When I was in leaving cert, I really didn’t have a clue what I wanted to study. I also couldn’t really pinpoint a particular job that I was interested in (doctor, teacher, lawyer…), which made choosing a course even more stressful. I only seemed to be able to rule out things I did not enjoy – science, history, business – which at the time, felt as though it eliminated most of my options.

That wasn’t to say I didn’t have any subjects I liked. I really enjoyed English and Maths, and I loved art, so in the back of my mind I thought maybe I’d like to do something with a creative twist. There were also areas of Geography – particularly the social/cultural/economic side – that really interested me. But I was pretty sure I didn’t want to study pure maths or just English or Geography in college.

What I can see clearly now, looking back, is that I didn’t want to go into something too narrow. It wasn’t that I lacked interests but rather that I had too many to be comfortable with choosing just one. Not having a particular career in mind also meant that I wanted to keep as many doors open as possible, and choosing any one subject felt as though I would be narrowing my options.

When I found Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PPE), it was the first time where I could see myself really studying what they described in the prospectus. I had taken a few courses with UCD summer school the year before (I can highly recommend it!!), where I had stumbled upon philosophy and found I really enjoyed it. It involved deep, and sometimes creative thinking that really appealed to me. At the same time the course involved economics, which seemed like a strong practical foundation to have balancing out the philosophy. Finally politics would delve further into that social aspect of geography that had intrigued me so.

Now in my third year of studying PPE, I know it was the right choice for me. I love the variety of getting to study three very different, yet overlapping subjects. Each subject feels like it uses different parts of your brain, and any time I feel as though I have had enough of one for the day, I can shift over to the next. Philosophy is very much focused on the abstract – from ethics which considers the ideas of right/wrong and what we should do, to metaphysics which asks questions like ‘Do we even exist?’, ‘What is time?’ and ‘Can we ever truly be free?’. Politics draws a lot on the real world, looking at different forms of government; at what a democracy is and what the alternatives are; and understanding international organisations (the UN, the EU, etc.) as well as the relations between countries, and how they have come to be that way. Finally economics switches gears again to take a more analytical approach to understanding how countries function and interact, and how it benefits them to do so. The issues examined by these three subjects are ultimately the same, but the diversity of their perspectives and their methods of evaluation really broaden your understanding of the world – and help you to understand why nothing is as simple as it seems!

I experience the variety of PPE on a daily basis. Every day is a mix of classes in the different subjects. This means I often get to move between different buildings around campus, and I really feel like a part of the entire university. My average class time for the week is about 15 hours spread over 4 or 5 days. Even allowing for getting some readings or study done during the week, this leaves a lot of time to get involved in student life.

In first year I joined at least 7 or 8 clubs and societies, including trampoline society (which is as fun as it sounds!) and film society (which host free screenings in UCD’s on campus cinema, often with free popcorn and drinks). I couldn’t wait to get involved in everything.

At the beginning of the year UCD hosts a Freshers Week where societies organise free events pretty much all day every day. They set up stalls, and there is an almost endless stream of goody bags and free food. It is one of my favourite parts of the semester – as a broke student, I live off free food for most of the week! But even during the semester the societies are always active. Living on campus in 1st and 2nd year gave me the perfect opportunity to try my hand at anything that interested me. I was able to go home between classes if I wanted to nap or get changed, and then take the 10-minute walk back to wherever a dance class or other society event was happening on campus. It also allowed me the freedom to go to more evening events without worrying about bus timetables.

Of all the societies I joined, the one I am most active in is the Musical Society. I joined in first year, and met so many lovely people. Every week they host a Vocal Group session for 2 hours, which is essentially choir focused on songs from musicals. It is such a relaxed environment, and everyone is really friendly and welcoming. I find it a complete de-stresser! On top of this, the musical society stages bigger events throughout the semester. They host full musicals once or twice a semester – the perfect antidote to a long day in the library! In the spring, the vocal group prepares for its own ‘Showcase’ with a week long bootcamp, where all the songs we’ve learnt throughout the semester are choreographed, and anyone can audition for a solo or small group number. It is one of the highlights of the Spring semester for me.

Even without taking part in any club activities, you’ll often stumble across a student union event like a petting zoo and colouring session set up in the weeks before exams to help you de-stress, or an outdoor movie organised just because they can.

It’s all of these wonderfully random things put together, and your freedom to explore them – or not – that really sets student life apart from anything you have experienced before it. For me, choosing PPE was a leap of faith, and I think for most courses it is. But once you are there, if you can embrace the experience there is so much you can get out of it – not just from your course, but from the opportunities and freedoms that come with being a student. For anyone who has yet to start university, all I can say is: You’re going to love it.