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I will return to university on September 11 for my final year, having finally secured my accommodation doing homestay or more commonly known as Digs. Digs is where the tenant lives with the landlord. In my case, I will be living with an elderly lady in a quiet family housing estate just over three kilometres away from the university.

It probably sounds like any student’s nightmare, but for me it is an absolute dream. A quiet house, no mess, space to study, to do my writing, cook and actually sleep as opposed to listening to blaring music among other things (use your imagination). I am aware that I haven’t got the mindset of an average 21 year old, I don’t know where I went wrong but I’m not complaining.

I saw the advertisement posted on a Facebook page for student accommodation in Limerick. Disclaimer: These pages are home to scams. I got in contact with several people who just seemed dodgy. And no, I am not discriminating against anybody, but I came across a few things that just didn’t seem legit. I always stalked the person’s profile page just to see if it was genuine, looking for things like when they joined, old profile pictures, comments, things like that just to make sure it was a genuine person I was dealing with, not just a profile set up for the sake of taking advantage of students.

I always asked for a picture of the outside of the house, a video call (not just a video) of the inside of the house and contact with the actual landlord. In one case, I was asked for a deposit straight away, which I knew was a scam. I have always used Facebook groups to find a room, whether it’s luck or good judgement, it has always worked out for me.

I had a call with the lady advertising this room, she has two rooms, which she lets out to students every year. A Donegal woman living in Limerick. We had a quick chat, she asked me what I was studying, if I was working, driving, etc. One thing she did ask was why I was opting for Digs as opposed to renting a house with friends. My honest answer was that I have done student accommodation and, while I do like some aspects, overall, it frustrates me.

As for renting a house, while in Malta I didn’t want the hassle of looking for something. She gave me the room and felt guilty asking me for a deposit. She told me to send her anything at all, just something so that she knew I was genuine. She also asked if I would go down to meet her before the school semester starts.

Fast forward a few months, home from Malta and I went to visit her. I have heard the Digs horror stories, having an absolute nightmare of a landlord who is an absolute control freak. Meeting her, I was so pleasantly surprised. Upon entering the house, I instantly fell in love with the interior, grey white and black. My absolute favourites.

She had paintings of her hometown in Donegal and photographs of different Irish landscapes hung artfully around the house. I brought some coffee cake, which she good naturedly rebukes me for, only eating healthy foods in the house. No no, I thought to myself. I’m into my health and fitness but, if I want chocolate, I want it.

We sat down for coffee and cake and chatted. I found out she works in Limerick hospital as a nurse in the intensive care unit. Having split up from her husband, she took to travel the world on her own, although she still has the fear of going for dinner in the evenings on her own. We talked about places we had travelled to, where we liked and where we didn’t like. Budapest and Bucharest being among my favourites; while she loved the port city of Marseille.

She asked about my future plans, how I planned to fund myself throughout the college semester, if I will work, etc. I was laughing, it seems like she will keep me on my toes. I asked her a question that my own parents had asked me and which I had asked myself: “Aren’t you afraid of taking students into your home?”

“Why would I be?” she responded. “You don’t know what kind of students you’re going to get,” I replied. She told me that, to date, she has always gotten lovely people whom she stays in contact with once they leave. “Like yourself,” she said.

I admired her for the chances she takes. A life lesson I guess, you never knew what you’re going to get but, if you don’t try, you’ll never know. I am really looking forward to moving in.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a third year journalism student in University of Limerick


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