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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C

Brazilian student Coming to Dublin was a dream come true but sharing a house with 14 others was a nightmare

‘We are delighted to come and spend our savings on courses and accommodation but we need help to get set up. None of us wants to sleep on the streets,’ writes Ana Marta Gonçalves.

COMING TO DUBLIN was a dream.

Sleeping on a bottom bunk bed, crammed into a flat with 15 other students was not.

This is the prospect facing many international students when they first land here with a rucksack full of hope and an armful of cash.

Moving abroad to learn or to improve your English is an ambition held by many young Brazilians.

To make that dream come true, Ireland is the destination of choice for thousands every year. 

According to the 2016 Census, there were 13,640 Brazilians living in Ireland and the data also shows that since 2006, the Brazilian population in Ireland has more than trebled. 

Thousands of ‘Brazucas’ are attracted by the opportunity to learn English to a European standard and to qualify for a visa which allows them to work up to 20 hours a week while studying.

I landed here in April 2017 and have now attained ‘Advanced’ level English which is great. I’ve also had an unbelievable cultural experience. 

Brazilian culture is very different and we don’t really have sharehouses. People either live with their families or else alone. We are not in the habit of renting out rooms to students or others.

But renting a bed in a shared room here in Dublin is the same price as renting a three-room house in São Paulo!

As part of my study package, my first month’s accommodation was organised, it was a homestay in a private home. I had no idea how difficult it would be to find another place to live afterwards.

My English was not good enough to navigate the accommodation websites and I also found it difficult to understand information over the phone.

Eventually, I moved in with friends from college for three months. 

After that, I ended up living in a house in Dublin 8 with 14 other people.

For four long months, I shared a room with three other girls, sleeping on the bottom bunk – and it felt like an eternity. 

There were three bathrooms in the house and only one washing machine which was in one of the bathrooms. One morning my flatmate took my clothes out of the washing machine and placed them on top of it.

But when the machine got to the spin cycle it must have shaken so much that my clothes fell off – I found them spread across the bathroom floor and some items even ended up in the toilet.

That incident felt like the last straw, I began to feel very upset and I even considered returning to Brazil at that stage, if my accommodation situation didn’t improve.

Thankfully, around the same time, I started working for an Irish family, as a childminder and then they helped me to sort out accommodation. I now live with the children’s grandmother which is really great.

Before leaving the houseshare though – and in order to get my deposit back – I had to find someone else to take over that bunk bed I was sleeping in. 

So I placed an ad for my space and the reaction shocked me -  many Irish people were outraged about what I was advertising.

They thought I was running an illegal business because of the poor and overcrowded conditions of the accommodation and especially the rent.

I was paying €360 per month to rent the bottom bunk bed in a room with three others. 

Irish people found this outrageous but for many international students here, that is around the going rate.

Of course, the Irish people were right, between us, we were paying a whopping €1,440 per month, just for that room alone.

And since we had to replace ourselves to get our deposit back – there was never a bed left empty. 

The person who I paid my rent was also living in the house. I heard from the others that he didn’t own the house so I don’t know whether the real landlord was aware of the overcrowding or what rent this guy was handing over for it.

Another Brazilian student told me that she has lived in 13 houses since arriving here five years ago.

For a month she shared an apartment which was meant to be for two couples, with seven other people until she was suddenly evicted with just 24 hours notice. 

She then had to go to stay in a hostel for a while, sharing a dorm with 14 other people. She says that one of her friends even ended up sleeping on the streets.

Severe overcrowding is the norm for Brazilians and other international students living in Dublin and people are regularly evicted with little or no notice. 

I think more should be done to support international students in Dublin.

We are delighted to come and spend our savings on courses and accommodation but we need help to get set up. None of us want to end up sleeping sleep on the streets.

In my own case, thankfully I’m living with the grandmother of the children that I mind which has been a fantastic experience and is right beside where I work. 

I am very happy there because I have a good quality of life and I have really got to experience Irish culture – I even feel a little bit Irish now.

I would never discourage others from coming to Dublin, I’m so glad I did it and the experience of being an international student is completely transformative.

But for those that do come, they need to be forewarned about how bad the housing situation really is.

They would do well to remember the Brazilian proverb.

I am Brazilian and I never give up. 

Ana Marta Gonçalves is a Brazilian student from São Paulo, who has been living in Dublin for two years.

She is a journalist and experienced press officer and she came to Ireland as part of an International Exchange Programme to focus on her English studies. 

Ana Marta Gonçalves
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