On Thursday morning, I left the house to get the 17 bus out to UCD. I asked another commuter at the stop if they got the bus regularly at this time. I was trying to work out if it was still as unreliable as when I last used it regularly six years ago. To my relief, it arrived on time. Then fifty metres up the road we hit the familiar traffic. So much has changed over the last six years and yet everything stays the same.
I spent the bus ride sucking mints in an attempt to settle my stomach. It was playing up the whole way, as it does every time I am anxious about doing something new. Some people refer to this as butterflies. For me though, it’s more akin to being stabbed while hoping I’m not too far from the nearest bathroom.
I arrived to campus with plenty of time to spare. I headed towards the science building, remembering the many hours of lectures I sat through there in huge theaters with long, uncomfortable wooden benches. While I walked, I took note of all the construction taking place around me, and all of the updates that have been made since I was last there.
When I walked into the Innovation Academy, I was glad to see that it didn’t look anything like the old lecture theatres where I once spent so much time. Rather, it was bright and spacious with huge tables and comfortable chairs. I took a breath and sat down, a little less anxious now that I’d arrived.
I don’t think I have ever been in a classroom with the same atmosphere and energy. It was a hugely different experience to my memories of university. That’s not to say those memories are bad. However, it’s refreshing to be in a different environment, one which encourages open discussion. There are tasks and challenges that support creativity, teamwork and self-reflection. Those that run the innovation academy seem to understand that students can learn as much, if not more, from each other as they can from lectures.
After being gifted with lovely journals to keep during the course, we had an ice breaker exercise. As we went around the circle I could feel my heart thumping harder and harder as I anticipated having to speak. Public speaking is something that has always made me anxious. I don’t think that this is a remotely unusual or special thing about me. It’s terrifying for most of us, some are just better at hiding it than others.
I’ll admit – I was quite reluctant about returning to university. I love learning, but I had become sick of studying and examinations. By the end of day one, I was so glad I chose to apply anyway. By the time I was leaving, I no longer felt anxious. In place of the anxiety was excitement for the weeks ahead. I headed home with my mind open to opportunities for innovation.