As my cousin once remarked: “rowers only talk with rowers, and the only thing they talk about is rowing.” Of course this is a slight exaggeration, but it does illustrate the bond and brotherhood that exist between fellow rowers. A mutual loyalty to one another, sometimes forged in mutual suffering and ambition, but more often than not formed on a mutual respect and understanding for the sacrifices the sport demands and the accomplishments achieved. Although my experience with the Club is slightly irregular, I still got a taste of this bond during my brilliant time with the Club.
My experience started in the same manner that has been true for every single DUBC member; I was signed up during Fresher’s Week. I had already spent four years at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and armed with that experience I figured that Fresher’s Week at Trinity would be the same as any other fresher’s week: a large amount of very young people trying to drink as much as possible in one week, whilst they were looking to join a society or club. This proved to be largely true, but as I walked underneath Front Gate onto the courtyard I was baffled by the sheer amount of societies and clubs that tried to recruit me. It seemed that it was almost impossible to not be able to find something to one’s liking. A bit lost between all these clubs and people I wandered around a bit, until my eye caught sight of an oar that was attached to a little tent. In front of the tent was the machine that had haunted my life when I rowed as a junior in high school: an erg. When I walked over I was immediately asked: “hey, you want to row?”
When I arrived in Dublin to attend Trinity as an Erasmus exchange student, I was determined to try and make local friends instead of following the usual routine of just hanging with other international students. Since language wasn’t a barrier, I was thus looking to join a sports club. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of the lads I encountered, I immediately signed up. Due to my previous experience as a rower, I was told to attend a meeting the next evening where the coaches would give an outline about their plans for the coming season. Since I was only going to attend Trinity during Michaelmas term, I was a bit bummed upon learning that there would not be much opportunity for me to do any actual racing. That being said, I joined the Club primarily to make friends and with that in my mind I started to attend the early morning training sessions. Although I had joined the boat club in Leiden (the KSRV “Njord”) in my freshman year I hadn’t done any serious rowing since high school and I was severely out of shape. I quickly rediscovered the sorrows that accompany rowing and which I had largely forgotten about: my first blisters were a painful reminder of the memories I had suppressed!
Although I severely enjoyed the training sessions and the comradery that came with them, an invariable consequence of rowing is the amount of time it consumes. I soon realised that I had to make a choice whether or not I was going to spend my few months in Ireland in a rowing boat or discovering the rest of the country. As I was contemplating my choice I received some very distressing news from back home. When I shared this with the coaches and the rest of the Club I was immediately stricken by their kind reactions, their understanding, and their offers for help. The impact of this news influenced my emotional wellbeing at the time, however, which resulted in not being able to bring up the necessary motivation required to do hard training (or attend any classes for that matter). I thus made the decision to quit rowing. As I mentioned earlier, my time with the Club is somewhat irregular: I never actually rowed all that much! A decision I sometimes regret now!
Feeling lost and a bit alone due to what had happened back in the Netherlands, I was called by some of the lads a week or so after I quit training: “[w]as I by any chance interested in accompanying them to a reel dance lesson that was being organised by the Caledonian Society?” Intrigued I decided to join the lads and had a great evening. Even though I had stopped training with the Club, I was touched that apparently I was still considered to be a friend by the rest of its members. For the first time during my stay I felt truly accepted and at home in Ireland.
Although I did not return to the boat during the time that I remained in Dublin, I was determined to try my best to be there for all the other moments and to help the Club wherever I could. The celebration dinner, for example, that was held at the Dining Hall in honour of the 2015 Irish senior eight championship crew was a very special night where I got to meet a lot of the Old Boys. From the daily lunches in the dining hall to the Boat Ball, I found a brotherhood in Ireland that I was proud to call myself a member of. I revelled in the Club’s traditions and felt an immense pride on receiving my own pair of black and white striped socks at Commons; signifying my official membership. I also decided to go on the annual training camp, which was supposed to take place in Northern-Ireland. Due to heavy rainfall the camp unfortunately had to be postponed, and eventually took place at Islandbridge. This did mean, however, that due to conflicts with my course work I was unable to attend, since I had to finish my final essays.
When my time at Trinity was up, I found it very hard to leave. Leaving so early felt a bit unsatisfying, especially since I was just starting to get settled in. I was therefore determined to return to Dublin. Some of the Old Boys and the Trinity Regatta Committee had asked me if I was willing to try and bring a Dutch crew over to Trinity Regatta; a request I was more than willing to fulfil of course! I was therefore delighted that I was able to attend Trinity Regatta with both a female and male eight from the KSRV “Njord” in tow. Both crews returned to Leiden with enthusiastic stories, and I hope this will be the start of many crews from Leiden who will travel overseas to the waters of Islandbridge. As for myself, I finally wore the zephyr at Trinity Regatta itself, racing for the first time for DUBC.
When I look back at my time as an exchange student, I consider myself fortunate. In sharp contrast to some of my fellow international students I have found a brotherhood at Islandbridge that I am able to return to. I hope to experience many more brilliant moments with the lub in the years to come. Perhaps DUBC will one day travel overseas to the Netherlands for one of its international regattas. Be assured that I will be there to help out where I can.
– Arent van Gent