If you’re currently pursuing a college education outside of your home county, you are likely all too familiar with the expenses associated with renting as a student in Ireland’s major cities. As a First Year student at UCD, I will be the first to admit that finding affordable accommodation in South Dublin is like looking for a needle in a haystack. So much so, in fact, that I have had to spend the academic year commuting from 80 kilometres away in County Meath. As the second semester draws to a close, I would like to reflect upon my year of 5:30AM starts and 2.5-hour bus journeys, and hopefully offer some insight into life as a commuter to anyone considering it as an option for next year.
As a commuter-to-be, the first factor to take into account is your mode of transport. Bus Éireann and many private coach companies offer 10-journey tickets to students at discounted rates, with Iarnród Éireann providing similar deals for those living along a rail route. Compare the costs and convenience of these different options. In my case, the local Dublin – Cavan private bus service is a far more convenient option than the alternative of two Bus Éireann buses and a Dublin Bus. A 10-journey ticket for the coach costs €50 and has the added convenience of picking me up from the bus stop in my village and bringing me directly to UCD without the need for a connecting bus. For the distance I have to travel to reach college, €200 euro seems a reasonable price to pay per month when compared to the cost of renting in Dublin (although if anyone spots a bed in Dublin for €200 euro a month, be sure to let me know!).
Many students worry that commuting to college will have a negative impact on their social life and overall enjoyment of the college experience. I have unfortunately found this to be true in many ways, but not to the extent that I expected during the first weeks of the year. Most club and society-organised events take place in the evening, after classes have ended for the day. With the last coach of the day leaving UCD at 6 in the evening, and the cost of a Bus Éireann 109 and taxi home bordering €30, getting involved with societies at college has proven to be more effort than it’s worth.
That being said, commuting to college doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your social life. Making friends during the first couple of weeks can be a challenge, but, in my experience, college students as a group are largely understanding and sympathetic of the commuters in their ranks. By the end of the first semester, I had plenty of friends who were more than happy to let me sleep on their couch (or bedroom floor; beggars can’t be choosers!) after a night out. Some of these same friends are the people I hope to find accommodation for next year with, which means my first time living away from home will hopefully be with people I already know and like rather than complete strangers, something that can’t be said by many college students.
Handling the workload
An unfortunate consequence of commuting to college is that staying on top of your assignments and readings often comes at the expense of a healthy sleep schedule. Depending on how you plan on commuting to college, getting work done during you commute can be difficult. The combination of a lack of tables on most commuter vehicles and the possibility of motion sickness impacting your performance means that, for many commuters, the hours spent on the bus or train are effectively lost time, with no assignments written or readings covered.
This has been my personal biggest gripe with commuting for the year. The last thing you want to do after a two-and-a-half-hour bus journey that began at 6 in the evening is start planning an essay or skimming through a reading. The only thing on your mind at this point is getting to bed, as your potential hours of sleep before you reluctantly answer your alarm at 5:30 the next morning seem all the more precious as the semester goes on.
Is it worth it?
Although the depiction of commuting that this article provides is quite a grim one, the financial advantages in most cases really can’t be ignored. With Dublin being one of the most expensive cities to rent in throughout all of Europe, €50 for a bus ticket seems like small change in comparison to the ever-increasing cost of living in our capital.
While commuting may feel like a chore at the time, the money it saves is quite remarkable and should hopefully put you in a position to consider renting next year. Settling into college as a commuter may take some time, but you will eventually make friends with people who will understand your situation and do everything they can to make sure you still get to enjoy the college experience.