Case studies: ‘I’d wake up at 4:30am to commute to college’

Students facing four-hour commutes to college due to unaffordable Dublin rents

Karl Picard: “I wouldn’t be able to eat during the day until 9pm when I got home because I just didn’t have any money.”  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Karl Picard: “I wouldn’t be able to eat during the day until 9pm when I got home because I just didn’t have any money.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Karl Picard (23) is a masters student in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) studying political communications. Last year he commuted four hours every morning to DIT from Westmeath as he could not afford to rent in Dublin.

He took out a Credit Union loan to do a masters degree last summer, but due to the high cost of rent was not able to afford accommodation in Dublin.

“I’d wake up at 4:30am each morning to leave my house at 5am to be on the 5:30am bus, which gets into Heuston station in Dublin at around 8am. I’d have my breakfast in the morning, but then just wouldn’t be able to eat during the day until 9pm when I got home because I just didn’t have any money.”

The Government postgraduate maintenance grant just covered “the bare essentials” last year, he said, and the year was “really, really tough”. He said the high cost of living and rent in Dublin made it “impossible” for many students to afford to go to college.

Ross Nelson is a student in University College Dublin (UCD) studying biomolecular science. He has rented near the South Dublin campus for the last two years, but has been unable to find a place he can afford this year ahead of the new college term.

“My lease is ending, and properties have skyrocketed. I need somewhere around €600–650 a month, which is very hard to find. Anything more would infringe on necessities like food or travel.”

Family home

Ross works part-time at the weekends in Dublin, but is now considering leaving his job and commuting three hours every morning from his family home in Longford to college if he cannot find a room he can afford to rent in the next month.

“If I was forced to move home my daily journey for a 9am lecture would be getting up at 6am, cycling for 30 minutes, to get an hour and a half train, to get a 20-minute bus” to UCD.

“Travelling home I would have to leave any classes or labs that exceeded 5pm, otherwise I would miss the last train home for the night.”

Finding accommodation in Ireland can be even more difficult for students travelling to study here from overseas.

Fiona Sahyoun (23) is an international student from Toronto, Canada, who is starting a postgraduate degree in veterinary science in UCD. She attempted to line up a rental lease from Canada without success, and arrived in Dublin last week but has not been able to secure accommodation for the college term so far.

“A lot of rental accommodation ads say ‘no students’. I am a postgraduate student that has had a professional job back in Canada, but I feel that I can’t ‘sell’ myself in their eyes to not see me as a rowdy student.”

Landlords

Fiona said she does not hear back from most landlords after inquiring about rental lettings as a student, and competition for accommodation is very high. “I underestimated how difficult it would be to find housing” in Dublin.

International students in most cases are not able to avail of “digs” arrangements, whereby a student rents a room in a family home. Most digs setups only agree to let the room from Monday to Friday, with the expectation the student will be travelling back home for the weekend.

The UCD teaching term starts on September 12th, and Fiona said she was unsure of what she would do if she had not found accommodation by then. “The rental market compared to Canada is very overwhelming,” she said.