I love Dublin but it doesn’t love me back

Maïlé Monteiro reflects on how her perspectives of Dublin have changed over her time at Trinity

I have a very vivid memory of my arrival in Dublin. I had taken a late-night flight from Nice, France, and hopped straight into a taxi which took me through the city. I remember driving down a lifeless O’Connell Street, passing the Heineken building near O’Connell Bridge, seeing Trinity for the first time (an actual highlight), and watching the oncoming traffic slowly die down as we entered Rathmines. It was around 2 AM when I arrived at Trinity Hall on September 14 2020. The gate was closed. I rang the bell. 

The security guard walked me to the flat I would be staying in for the next year, and I followed him mindlessly through the desolate Halls, struggling to lug my large yellow suitcase behind me. It was filled with sub-par winter clothing (woefully deficient for the conditions at hand), far too many pairs of shoes, and instant noodles for when the homesickness hit (as it did, of course). COVID cases were peaking, leaving me plenty of time during those two horrifically slow weeks of quarantine to think long and hard about what my next few years in this new city would look like. 

Starting a new life in an unknown city is a daunting task for anyone, and my first time living in Europe, nearly 13000km away from my home in Indonesia, added another layer of this unfamiliarity. In isolation, I anticipated my escape by watching (pre-lockdown) Trinity vlogs on YouTube and bookmarking some well-known kitschy Dublin blogs. From here, I developed various preconceptions about life in Dublin: lots of drinking (I am aware this is stereotypical), the wildest college nightlife, and the friendliest of people, among others. Most of these actually turned out to be true to varying extents. Of course, I imagined my Dublin life to be free of struggles. I’d move out of Halls after First Year, find a sick flat to live in with 13 of my closest friends, we’d host a sesh to rival Chris’ house party in Skins, and this very real and totally affordable apartment would, of course, be located right across Trinity, because where else would I want to live? Note that I had freshly turned eighteen at the time. I want to blame COVID for this wishful thinking, but my naïveté really got the best of me.

Reflecting on my years in College, some of these expectations didn’t turn out to be so true. Balancing my finances, academics, and social life in this city proved to be a lot harder than I initially thought. I had to abandon several much-anticipated nights out mid-way through to catch my last bus home, as I find myself increasingly wary of certain parts of the inner city after dark. I’ve lived in mould-ridden flats and, contrary to my first-year expectations, student accommodation still has me in a pretty firm chokehold. 

Dublin’s cost of living crisis is news to no one by now. Saddled with an economy primarily catered towards appeasing multinational corporations and landlords, and with a political caste that sticks up two fingers to workers, young people, public housing and infrastructure development, Dublin’s attempts at becoming a world-class city fall very, very, short. The inner city is ridden with promising yet painfully derelict properties and, wait, what? The last DART, the city’s only suburban railway network, passes the city centre before midnight? No way! Another vulture fund just snatched 85% of this brand-new housing estate? The city noticeably squeezes the life out of particularly vulnerable people: its rising homeless population, migrant workers, and many of its students as well. My Cities Skylines gamer days can often lead me to believe that most of the city’s shortcomings are very easily treatable issues, but then I remember the economic interest groups to which Dublin City Council sucks up.

With the announcement of exciting and ambitious projects such as the expansion of city- and nation-wide public transport or the pedestrianisation of vibrant central urban streets, there lies a glimmer of hope, but I have accepted that I will not be living in Dublin long enough to see a lot of these projects to their completion. “I love Dublin, but it doesn’t love me back” keeps ringing true.

I’m left with a bittersweet feeling of the Dublin cityscape and, more and more often, I find myself thinking about how different my life would have been if I had picked somewhere else to go to college”

This year, I’ve entered my final semester, feeling very lucky to be able to say so, because I know that for so many other students, it has not been the same. I’m left with a bittersweet feeling of the Dublin cityscape and, more and more often, I find myself thinking about how different my life would have been if I had picked somewhere else to go to college. My bank account would probably be in better standing, and I want to believe I would have found a home to stay in for the long term. However, without Dublin, I wouldn’t have met some of my closest friends, or my boyfriend, or received life-changing career opportunities. In spite of its flawed government, as some of my friends would say: “Dublin’s still a great place with a great bunch of lads.” It remains a city brimming with culture and rich experiences. Looking back on my 4 years in the city, I have had my fair share of memorable nights out (a few definitely rivalled Chris’s house party) and snug pub nights – enough memories to call Dublin my home. 

I have long critiqued this city for its disappointing value-for-money but, nevertheless, this city feels young. I still love it for its walkable city centre and, above anything else, for the city foxes you meet at the end of a night out (if you’re lucky). I look back very fondly at the memories I’ve made in Dublin, clinging on to them despite the fact that my presence on the island may only be fleeting. Once I leave Trinity, I still have plans to stay in Dublin for the meantime – that is, if I manage to find a place to live next year… Any gaffs?

Maïlé Monteiro

Maïlé Monteiro is a Junior Sophister student of Computer Science & Business. She is currently a Food & Drink Deputy Editor.