Written by Alexandria Sese, freshman, English, University of Illinois at Chicago
It is crucial in college that students learn to become independent. Often, that is why living on-campus is emphasized as an important part of the college experience. Many believe that young adults need to live on their own and make their own choices in order to grow into responsible and independent adults.
But the commuter lifestyle has its perks.
However, not everybody chooses this path of growth. Some students choose to live off campus and still develop the same sense of responsibility that resident students have. There are non-resident students who choose to rent apartments while some choose to stay and live with their families. Although living with the folks seem like a step backward into achieving independence, even arrangements like this help commuters become more responsible while developing a strong sense of independence.
“I have a room to myself,” Myrene Gallardo from Oakton Community College in Chicago explained. “I don’t have to share my space with someone else.” Commuters like Gallardo are able to stay in a comfortable place to live while they face a big transition in their lives. Living with their parents also gives students a sense of security that would be hard to achieve if they lived away from their families. On top of that, families are able to save money and that is especially useful in today’s economy.
But of course, students who live at home face the very thing that many students hope to get away from in college: lack of independence. Gallardo admitted that living with her parents can sometimes be bothersome. When asked about her relationship with her parents now that she’s in college, she said they still treat her like she was in high school. “I felt stress because I felt smothered,” Gallardo explained. “They weren’t letting me live the way I thought they would let me.”
Although living in a comfortable and secure home is good for commuters, there is still the matter of commuting. It’s not always fun and games for commuters who have to plan their lives around bus and train schedules. Rising gas prices also don’t help. And because commuters must allot time for transportation, it takes a toll on other aspects of their lives.
“It’s kind of hard to meet new people when you are just there for classes and then leave,” Brittany Metoyer from Elmhurst College said.
However, some commuters like Metoyer find good things about commuting. “I actually enjoy my 45-minute ride to and from school every day,” Metoyer admitted. “It helps me to wake up before classes and also allows me some time to de-stress before getting back home.”
Vaughn Clay, Director of Monmouth University’s Off-Campus and Commuter Services, said that he is always most impressed with the “different kind of effort [commuters] have to exert.” He observed that non-resident students have a different approach to their education, as well as their lifestyle, due to their living situations which can present different challenges for them.
Commuters become independent because they are pushed to be on top of their game in the classroom, take the initiative to get themselves into the classroom and to allot time for personal care and recreation.
For those who live in off-campus housing, they live without parents or mentors around to supervise them, which makes it all the more important for them to learn how to take care of themselves.
Gallardo and Metoyer are also proof that commuters grow to become responsible even under their parents’ roofs. With hours dedicated to commuting every week, as with Metoyer’s case, students learn to prioritize their social life and school responsibilities with the time constraints they have. Even with the house rules that commuters live under; young adults like Gallardo learn to become responsible by keeping these rules and facing the consequences when they break them.
In the end, commuters are not all that different from resident students; they just develop responsibility and earn their independence in a different way.