As NUI Galway is one of the few, if not only, study abroad programs offered at St. Norbert College where the participant has to find their own accommodations, I thought that I would share my unique insight as to how I found apartment hunting in Ireland different from what I know of it back in the States. To give a brief background of my particular situation I guess I would start off by saying that the thought of finding my own place to live in a foreign city was extremely off putting for me at first. Despite this initial concern, the program at NUIG seemed like too great of an opportunity to pass up. It was also a little comforting knowing that my aunt who currently lives in my hometown of Horicon WI was born and raised in Galway and her dad rents out rooms of a house he owns to college students. Also, a friend of another aunt just graduated from NUIG a few years ago and planning on returning to further her certification to teach high school aged students. When I told her at my family’s Thanksgiving that I wanted to go to Galway the following fall, she offered to get an apartment with me when I arrived in Galway.
Thanks to Murphy’s Law, my ideal situation turned around not two weeks before my departure to Ireland. My future roommate, Máire, was not able to take the courses she needed and was forced to start to look for full time work, meaning that she was unable to still rent a place with me in the City Center of Galway. Surprisingly enough to most people, especially me, I was not completely worried about the concept of being homeless as I began my semester abroad. I knew that I would have a place to sleep when I arrived, and I had many contact numbers of friends and distant relatives if the situation became more intense.
When I arrived at the bust station in Galway Máire and I began our search. For being a larger town, finding available places to live was extremely difficult, especially this time of year. One of the greatest cultural differences that I noticed thus far is how much notice universities give to students about their acceptance status. Many of the apartments had already been taken because over the past fortnight students had received notification that they were accepted into NUIG – if I had not found out that I had been accepted into St. Norbert until two weeks before the school year started I think I would have had a serious panic attack! Since so many of the places that were actually open to the idea of allowing students to live on their property had already been taken by other students the remaining choices where either extremely unsuitable or astronomically expensive.
To view a prospective place, Máire would just phone up the letting agency or landlord and schedule a viewing. In almost all cases, someone was able to meet us to show us the place within an hour. All of the places available for viewing came fully furnished, in most cases even with bed dressings. At some of the places we were looking at we would be waiting outside with other viewers because the landlord would schedule our viewings so close together, it was an extremely uncomfortable feeling. Places that were not yet ready to be rented still held the currant occupants possessions in the rooms.
Photo of shops just around the corner from my apartment
We ended up finding a place located right in the heart of the City Center that had two rooms open. I loved the location and the house was in pretty good condition, for being a house built in Ireland over a hundred years ago. The landlord gave me the keys before we even went to the bank to deposit the first month’s rent and security deposit into his bank account, an act of trust that surprised me. I was never required or asked to offer up any reference nor did I sign any lease or rental agreement, which both again surprised me while making me slightly nervous. My landlord did not ask for my cell phone number, last name, age, or home address until late that evening when he was in the house showing the other open room. However, my Irish friend did not see anything wrong with these discrepancies, and one of my new flat mates has apparently been living in the house for the past six or seven years. Despite that fact that I found the process bizarre and a little unnerving, I was able to procure lodging for myself in the greatest location in the whole Galway area (with a lot of help) in less than 26 hours from the time that I left the bus station to the time I received my keys. Not bad for a kid that just gets assigned a room to him every year by REH.
Danny Carpenter is studying abroad at the National University of Ireland – Galway.