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Life at TCD: English Studies

Life at TCD: English Studies

That's it lads, my first year in Trinity is officially complete. 

Generally when people ask me how college is going, I tend to talk more about the social life, clubs to avoid at all costs, and of course, my definitive pancake ranking for all the restaurants in town. But, although some people do love to hear about all the intricacies of student life in Dublin, there are some people out there who actually give a damn about academia; and this post is for you guys. 

A year ago now I would have filed my CAO choices into my laptop, and at the very top of the list was "English (SH)" at Trinity College Dublin, followed by an array of other variations (known as TSM) which incorporated my favourite subject, just to be on the safe side. Many wondered why I wanted to do English, especially considering I had not been able to find out much about the course itself online (beyond the meagre few lines on the tcd website) and that I had decided about the course when I was 8 years old, walking past the Trinity campus with some novel and diary tucked away in my bag. 

Some may say that I choose this whole thing on a whim. So for those you of who may not like to live so precariously (you'd swear I was playing with my whole future here or something), then I have complied a wee insight into the bustling life of an English student at Trinity College. 

Why do English? 

This is a question that you'll have to answer yourself I'm afraid. For me, English has always been my favourite subject in school, and I was that nerdy kid that had to try and contain squeals of excitement anytime we were given a personal essay assignment in class. As a kid I used to walk into shops holding my granddads hand, and instead of demanding the sweets, I would demand the latest issue of any girly child's magazine that I could get my grubby little hands on. (Teen Vogue was truly my bible at that age)

One thing I will say that is of course screamingly obvious, is that you have to enjoy reading, you have to enjoy writing, and even if you don't believe you will like every aspect of the course, you have to possess some deep rooted passion for the subject, or else your time in the arts block will be a short one.  

Single Honours or TSM? 

When researching my course this was the one technical term that really and truly confused me; but there wasn't (as far as I could work out) a super clear distinction between what the two courses entail. I ended up putting down a bunch of TSM subjects after ascertaining that English alone was my top priority but I actually momentarily faltered in that decision just as the year began. 

TSM stands for Two-Subject Moderatorship, which means that you would be studying two subjects (obvs) and you can choose from a number of combinations, depending on what you want to do. I originally looked at English and Economics (two of my favourites in school) but that one isn't offered, but they did have a whole chart which showed what options are available. 

From what I can tell, in TSM you do some of the same core modules as the Single Honours people (3 from each semester I believe) and then you would do 3 from your other subject. So as far as I can work out it actually ends up being around the same number of hours; even though I did originally want to switch to TSM because I thought I would have more hours in college. (A bizarre thought I know) 

Single Honours just does 12 modules in straight ol' English for the entire year; and covers some more in-depth stuff than perhaps the other course offers. 


My dad still scoffs at this figure, but it is true that I had a mere 12 hours a week. (13 in the first semester) This measly figure comprises of 6 lectures and 6 tutorials; but the number actually declines at certain points of the year as one does not have tutorials in the first or last two weeks of each term. 

Many would say that you should spend the equivalent amount of time in the library, but I did not find that to be the case. But you should technically be spending a lot of your time reading for those classes; most vitally for those tutorials. 

Modules & Assignments 

I think if you are anyways like me, and although you may be a lover of English, it is not quite your life source; you will not like everything that each module entails, nor will you read everything that is on the course list... There is no point in deluding yourself into thinking otherwise. 

The modules for first year are:

  • American Genres 
  • Early English Language 
  • Enlightenment
  • Genre: The Novel
  • The Gods in Literature
  • Theories of Literature 
  • Beginnings of English Poetry 
  • Irish Writing 1890-1945 
  • Medieval and Renaissance Romance 
  • Poetry: An Introduction 
  • Romanticism 
  • Stages of Theatre

I won't lie and say that I enjoyed them all (find any first year student who loves Old English and I'll give you my last fiver) but each module is interesting in it's own right; and truly opened my eyes to works which I had never considered reading, or in some cases, never even knew existed.

Asides from having to prepare for tutorials (and lectures if you so choose), there doesn't tend to be a lot of assignments, unless so decided by your tutors for each module who will email you anything they wish for you to have read or prepared. 

Essays & Exams 

To keep it pretty straight forward; you have to write 6 essays in the whole year in which you have to prepare for and are given the titles in advance. You aren't really given a whole lot of insight into what is expected of you, but everyone is in the same boat, and it is very much a learn as you go process. 

On the exam front I believe things may be altering slightly next year in that there will be Christmas exams for all, but for moi, there was just 6 exams in Summer (they usually begin at the start of May), of which 2 were carried over from the previous term. 

Exams are a learn as you go process I'm afraid, as you learn about each module you will begin to get little snippets about what the exam itself will entail. I will tell you one thing though; it is NOTHING like the Leaving Cert; and truly that is all that matters. 

Overall I really feel like I have provided only the teeniest glimpse into life as an English student in Trinity College; but I guess it was more info than I ever garnered in my travels, so in that way it may even be the teeniest bit helpful. 

As I've said before, it's so much more than just a course; it's the life that you will be living there, the friends you will make and the coffee you will drink. 

More than anything do NOT listen to the sneers some people insist on spitting about Trinity itself, because we are not all pompous lil... well almost everyone that I have encountered has been nothing but lovely. 

I hope that I have been somewhat helpful in your quest for answers, and I hope to see you at Trinity Ball next year (if I make it past the steps this time...) 

ZoΓ« x



10 Things I've Learned in College

10 Things I've Learned in College