By Catherine Gonzalez
I knew when I first came to the College last year that being a commuter student would involve discipline. I lose over an hour a day of relaxing, doing homework, eating or pretty much anything I could just do if I were staying on campus to drive, so I need to use my time wisely. There were a few things, however, that I hadn’t expected about campus life, and they required a bit of personal adjustment.
One thing that shocked me was the late timing on campus. Many classes at the College end at 8:20 p.m., just before many clubs and events begin at 8:30 p.m. and often last for over an hour.
In addition to driving at night, something that I had very minimal experience with when I began college was having a dedicated place of my own on campus. My meetings on Zoom led to numerous moments of scrambling to find a quiet area in lieu of a dorm room where I could speak aloud. I have arrived early in the morning to the Library so many times to save a study room, praying that nobody would kick me out for being alone so I could attend a Zoom class without difficulty. I even participated in a job interview last semester on the floor in front of Brower Student Center (BSC) 100.
My biggest fear about being a commuter coming into college was just general fear of missing out. I feared missing out on making friends, partaking in weekend events and just making the memories that I could have made if I had decided to live on campus.
The College appears to have prepared procedures like class and club times with residential students in mind, which makes sense. After all, roughly 85-95% of first year students live on-campus, and many of them continue to do so or live in houses right outside of campus during their remaining undergraduate years. This basically just means that getting the college experience that I desired as a commuter came from determining what I wanted, knowing my capabilities and assets and setting boundaries.
The “college experience” does not look the same for everybody. While I knew that I would not mind missing parties, I also knew that I wanted to become heavily involved in clubs and organizations, and I also really wanted to make deep connections with my fellow students and professors.
With these goals in mind, I assessed what was necessary to achieve them and how far I was willing to go to make them happen. Both of these goals involved putting myself out there, and I am fortunate in that I am relatively outgoing and willing to speak to people. Regarding club-involvement, I also pretty much just decided that I would get used to driving at night despite my fears. This decision has also helped me make strong connections because I have gotten used to waiting until my friends are done with activities or classes to eat dinner or hang out together.
Setting boundaries has been very much based on trusting my gut-feelings. I personally do not want to get back home in the dead of night, especially because I commute back to school around 6:50 a.m. every morning to avoid traffic and parking difficulties. Therefore, I try to firmly stick to my personal quota of leaving campus at 10:00 p.m. at the latest to ensure that I get home in time for me to get around seven hours of sleep. This can sometimes be awkward because I dislike leaving a club meeting before it’s over or leaving a friend that I’m hanging out with, but maintaining these boundaries has helped me make the most of the time that I spend on and off of campus.
Commuting comes with unique difficulties, but it is certainly not impossible. Working with your personal circumstances while not setting aside your goals can help you get the college experience that you want and make some wonderful memories here at the College.