International Students: Tips for Settling into Your Accommodation

By Liam Grugan / July 23, 2020

Living alone for the first time can be disorienting regardless of location. For the many international applicants who choose to study in Dublin, however, the task can seem downright daunting. Whether moving to the city for the first time or coming back for the fourth time, here are a few tips for to make settling into your new accommodation just a little bit easier:

1. Bringing Home the Bacon

If you thought deciding between a single and a shared room would be the toughest part of the process, think again. The real first challenge you’ll face after dropping your million pieces of luggage off comes with cooking. For those first couple days, sure you can subsist on takeaway and free pizza at school-sponsored events, but, sooner or later, you’re going to need to learn how to sustainably support yourself in a way that’s both nutritious and cost-effective. 

First, make a list of ingredients you’ll need to last you until your next shopping trip, maybe considering some treats to help off-set the homesickness. I’d suggest learning a few of your favorite easy recipes offhand prior to your arrival in Dublin. Still, the internet is full of resources like “BBC Good Foods” which provide fast and affordable instructions on how to prepare a wide variety of meals.

2. Finding the Right Shop for You

Next, figure out where you’re going. Most lodgings will offer insights into nearby grocery stores at their orientation events. But, if not, you ought to search the internet for some of the name-brand stores in your area and try your luck with the nearest one. This will likely include Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, or Dunnes. Side note: write down the directions in an easy-to-follow way so you don’t get lost along the way. 

Next, if you can, grab a friend or a flatmate (hopefully you’ll find these not to be mutually exclusive) and head off together. When making a list, be sure to think of everything you’re sure you’ll need within the immediate future. If you’re still not sure, I’ll add a potential list of things I would consider grabbing to get you through those first couple days. Remember, the process of finding which store fits your needs best is one of trial and error, so, if you find you’re unsatisfied with one, go check out the next!

For your grocery consideration: salt, pepper, eggs, milk, bread, butter, toilet paper, cooking oil, shampoo/conditioner, frozen meals (for your midnight feasting),body wash, skin-care accoutrements, frozen meals (for your midnight feasting), toothpaste, DEODORANT, sponge/dish brush, dish soap, bin bags, and adhesives

*Most area colleges provide an accommodation service which should help you get settled in. If you’re still looking, Babylon has put out our tips on how to find housing in and around Dublin. Be sure to check out our available resources at https://babylonradio.com/living/#accomodation.

3. Not Getting Lost

So, a couple days have passed and you still find yourself walking home after every night out. Stop: you’re doing it wrong. Dublin has plenty of reasonably priced ways to get point A to point B without wearing down the soles of your dancing shoes. As a student, you’re entitled to a Student Leap Card*, which will not only get you discounts at places like Boots and McDonalds, but will also cap your transport spending at twenty euro a week. Just tap on and hop on, and you’ll be all set! 

As you’re settling in, I would suggest keeping directions always at the ready and planning out your trips ahead of time. Yet, for those inevitable nights when you find yourself clubbing until the early hours of the morning, fear not. Dublin Bus now offers two twenty-four hour routes (the Forty-One and the Fifteen) which should get you close enough to offset either the price of a taxi on the FreeNow app or the wear and tear of a shameful stumble home. On the topic of apps, you should also look into getting a student plan from one of the big phone providers, because finding free WiFi in Dublin is a dangerous and limited game. Once you’ve found a plan you like, be sure to get the Dublin Bus app and FreeNow so you can be sure you know where you’re going.

*If you’re under the age of nineteen, you are eligible for a Child Leap Card. This ends up being a fraction of the price of the already discounted Student Card!

4. Finishing the Furnishing

Many college accommodation services might offer a kitchen and bed package to ensure you have cooking and bedroom essentials waiting for you upon arrival. On the other hand, if you choose to find it on your own (or, more likely, have looked all over the website and still can’t find it), this doesn’t in any way doom you to a night of coverless sleep under pizza box blankets. Dublin has many options as far as homegoods go, but I would suggest taking a day to go to IKEA. Whether heading to the locations in Ballymun or Carrickmines, there will undoubtedly be droves of students trying to get their hands on some affordable Swedish goods. I suggest joining these groups early on so you don’t spend too much time microwaving your food on paper towels. 

But, if IKEA is too far or too overwhelming, places like Dunnes and Tesco sell essentials for reasonable prices at a reduced selection variety. Regardless of where you get it, below is a list of a few things I think you ought to get:

Frying pan, spatula, ladle, large cooking pot, colander, can/bottle openers, sharp knife, dining utensils, microwave bowls/plates, microwaveable mugs, drinking glasses, tupperware, coffee french press/teapot, electric kettle (typically provided already your student accommodation agency), hand towel, bath towel, fitted sheet, pillow, pillow sheet, duvet, duvet cover, mattress protector (cozy, but optional), and small bins for your room/toilet

5. Self-Isolating in Style

If you’re coming from a country which places you under the category of those needing to self-isolate for two weeks, I would suggest reaching out to your flatmates ahead of time over social media. This will be important for setting up a plan to limit your level of exposure in common areas. This could entail specified slots for kitchen usage, disinfecting door handles, or even just deciding whose cabinet is whose. Regardless of how you do it, I promise you, communication is going to be key in this strange and early stage of your relationships. 

As for yourself, isolation is in no way a social death penalty. You can interact outside in a local park with your neighbors from an acceptable distance, schedule set times to facetime with your family back home, or talk to your flatmates through the characteristically thin walls and doors of your student housing. Regardless of how, I promise you that the most important thing about socializing in self-isolation is making the first move. We’re all adjusting to this new phase together, and, awkward as it may be at first, those two weeks will fly by, and you’ll be enjoying pints with your new friends before you know it.

About the author

Liam Grugan

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