Student accommodation nightmare begins

This week in The Good Life column, Gemma wonders how Leaving Cert students receiving their first round offers will source and afford accommodation for their third level adventures...

Well September has really arrived with a bang. Last week I had the city of Brussels almost to myself. This week however, it has resumed its flurry of rushing people, traffic backed up for as far as you can see, bustling bars and plenty of students.

Not that I know where, but there is certainly a pre-school close by as I see little tots heading off on the back of bikes every morning. Some teary eyed and some delighted. Facebook has been flooded with well wishes to people who started primary and secondary school or university. Here interns have come in droves - all headed for the Commission (a Donegal woman has moved in above me). Everybody is starting new chapters in their lives. The accommodation pages, which I joined at the start of my time over here, have fired up again and best of all UL confessions are back.

I mentioned the Twitter platform a while back. Basically it’s a Twitter page, which confesses the ins and outs of life at the University of Limerick. The admin is anonymous, which adds to the humour of the page. With nobody accountable, anything can be tweeted on there. This consists of everything from people looking for advice to the sex lives of students.

It’s highly amusing, even if the half of it isn’t true. At the moment, the page is filled with tweets from furious students looking for accommodation. A few have stuck in my mind over the past few days. One was from a student who, after a long wait, was offered a room in Thomond. This student village is beautiful but, of course, like everything you get what you pay for. It cost over €800, which was way out of their budget but her only other alternative was to, well camp? They didn’t specify where they were from but commuting obviously wasn’t possible.

In all honesty, over €800 for student accommodation is scandalous yet I’m sure those renting in Dublin would find this price reasonable. Such luxury accommodation that warrants this price and more (although I’m sure it could be offered at a lot less) really isn’t necessary for students. With college fees, living expenses, inflation, travel and managing full time education, how are students or their parents supposed to come up with this sort of money?

Since starting my new job in the Irish pub (which I absolutely love), I have been on the receiving end of a few comments informing me that I should be going out and enjoying my 20s, I will look back and regret working, I should be travelling and getting the full benefit of this opportunity, I don’t have enough time to rest, etc, etc. I hate this, one that people have the audacity to try and tell me what to do and two, how can I afford to get polluted every weekend or jet around seeing amazing places? I’d certainly love to be doing the latter, but at the moment I think a lot of people are keeping their hands firmly in their pockets. I have even been asked straight out if I am stuck for money and if my grant and accommodation contribution was not enough.

My grant was €2,340 for eight months, which is about €68.80 per week. My contribution to my accommodation doesn’t even cover my rent and expenses such as wifi, electricity etc are not included in this. As a 20-year old, I do worry about money and I know I am not the only one. Yes, working in a bar outside of Ireland was always something I wanted to do, but obviously I do need the money too.

I am grateful that my family would support me financially in a heartbeat if I needed it, but not everybody is lucky enough to have this security blanket. If I am being honest, I would feel somewhere between embarrassed and ashamed to have to ask for money. I know this is probably wrong but I feel like going to university, studying abroad, everything is my decision, so why should my family have to fork out?

And as for the wage of interns, I think I can speak for all of us (at home and abroad) when I say it needs to increase with inflation.

The second UL confession, which caught my eye, was from a student who was trying to organise a protest of sorts where students without accommodation (or those who want to express their anger at how much of a joke the situation is) would camp on the University president's lawn to raise awareness of the issue. The aim of the protest would be to get coverage on RTE on how many students are affected by the issue. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am really hoping it does.

I don’t mean to start a new semester with the same old poor student story but I think this year, in particular, students are under a lot of pressure. Those who have secured accommodation are paying far more than what they should be for it and those who don’t are stressed to the hilt about where they are going to live for the incoming academic year.

What's the solution? Could there be a cap on rent for students landlords cannot exceed? Do students and their families need more grant aid? All I know is I am grateful to not be searching for a place in Ireland this year.

Next year, the nightmare that is accommodation will begin.


Little signs of home make all the difference