Homeless in Dublin

2015-09-07 09:57

I've always wanted to study abroad. Experience a whole new world. A few months ago I received an email informing me about the outcome of my application for an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to study in Europe. I was very excited to learn that I'd be studying in Dublin, Ireland.

So I rushed to finish my honours degree at UWC in time to start with MA in Ireland. Being born in rural Mpondoland, Eastern Cape, I had never imagined that I would live in Cape Town, so you can imagine the excitement when I learnt that I would be spending 12 months in Europe.

I started searching for accommodation in Dublin and soon learnt how different life in RSA is to the rest of the world. People here share apartments, homes, and live in prison styled hostels (with bunk beds, as much as 24 people in a room). This prison styled accommodation could cost more than R1000 per week and that is probably  the cheapest.

The other option was to live with a host family, also reasonably priced but they are picky. Mostly want young girls and am a grown man, couldn't stand living with my own family. This too is hard to find as many offer rooms for Sunday to Friday.

The ones that are readily available cost way too much, our living allowance is a thousand euros per month so we have to find somewhere affordable. The next best thing for mature South African men is finding a house to rent and share. But many landlords are not taking students. And so we look at places that are far from the university. They are affordable but then again we are students, even Irish students are struggling.

Why not live at university residences? They cost more than private accommodation and cannot accommodate everyone that needs a room. You are required to pay 55% of the fees on arrival to secure a room on campus. Students who are forced to live on campus actually do not want to because they cost too much. If you are first year in Medicine, you're likely to be forced to stay on campus. The rooms that are available on campus may cost as much as 9000 euros for 9 months. Then we still have a further 3 months for research.

So where are we staying? In the youth hostels. One of the South African scholars raised a concern that we are going to run out of money in the hostels and might not have enough to pay for a deposit and first months' rent when a room becomes available. I won't tell you stories of people sleeping out in the cold, our families might start worrying. We are okay for now but won't be for long if we do not find something soon. Our biggest concern is that classes are starting this week and we are still homeless.

I've met students from Germany, India, France, Italy, USA and so on. All searching for accommodation. The influx of international students in Dublin has resulted in a shortage of accommodation and led to an increase in rental fees. On arrival at Dublin Airport, we had a long queue for students only at immigration. Our host university has over 5000 international students from over 100 different countries. That is just one university.

Dublin hosts a number of institutions of higher learning and attracts a lot of foreigners. This City is packed with foreign students and professionals. It is beautiful, except for their weather. You see people wearing shorts on what would be a normal winter's day in Cape Town. We are told its summer. I'm convinced they do not know the difference between summer and winter.

So we keep searching for accommodation, had a few viewings but you have to move fast or remain homeless. On Saturday we spent 2 hours searching for the right bus to take us to a property. They have a bus app where you can just enter your current location and destination; the app will tell you which bus to take, from which bus stop, and where you must get off. But errr we are South Africans, we are not used to public services that actually work. Did I tell you the buses have Wi-Fi? Golden Arrow in Cape Town could learn a thing or two.

Apart from being homeless, the country is beautiful, also great to meet all these different nationalities who share a common struggle, finding a room in Dublin. Funniest thing I've seen so far in Dublin is that they have white cleaners, cashiers, bus drivers, and security guards.

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