The biggest struggle of my semester thus far was getting motivated to come back to UConn after Thanksgiving break. After a week of some muchly needed TLC at home, I started to wonder what life as a commuter would be like and if living on campus was worth the hefty price tag. So, I commuted for a week in hopes of answering some of my questions. This is what I learned.
Aside from the obvious pro of saving literally thousands on room and board, I was shocked to discover how many other sweet things commuting life had to offer. I woke up in my own bed surrounded by my dogs and actually took my time getting ready in my own bedroom with all of my clothes and makeup instead of worrying about being quiet or wishing I could have my entire wardrobe accessible to me or having to deal with the nasty communal bathrooms where the shower drains are always clogged with hair that is not my own. Having the privacy to get ready as I please felt so good, especially since I blasted Fergie with no shame and I changed my outfit at least three times each morning.
I was on campus from roughly 9 AM until 9 PM each day and I did not miss out on any aspects of my social, academic, or extracurricular life. Contrary to popular belief, being a commuter does not mean you go to class and go straight home. If anything, not having a room to go back to in between classes forced me to be more social with my friends, explore places on campus to spend my downtime, and find new UConn study spots. Yes, you have to put in the extra effort to be social because your girls are not down the hall from you, but it is 100% doable. It also forces you to have a structured daily schedule, which I personally loved because I actually managed my time appropriately and did my homework as soon as it was assigned instead of laying in bed and watching Hulu. As for eats? Enough of my friends were able to swipe me into the dining halls. There are also hidden super adorable cafés on campus that sell meals from gourmet salads and sandwiches to fresh sushi. You will still be able to satisfy your cravings without dropping roughly three grand for a meal plan.
At the end of the day I was able to drive back home, where I called my long-distance boyfriend and did not have to worry about my roommate hearing every word of our lovey-dovey chit chat. I was greeted by my loving parents and homemade pasta bolognese. It was a great Wednesday.
Commuting also allowed me to spend quality time not with just my family and pets, but also with my friends from home who are often neglected during the semester. While I am just a 20 minute drive from UConn, living on campus makes you feel like you are in your own little bubble. It’s easy to let relationships fall through the cracks. But being at home allowed me to spend some quality time with my homies. It also let me choose with zero pressure when I want to be social and party or when I want to be a hermit and watch The Mindy Project.
But let’s not forget the biggest perk: you have a car on campus! Which means endless amounts of freedom and independence and spontaneous trips to TJ Maxx.
Of course, I knew that driving day in and day out would get old. However, you truly cannot prepare yourself for the anxiety of driving down 195 in terrible weather during construction in order to make it on time for an eight AM. Once you finally arrive at the always crowded W Lot, your gas light goes on, so you have to get gas for the second time that week. That is a common reality of commuter life. Dealing with traffic, awful weather conditions, gas prices, and UConn’s highly demanded Parking Services becomes a daily concern.
Commuting also means missing out on the traditional dorm life experience. You do not get to live on the same floor as your friends or downstairs from your crush. If you want to go out on most weekends, it becomes something you need to plan out in advance rather than a last-minute decision, which is the reality of college nightlife. Not to mention crashing on your friend’s floor gets old. Fast. Because you don’t have a room, it is also exponentially harder to nap during the day. Try your hardest to stay awake during lengthy lectures.
No matter how much you love your family, living with them while you’re becoming a proactive young adult and starting to find your individual place in the world can be less than ideal. So for some, the extra family time that commuting entails is anything but a pro. Since you’re home, you also have to wake up earlier for your classes and you will be absolutely screwed if you forget something essential at home for the day.
But let’s not forget the biggest downside: you have a car on campus! Which means endless amounts of parking tickets and digging your car out of the snow and being an unpaid chauffeur to your friends.
The Moral of the Story
If you decide to commute, there will be pros and cons. But that’s life, and no one can tell you what to do or how to feel. It’s up to you to figure out which option is the best way to spend your college years. So if considering commuting has been stressing you out, I hope this article has helped you as much as it has helped bring clarity to my own life.