‘I felt like I was in an alien land’: International students struggling to find accommodation ahead of college term

‘If you’re coming from an outside country and you don’t know anybody, it is so hard,’ one student said

“It took a huge toll on me, mentally. I couldn’t do things like work or go out and socialise because I was so focused on finding accommodation. It was all I could think about,” said Simran Kathuria (25), a graduate student in Dublin who has moved seven times over the last 11 months.

Kathuria moved to Ireland from New Delhi, India, last August to complete a Master’s degree in journalism and international affairs and was told just three days before arriving that her student accommodation would be delayed in opening for six weeks.

“My flights were already booked and everything was done. So, I had a gap of about 40 days and had very little time to try and arrange alternative accommodation. I couldn’t find a single property that would have me for the full stretch and anything I did find was super expensive, especially converted back to my native currency,” she said.

Kathuria soon came to the realisation that her only option was to book short stays in tourist accommodation until her student housing became available. Moving five times in those 40 days alone, with all her belongings from India in tow, the entire ordeal took its toll.


“It cost me around €2,000 in total. That was the cheapest option I could find. It wasn’t just monetarily draining but mentally exhausting too. If you’re coming from an outside country and you don’t know anybody, it is so hard. I felt like I was in an alien land and I don’t know anyone,” she said.

Kathuria, who studies at UCD, had to take a number of buses across the city, on different routes, every morning.

Recalling that six-week period, Kathuria said: “There were times when I didn’t feel like coming to class because I was so exhausted and there were days when I would go to class and have to leave to go view houses. It was such an exhausting and mentally challenging process. I toured the whole city from north to south by bus with bags in my hands.

“I remember sitting in one of my temporary accommodations and saying to myself, ‘Why am I here?’ It really made me want to go back home because I didn’t have a home here.”

Thankfully, Kathuria was eventually able to take up her original student accommodation in October. When this arrangement came to an end in May, however, she was left in a similar position once again.

“It was not easy. It took me over two months to find a new apartment. I had to constantly message landlords, check pages and group chats. I ended up viewing over 15 properties which were mostly horrible and cost so much money. I eventually found my current place [a two-bed apartment] which costs €2,800 per month,” she said.

Kathuria said she is not alone in her plight and that issues with housing are nowhere near as pronounced in her homeland.

“It’s definitely not one of a kind. I’ve come across many people dealing with similar problems who weren’t lucky enough to eventually find a semi-permanent place like me. In India, it’s nowhere near as difficult as Dublin has been.”

The problem is not just confined to Dublin, though, and international students have also experienced significant problems finding accommodation in Galway.

Roshni D’Souza (23) arrived in the city in September 2022 from Mumbai, India, to earn her Masters of Journalism at the University of Galway.

Initially, she had no other option than to stay in a hostel as she could not find any private accommodation and the student residences were already fully booked for the year or were over her budget.

Spending the term in a hostel was not cheap. D’Souza shared her room and bathroom with three other girls. Finding quietness to focus on her studies was the hardest part.

In January, she moved out of the hostel to spend a month in a shared house, where they could only offer her a temporary stay.

Moving to a new owner-occupied house afterwards, she thought she had finally found a permanent place but in March, she was asked to leave.

“I had nowhere to go,” said D’Souza

She managed to stay in some of her course mates’ houses for a couple of days until she met an Indian couple who own a house in Galway’s westside. She has been living with them since then but her lease is going to expire by the end of August.

“I have been in Galway for ten months and I still can’t say I have found permanent accommodation.”

As she will be officially done with her studies in Galway in mid-August, D’Souza said she is hoping to find an internship or a job somewhere else, “because finding a room in Galway is just impossible”.

Michal Otahal (27), an Erasmus student from Prague, Czech Republic, who is set to arrive in Galway this month, has “booked a caravan” with a friend where he’s going to stay for his first week.

Otahal, who is enrolled in Irish studies at the University of Galway, feels he is being penalised by the fact that he’s looking for both short-term accommodation and a place to stay for the whole year.

“It’s not even a matter of being expensive or cheap, shared or not shared. I just can’t find one,” he said.

“There are many others like me. College accommodations are completely full. I think Irish students are struggling with this too.

“I’m also aware of the scammers so I didn’t accept any place where they asked me for a reservation fee or for unnecessary personal details.

“If I have to stay in a hostel or Airbnb for the four months, I think I’ll go bankrupt,” he added.