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ATU Castlebar student spent college year in van

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ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION The converted van which a student spent a full college year sleeping in in Castlebar.

Oisín McGovern

A GRADUATE of Atlantic Technological University Castlebar saved over €3,000 in rent by spending the entire academic year living in a van.
Josh Naab, originally from Dún Laoghaire in Dublin, spent his final year of college living in a Renault Master that he retrofitted with running water and a cooker.
The outdoor-education graduate parked the vehicle on the grounds of ATU Castlebar for the entire year, usually using the train whenever he needed to travel back to Dublin.
Prior to his final year, Josh had spent his academic terms living in private rental and student accommodation in the Castlebar area, paying between €300 and €320 per month. He estimates that he has saved up to €3,500 by living in the van.
This newpaper has highlighted the severe shortage of accommodation for students looking to study in Castlebar for the upcoming college year. However, speaking to The Mayo News, Josh said that his decision to live in the Renault was not related to the housing crisis.
“It might sound like the housing crisis pushed me in there, but I had enough funds to stay somewhere for the whole year,” he said.
“The reason I went to the van was because the year before, because of Covid, I spent a tonne of money on rent and I didn’t actually stay in the house, which was a lot to me. [It was] just throwing money out the window.
“I could have gone into another house that was a bit dearer, but I didn’t want to do that. It was bit of a rash decision to get the van last minute, but that’s basically what happened.”
He also pointed out that the cost of renting in Mayo is still ‘a thousand times better’ than Dublin. “I couldn’t really complain. My mates that are in Dublin are paying like €800, €900 per month.”

Van life
While staying in the van, the Dubin native used a gym and his friends’ house for showers and other facilities.
“I don’t mind staying in the van either,” he said. “It wasn’t a bad thing at all, I quite enjoyed it sometimes to be honest. Obviously, there was times when I f**king hated it.”
On some occasions during wintertime, he would have to phone his friends to pour hot water on the sliding door handle after had frozen shut.
Despite living without so many home comforts, Josh insists he got more study done than any other year. “I might have been inclined to study more because I wouldn’t want to be hanging around in the van after college all day,” he said.
This was not the first time Josh had lived in makeshift accommodation.
“I never really told anyone why I was in the van. Some people might have assumed it was because of the housing crisis. I’ve lived in vans before. In New Zealand I lived in the van for eight or nine months,” he revealed.
Today, Josh is still living ‘half-time’ in the van while working in a surfboard workshop in Gorey as well as part-time in a warehouse in Blanchardstown that ships vegetables in boxes around Ireland.