What’s driving so many young people abroad?

Another weekend, another going away party. The local was donning the Union Jack and the four red and white stars of New Zealand. Beneath the ‘We Will Miss You’ banner hung across the wooden beams supporting the roof of the lounge, parents milled around doing their duty of greeting other family members who came to say their goodbyes. Every so often a glance was thrown in the direction of the soon to be emigrant, a single tear, a hug.

“He’s not gone yet,” I whispered.

I don’t know what it is like to watch the person you have given birth to and reared leaving the house. One less person at the dinner table, their room untouched, the bed not slept in. One less voice in the house. I only know what it is like to be the person leaving and, in that final week, when your life is on the verge of massive change, you reconsider everything. Should I stay or should I go? The fear of leaving, living life on your own and, worst of all, the guilt of leaving friends and family behind. The response to my comment, in which I was hoping would make the last few days as easy as possible, broke my heart.

“You’re all leaving me,” she said.

There was absolutely nothing I could say, nothing I could do to make her feel better. She was spot on.

If we are not leaving, we are talking about it and, if not talking about it, we are talking to friends who have left, who, undoubtedly, are convincing us to jump on the bandwagon to Oz, or New Zealand, Canada or Scotland because, apparently, the grass is greener.

As I write this, the lady I live with is ringing her daughter in London, an international business graduate from the University of Limerick. I texted my friend at home to see how she was, she said goodbye to her brother for six months on Saturday morning, she responded that it was hard for himself and the family. One of the girls from Cork was telling me about her sister hoping to go to Australia, while the family at home in Mallow have begun a campaign to try and keep her at home. What is it? Is Ireland such a hell hole that we want a one-way ticket out of here or do us young ones just want to go and see a bit of the world?

Try as I might, I can’t stay away from the usual suspects of housing, cost of living and public transport. I am hearing them so much these days that they have almost lost their meaning. Boiling it down, does one pay a fortune in rent or commute? Here at university, three friends who lived in Limerick previously have now decided to commute daily to Ennis and Laois.

In her thick west Clare accent with Kopperberg in hand, one of the girls told me she hopes to go straight in Hibernia College in Dublin to do her Professional Master of Education (PME) in Primary Education. The two-year course costs a whopping €15,750 excluding the mandatory Gaeltacht fee of €1,630, which may change depending on the coláiste you head for, a €50 Garda vetting fee and a graduating ceremony fee of €100.

That’s €17,530 before even considering rent, utilities, food shopping, transportation, the price of a coffee or pint and all the other things we have to tap for nowadays.

Unfortunately, her part-time shop assistant job in SuperValu won’t cover all of that, so she and her parents came to the conclusion that she could commute to college this year to alleviate rent expenses, which could be saved for the next year. On top of that, she is saving the hassle of actually finding a place to rent in Limerick. The Kopperberg had surely lost its fizz by the time she finished detailing the endless list of expenses.

Personally, when looking at graduate programmes (a lot of which are opening now), going to career fairs or looking at masters programmes, at home or abroad is constantly on my mind. To do a Masters in European Studies at UL the fee is €3,204 per annum (an asterix * beside is telling me year two fees are “subject to change”).

To do a similar masters at KU Leuven, their fee calculator comes up with the figure of €1,092.10. I visited Leuven and fell in love and average rent for a nice room in shared housing starts at €400pm upwards depending on how fancy you want to go. It’s not a no brainer but definitely a strong contender.

Personally, for me, the real accelerator out of Ireland is the drinking culture. While living abroad, I felt there was a lot more to do, which didn’t involve alcohol. I enjoyed the change of scenery but, in saying that, I love the comforts of home too and I have a lot to be thankful for living here in comparison to some other parts of the world.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a fourth year journalism student in University of Limerick


Here’s to another year