Rrrring, rrrring, rrrring. When will it end? Obviously, when you finally get up the nerve to leave the warm cocoon of your bed to face the inconsolable morning chill masquerading as your punishment for choosing an 8 a.m. class. But heaven forbid you should ever wake up late as a commuter. Cross your fingers that you never jolt out of bed, fumbling for an alarm clock snoozed too many times, fingers numb with the fear of failure that you just may have missed your morning exam thanks to those two hours you spend stuck on a crowded bus to campus.
Commuting Isn’t The Best, But Worry Not—There’s a Bright Side Too.
1. You’ll Know the Area
You’ll become an old pro on your surrounding area by commuting to school. This makes you a prime scouted friend. At least, it did for me since I know the best food spots and hangouts. I know the best places to go for a late night snack, a relaxing stroll when the weather is nice or the perfect place to get a lot of firsts out of the way (insert smiley winky face here). Now, I’m not implying some sort of geographical smash or pass, but understanding the layout of the battlefield of life makes navigating its turbulence much easier.
2. You’ll HAVE A CAR/TRANSPORTATION
Congratulations, you can actually go places. Having your own car means you and your friends can actually travel beyond 20 miles without breaking the bank in Uber fees or public transportation tickets. Sure the gas bill starts to climb, but I have a little tin in my car to ask for tips and donations from anyone who rides with me and doesn’t die. Having a reliable form of transportation is something that many of my dorming friends take for granted. The ease of walking or longboarding to classes soon evolves into trepidation as they realize that two miles from campus means a painful walk under the relentless SoCal sun.
3.You’ll Learn all about TIME MANAGEMENT
Driving to and from school requires a time commitment, as does any extracurricular, class or part-time job you may dedicate yourself to. Personally, I miss being able to sleep while not stressing over getting to class on time because traffic is now the bane of my existence. I’ve made a number of friends complaining about the injustice of traffic with great pick-up lines such as: “Man did you see the 805? That’s crazy,” or “Let’s just get coffee until the traffic dies down, yeah?” But keep in mind that you’ll build perseverance and organizational skills to help you avoid traffic jams and plan out your day to maximize what can get done. In other words? Your resume will thank you.
4. You’ll Develop SELF-AWARENESS
If commuting has taught me anything, it has taught me about myself. That sounds profound and inspirational, but everything basically revolves around a trial-and-error mentality. Should I participate in X, Y and Z club while taking 18 units? Probably not. Definitely not if I have an exam in two of my classes the next day. Can my car make it to the gas station if I have a quarter tank left and 17 miles with mildly saucy traffic to boot? Absolutely. Should I prioritize making friends over sleep and academics? Well, that’s a tough one. Understand yourself, learn from your mistakes, know what you want—because it better be worth it if you drive out at three in the morning… for whatever reason.
5. You’ll LIVE AT HOME
The easiest, cheapest rooming option for university living: Staying at home. Not paying rent saves a boatload of cash for college students and their families. Not to mention the added bonus of free food (that actually tastes good) makes me weep tears of joy. For instance, there’s the soft bed at home, the comfortable couches in the living room or a kitchen that actually has a rice cooker. Imagine living for a year in the rented rooms of your school with people you don’t know on furniture that smells like despair. That gets to you after a while. At least the despair cooked up at your family bungalow tastes like disappointment and home cooking.
1. You’ll Have to Deal with TRAFFIC
If you have to take an 8 a.m. class as a commuter, not only will you have to wake up earlier, when most teens’ bodies are programmed to wake up later, you will also have to face the traffic jam made up of the nine-to-five workforce of America. If mornings are something you can cope with, by all means go and take the early classes. Beware: Traffic may destroy your will to live and may also extend your Spotify playlist from 25 minutes to 45 minutes. Sure Katy Perry and Taylor Swift dole out the angst to feed our teenage souls, but it becomes mind-numbing after replaying multiple times.
2. You’ll Struggle with PARKING
As a commuter, you’ll likely face the dreaded parking garages. First we pay for our higher education, and now we have to pay for our parking permits to go to our higher education? Yup, everything has a price in college. Permits can get pretty pricey, and it gets even worse when you realize having a parking permit does not guarantee you a parking spot. Especially at the 9 a.m. rush, and you have a class in 30 minutes. But when you’re still in your car at 9:24 a.m. because you couldn’t find a spot, and now you have to trundle your way through other latecomers to find parking across campus because class is not worth a parking citation, you’ll start to ask yourself why you thought commuting was a good idea. You’ll soon find parking structures are cement blocks of doom.
3. Your SOCIAL LIFE Will Be Affected
Universities can feel like magical lands of parties, significant others and midnight adventures with a splash of academia every now and then for flavoring. I don’t even understand how people think that a Tuesday night party will bode well, but they happen. I’m not much of a party person, so this doesn’t get to me too much. But on the off chance that I do end up going to a party, I’ve come to understand that being a designated driver was never a full-time profession until I got on the scene. Beyond that, if you do like to get #turnt all day, everyday, can you imagine how much of a hassle it’ll be to either stay on campus for that frat party or have to (groan) drive back if you don’t have class that day?
4. You Might Struggle to Land those A’s
Meeting brilliant, amazing people is one of the best parts of college. But sometimes, you’ll feel like you can’t match the brilliance around you. Maintaining perfect grades in an imperfect educational system while commuting is even harder. You’ll find yourself stressed from the traffic and tired from the day of school and coming home will feel more like a pit stop than a place to do homework. I hate when I’m in the morning slog, halfway to school, and a shot of pure adrenaline hits me. Did I pack that 15-page assignment that’s saved on the computer I left at home? This is a very real problem for both myself and my GPA.
5. You’ll LIVE AT HOME
Living at home makes a double-edged sword sound pleasantly painful. Having a comfortable home to go to, but missing out on the entire college experience that your friends might be having across the country or abroad will be disappointing. They’ll attend the parties you’ve seen Zac Efron advertise. They’ll get a taste of independence and responsibility as they try to survive on their own. While you…won’t.
Commuting sucks…some of the time. In reality, you are the creator of your college lifestyle. You might feel disappointed because that Project X college experience will elude you but who’s to say you can’t commute and still have fun? It’s all on you. Your mindset when you walk on campus determines how you conduct yourself from there. Your experience depends on your priorities and your time management skills because at the end of the day, commuting to school still results in an education. It’s your experience, your story and your life—so make the most of it.