I went to Trinity College Dublin for college. It’s a lovely college, right in the middle of Dublin. There’s a set of scholarship exams which you can take in your second year in college, just called “schol” by students. They’re a hard set of exams, not least because you have to take the exams at Easter and you have to study your ass off throughout the year. Engineering/Maths/Science are definitely easier subjects to get it in though, at least we have objectively correct answers. There are (or were) far fewer arts students who ended up getting it, and that’s not because they’re not plenty smart enough!
Anyway, the point of doing the exams is that if you get them, you get 5 years of free rooms, fees and an evening meal. Course, most people do 4 year degrees, and so the 5 years is really there to entice you to do a PhD or masters. Interestingly, the meal rights continue even after you’ve left college, so, I was able to work and still come back for the meal. Yum.
So, I was incredibly privileged to be able to just head down and study for the exams, and, fortunate enough to get the scholarship. It completely transformed my time at college. I met many good friends as a direct result of getting it, and lots of interesting chats over dinners (and free Guinness ;). I’d also never have lived out of home before finishing college unless I’d got schol.
One of the perks of schol is that they invite you back every 10 years for dinner. I missed my first 10 year reunion in 2009, but, I really wanted to make it back for my 20 year one, and I’m very very glad I did. It was really lovely to meet up with old friends again. It’s a very odd thing to see people age in 10 year (or 20 year) intervals! Very odd indeed.
The dinner itself was yum, the wine was good, the conversation flowing (helped along by the wine no doubt). The provost gave an excellent speech on brexit’s impacts and the challenges faced by universities. It’s worth a read…
...When I first took office as Provost in 2011, I quoted Erasmus in my inaugural speech: Ego mundi civis esse cupio, communis omnium. "I long to be a citizen of the world, a fellow-citizen to all people." This is in direct opposition to Theresa May’s ‘If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere’. It’s Erasmus I want to channel for our students – education should lead out towards a sense of ‘fellow-citizenship with all people’. It is through education that we build our common humanity.
Tonight, as we celebrate our new scholars, we celebrate the brilliance and discipline that enabled them achieve this singular distinction, and we hope that they will use their gifts to inspire generations, to further our common humanity, and to maintain and strengthen warm neighbourly relations with our sister island.
I hope to be back again in another 10 years time, schol, and the friends I’ve made through it, have been one of the most positive impacts on my life.