“We met on Tinder.” This is a response that now barely raises an eyebrow. I know several couples who met on dating websites. Most of us probably do and we just don’t know it. I dare say that this answer to the question “where did ye meet?” is now as common as “Macra rally” once was. People adapted over time. I mention this because some commentary is suggesting that new students will not meet anyone or make any friends in their first year of college. I don’t buy that and neither does vice president for welfare with the Union of Students in Ireland Clare Austick who spoke to Anne O’Donoghue for our “Going to College guide”.

A key part of college is the social learning

This is an age group that embraces change, and which is most capable of adapting to it. They are probably now using Tinder to meet up at the Macra rallies. A key part of college is the social learning, and Clare explains what colleges, unions and clubs will be doing to ensure students don’t miss out on this key element.

Aside from the social side, Niall Hurson and Anne have pulled together all the vital information that students need to kick start their college experience. This is more important in 2020, as there is no one that can tell a new student exactly what it’s going to be like this year. The students, no matter what year they are in, are all in the same boat – sailing into the unknown.

My eyes widened in horror as I read about her harassment which lasted for over two years

Ensuring that students are COVID-19 safe is one thing, but ensuring that college life is safe in general is another. Reading about the ordeal suffered by Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin at the hands of a colleague, I really question what failure allowed her ordeal to continue. My eyes widened in horror as I read about her harassment which lasted for over two years. We can only hope that her courage in speaking out about it will enable other women to speak out too.

Unfortunately, she was far from alone. I was reminded of what the executive director of AgriAware, Marcus O’Halloran, said in his interview with us about his time as UCD student union president in 2015-16: “There was a ‘rape culture doesn’t exist on this campus’-type belief. The college administration were totally against us on it, they didn’t want the wider public to think that we had this issue in UCD. But we had students confiding in our welfare officer and we were aware that these issues were on campus.” There is no room for complacency in looking after yourself on the college campus.

My two little girls went back to school last week. New books, despite the old ones being only half full, and the seven-year-old sporting a “mini”, as we didn’t fully replace the uniforms for fear of another shut down.

We got our own bins for our stuff, we had the whole playground for our class

After six months at home, I was slightly apprehensive that there would be an outright rejection of the school and crèche routine. There wasn’t. In fact there was no apprehension at all, just excitement. After day one, I asked my half-frenzied questions? “How was it?”, “What was different?”, “Was it strange to see your teacher in a mask?” I sensed the raised eyebrows of “What’s the big deal?” from the back of the car and the calm little responses came back: “We got our own bins for our stuff, we had the whole playground for our class.” As for the mask on teacher: “It’s fine although her visor makes her a little harder to understand.” Small people have fully adapted – grown-ups take note.

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