DUBLIN — Going abroad this semester has opened my eyes to just how different cultures can be, and I don’t just mean cultures in the international sense, but in the collegiate sense as well. I am continually surprised by the differences in college culture that I experience on a daily basis.
The biggest, and certainly most noticeable, difference this week is student elections. Student elections are a very big deal at Trinity College. Students actually discuss who they are going to vote for, and they know who the candidates are.
And the candidates! It’s amazing to see the amount of effort that goes into a campaign here. There are a number of offices and each one has at least two people running for it. Every candidate has a campaign pamphlet, and not an amateur one either. The pamphlets are highly professional, glossy and they include full-color constructions with professional photographs of the politician-to-be and his policy stances.
But the campaigning does not end there. These candidates do not work alone. Each one has a small army of a constituency wearing uniform T-shirts for their particular campaigns and lobbying to any passing student.
Seeing the level of commitment to student government here has made me feel like a bit of a slacker myself. Does Binghamton University even have a student government? Everyone knows we have a Student Association, but I doubt if more than a dozen people know who the officers are. It’s simply not such a big deal at BU.
I am sure that is not for lack of wanting a voice. I just don’t think that there is an institution in place that really allows for this kind of student participation and, in turn, I think we may be missing out on some really great opportunities at BU.
One example would be the social events that I have attended since coming to Dublin and Trinity. There is always something going on in the heart of Trinity’s campus. There are dozens of student societies and participating is extremely easy. Once you sign up for a society, they give you a card that gets you discounts on things around the city. For example, the Literary Society gives card-carrying members a 15 percent discount at some book and coffee shops.
Since arriving, I have become a part of four different societies, and each one holds multiple programs each week, as well as trips throughout the term and social events every now and then. I had the lovely opportunity to go to the Strauss Ball last week, a waltz-only dance featuring an orchestra.
It was a black-tie event. That’s something you don’t see every day at BU. But why is that?
Maybe it would be nice to have more occasions where a tuxedo and a ball gown would be necessary. Maybe our student groups could be a little more transparent and a lot more welcoming. I know that I would love to see a club really go out on a limb and hold several meetings every week, and maybe even hold an event a few times a semester.
For now, I’ll just embrace the feeling of civic duty on my side of the pond.