I spent 24 hours in the McClay and I’ll never be the same
I will never get back those 24 hours
8am, not a time I usually trek to the McClay and now I know why.
A rare breed of students arrive at this time: An elite group composed of go-getters, stress workers, the "I've just been to the PEC and my life is more together than yours" brigade, final year zombies and lastly, me – a first year student purely here for the story.
The serenity of an empty McClay didn't last long, with more floors opening and Hope Café pumping out so much coffee it's basically the fountain of life.
More PEC regulars jog in and the colour printer is once again switching off under the pressure of it all. Early birds can be hard core, they have places to be, books to check out and you already know they have their favourite study spot on the second floor among the parliamentary papers and official publications.
However, they are organised, calm and won't steal your computer because, you've guessed it, they have their own.
Rush hour is between 11am and 2pm and when someone needs a computer ASAP it really changes a person. Away to the toilet? Don't care I need to print this assignment. Getting coffee? Too bad. Taking a call? Not my issue and also be quiet. One day a fella left his computer open on microsoft word with the sign "away for a shite, back in 10 minutes." If that's not the pits I don't know what is.
In the name of student journalism, I dragged a few mates into the library to play probably the hardest game of hide and seek ever. Top Tip: Third floor journals are always a quiet spot for obvious reasons (yawn.)
On a mission to explore the depths of the McClay (yes, there are still parts of it we didn't know existed) we did a little tour.
One pro you immediately notice after 20 minutes of exploration: Nobody notices if you fly up and down in the lift.
The downside was we did this so much throughout the day we thought we broke the lift, in reality we just didn't press the button.
When the coffee starts to wear off and you feel like you're experiencing caffeine withdrawal there's only one cure: A nap. Not the easiest thing to do in public but for the sake of this article I sussed out a few key kipping spots inside the McClay.
First up: The CS Lewis reading room. No disrespect to the Narnia legend but this room is far better suited to a 7pm nap that a good read. The soft sofa and clam lights really make for a good snooze, not to mention the fact its almost always empty and the big magical wardrobe door is a really cool way to escape the stressful McClay scene. I'd give eight out of 10 for a nap.
We then ventured into the language study rooms. As a language student myself I know for a fact nobody will care if you camp out in either of these rooms. They're pretty quiet, but do expect the odd "on doit faire…" or "la respuesta es…" spoken into headphones that make us look like confused pilots.
Next, the silent reading rooms: The clue is in the name – perfect snooze scenario. The pictures of smart old white guys really make the eyes heavy anyway.
The library can be a stressful place with people ordering food deliveries left, right and centre, and theres always that one liability who leaves a computer locked on their account, cheers. Or what about those people who sit at a computer but use their laptop instead? Sigh.
The last group of warriors I encountered from the hours of 10pm to 2am were the night owls. A tired demographic with a serious "Boojum at 1am" vibe about them. I have nothing but respect for these people, even if the boy beside me went to the vending machine for a bar of chocolate four times in three hours. Keep hustling.
Yet nothing, nothing can make a QUB student more annoyed than when their cosy spot on floor 3 is snatched from them by the guy who makes the soul crushing announcement that your floor will close in 10. Not only is it embarrassing if you've just set up camp upstairs, (floral water bottle set out and all) but the rush to find a spot on the ground floor is a fight for survival. Move it troops.
Oh, and we think we found the biggest book in the library… It had to be taken landscape folks.
At this stage of the night I was most definitely running on fumes, and the random airdrop from "acceptformemes" really brightened my midnight, thanks man.
To pass the time we took it upon ourselves to pester some innocent library regulars, thanks for being in this article.
All in all, the McClay is a good place to get stuff done, a place to struggle as a united front and not care what you look like when you rock up at 2am. It's a strange one but it's reliable, and its warm… a foreign concept for a Holylands resident. Sleepover anyone?
PS: It can be stressful in there, so do reach out if you need support! Bring your friends food when they're finishing that assignment.
Before hitting the hay embarrassingly early, we captured a beautiful moment shared between two friends, cheeky.
To round off my experience of 24 hours in the McClay, it was an eye-opening challenge – who knew you could actually lose your mates in there?
Maybe don't try this yourself (unless the assignment is haunting you). It was a character-building experience; and eating takeaway all day didn't hurt. If you're up for it, the official 24 hour opening times begin this week. May the odds be ever in your deadline favour.