Classrooms are closed, but many students remain in crowded housing

By Fantine Carron

STUDENTS who remain in tight accommodation around Dublin city are fearful for their safety in the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

Upper Dominick Street, which has several student accommodation complexes, as seen in January. Photo: William Murphy, Flickr (Creative Commons)

Thousands of students live in the area. Griffith College’s halls of residence are home for 660 students during both the academic year and the summer. The southwest and northwest inner city also have a lot of other student accommodation, independent from any schools and owned by private companies.

For all these students, life has completely changed those past few weeks. The nightlife is considerably decreased, there is no more social gathering with friends and they must get used to a whole new way of studying.

But worst of all, they fear getting and spreading illness.

“There are so many of us in such small spaces, it’s impossible for us to practice social distancing,” says Sarah, a 19-year-old business student living in one of the 165 apartments at Griffith College. (She prefers not to be identified by her full name.)

“We are trying our best to have perfect hygiene and to maintain everything cleaned but we don’t know if the others are doing the same things.” Sarah said, during a phone interview.

“We are also sharing rooms for the majority of us and it can sometimes be tricky when your roommate is not willing to follow basic rules.”

Griffith College is still trying to be present for the students who might struggle with not having classes any more. For example, some mathematics revisions are organised and have been followed by more than 1,300 students.

Other student accommodation is facing the same issue. When people are sharing rooms, social distancing becomes impossible and even when there are 10 people in the same house, you run into each other in the kitchen or the living room making it harder to prevent any risks.

In accommodation run by ISA (International Student Accommodation), for example, no guests are allowed; if food is ordered it must be left at the front door; every common area needs to be perfectly clean, etc.

Living in communities can be very beneficial during those times where being alone is tough mentally but it also increases the risk of infection.

For foreign students, the crisis brought further worries. Many of them saw their ERASMUS trips being shortened – some had to go back to their home countries, while others decided to stay in Dublin.

“For obvious reasons, China was not the best country to go to so I figured it would be smarter to stay in Ireland,” says Xin Yuan Qian, a Chinese student in computer science at Trinity College in Dublin. She decided to stay in Ireland during the lockdown because going back to China would have been too complicated.

“And then I realised that it would be impossible for me to keep studying in my country because of the time difference, online classes would have been impossible to follow. I feel safer here anyway.”