place to sit but I have recently found out the ambient bird noises you can hear while sitting there are a fake recording! Extremely disappointing!
I would ensure that you do plan lots of energy replenishment activities before and during Fresher’s week to make sure you can give your all during the important parts You want to be relaxed and un-burnt out when meeting your classmates and for the first few lectures as you get used to college life.
The great thing about 3rd level education is that you chose to be there. You (hopefully!) chose your area of study, and so will be around likeminded people. This is also why a lot of people who hated secondary school find they love college. You are there to learn, but also to develop yourself as a person. It can be easy to feel intimidated by over-confident people or the huge number of students, but you worked hard to get there and absolutely deserve to be there.
I may be slightly biased, but Trinity has an extremely lovely campus. Make the most of your time there, and don’t forget to soak up the atmosphere! Walking around the buildings and on the cobblestones is inspirational in itself!
Best of luck, study hard (but not too hard!) and most importantly enjoy it, it certainly flies!
Rosie recently completed her fourth year of study at Trinity as a Management Science and Information Systems student. In this blog she shares her journey through college and experience of connecting with supports, clubs and societies, and navigating the Trinity campus.