Imagine you’re in a big entrance hall and there are students buzzing and humming around you everywhere. It’s not like you don’t like students – you’re one yourself – but these students are in a specific mode. You can smell the tension. Some are excited, others nervous and then there are those feeling panicky or very worried. Welcome to end-of-term examinations! Today is the last day. I’m lucky, I only had a couple. But there are students who had to go through this process 6 times! What process, you ask? Here it is:
You arrive one hour early, since you weren’t sure if you could find the RDS straight away on your bike because remember, you’re not particularly good with directions. After you did get lost on the way once, you finally make out signs which tell you: UCD EXAMS THIS WAY and you happily follow them. When you’re there you find yellow-waistcoated ushers (Platzanweiser) in the gateway that tell you where to put your bike. Some students are already lurking at the buildings’ entrance, nervous-or-cool-smoking. Next to the entrance is a coffee stand and you think you’ll get a coffee after you’re done – zur BELOHNUNG (=as a treat) und zur Feier des Tages. However, now you enter the dreaded building and it’s just like last time: busy students e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. You are one hour early, for X’s sake! It’s only eleven and the exam is not until 12pm. Maybe the others had the same thought about getting lost on the way here, but you doubt it. Most of them will have taken the bus. Most of them are full-time UCD students anyway and know how to get to the RDS. So what are they doing here, you wonder. One simple answer: It’s called last-minute studying! There’s not one single person not holding some kind of notes’ package in their hands, staring at it in a desperate way or gesturing with it towards another person, presumably one from the same course and discussing some last questions before the exam. Turning around, you can make out the same picture over and over again in the big entrance hall. Students either stand in groups or sit on the floor with their notes spread before them. Others sit on the few available seats or benches across the hall. You choose the edge of one of the benches right next to the wardrope counter where you will later pay 1€ to let them look after your bag while you sit through the exam. You take out your notes and go through everything you’re supposed to know for the exam. But you can’t really focus because of all the chatter around you. So you put in your earphones and listen to Ed Sheeran whilst last-minute studying. Since your exam will be right around lunch time you nibble at the apple you thoughtfully brought with you. From time to time you look up and about the hall, just to see if there’re any changes. Indeed the hall fills up quickly with even more students. Probably more Irish students who are used to the procedure already.
At a quarter to twelve, someone’s speaking through the microphone, announcing the doors to the exam hall are now open and if you want to give your bag to the wardrope, you should do so now. So you get up, swing your bag over your shoulder and approach the wardrope counter. Don’t forget your water bottle. Nor your student card and some pens and pencils. Now you’re fully equipped for your exam. Follow the mass of students to the exam hall. But make sure to remember your seat number you checked right at the beginning. In the middle of the entrance hall is a long board with lists of names pinned. There you had to find your name between all the Irish names. Once you nearly panicked when you saw your last name but a wrong first name. Then you realised it wasn’t really your last name but one l too much and your name was listed a few students down. Remember, remember your seat number. Whether it is 313 or 2119, it matters! You might get a wrong exam paper if you chose the wrong seat.

Settled in the right seat, the exam papers are given out at 12 sharp, no minute sooner or later. The person with the mic speaks once again and you hope it’ll be the last time you hear from him while concentrating on your exam. As you look down your paper you start hearing the scraping of pens by hundreds of students gathered in one big hall. Welcome back, smell of tension!