When the Horticulture Society’s auditor Laoise returned to UCD’s Belfield campus this year, she was aghast at the sight of Rosemont garden, the university society’s crown jewel.

“Every weed imaginable had taken over our polytunnel and garden,” she says. Laoise, fellow committee members and their predecessors had meticulously tended the garden from its founding in 2014 until the campus shut in 2019 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Like Horticulture Society members, students in all areas of studies and interests are finding that their own figurative gardens have gone wild and need tending. 

A challenging year of online college has taken a heavy toll on UCD life. Returning to campus in 2021 is a completely different experience than in years gone by. 

“Feels like I’m starting again,” laments one third-year student on the online page UCD Confessions around the first day of in-person classes. 

Students report finding it difficult to concentrate. Making friends and being in large groups seems more intimidating than before the pandemic. Students, professors and societies are finding their footing again. In so many ways, together we are relearning what a year on campus looks and feels like.

For its part, the Horticulture Society is taking stock of their neglected garden where a variety of plants once flourished.  

“I don’t know if I can say that we’ll ever get back to where we left off because we’re in completely new territory,” Laoise says.

So many at UCD can relate. 

Third-year arts student John says, “During almost all of last year I was craving the usual college experience, but now that we’re actually back it feels very anticlimactic. It’s like I’ve forgotten what I enjoyed so much about the first year of college. I’m slowly beginning to regain an enthusiasm for college that came naturally before the pandemic.”

We’ve all changed because of the pandemic and are returning to a different place—older, potentially wiser and more accustomed to washing our hands. 

“We get to have a fresh start. We get to be back in the garden. We get to have our hands dirty and really turn it around and make it how we like.” 

If you had bad study habits last year, you can plant the seeds of change. If you felt lonely last year stuck in online learning and away from campus life, make new friends. 

And if you want to be a part of a great community starting a new garden, join the Horticulture Society.

Maeve Dodd – Campus Correspondent