I have heard several classmates this semester struggling with the question of whether or not to commute to campus next year. The majority of these students are traditional students, who currently live on or near campus, but are considering commuting about an hour to an hour and half to campus next year to save money. This situation seems especially common with junior and senior education students, since many students hope to complete their student teaching near their hometowns. The big question seems to be: “do I really want to sign a year-long lease if I plan on moving home to do student teaching during the spring semester?” While you are the only one able to make a decision like that, keep in mind that every situation is what you make of it.
As a nontraditional student, commuting was a no-brainer for me. (Seriously, would you want me and my family living in your apartment building?) BUT, that doesn’t mean that it is always easy. The first semester was really rough, but my family and I adapted. By making a few changes, I have been able to make the commuting experience better fit my lifestyle. Here’s how:
- We bought a new car. I know that not everyone can just go out and buy a new car, but in my situation, I actually saved money each month by trading in my fully paid for mega-SUV and buying a small car with awesome gas mileage, a fantastic warranty and cheap insurance. Plus, I now have all of the fancy bells and whistles like Bluetooth integration with my phone for hands free audio streaming and calls, turn by turn navigation, satellite radio and ambient lighting. It makes the drive much more bearable!
- I signed up for an Audible account. Over the course of the semester I have listened to a few assigned readings for my literature class as well as six other novels that I had wanted to read. While I do not have much time to read for enjoyment, I do have two hours of drive time every day that I can use to listen to audio books. It really makes the drive seem shorter!
- No more 8:00 a.m. classes. Last spring, I had decided that I would be doing 8:00 a.m classes so that I could be done on campus by 2:00 and be home when my kids get off of the bus. It was a bad idea. I had to leave around 6:30 which meant getting up SUPER early to have time to get my daughter dressed and dropped off at daycare before I headed to campus. The 9:35 class start time (along with after school daycare for the kids) is working much better for us!
- We do not cook in the evenings. It has taken a few months for us to get the hang of this, but we now really only cook once a month. We buy all of the ingredients for our main dishes for the month, combine them in gallon sized freezer bags, label them and freeze them. Then, every morning we put our dinner in the crockpot, or, if it needs to be baked, we put it in the refrigerator to thaw so that we can pop it in the oven as soon as we get home. The only cooking we do on week nights is quick side dishes such as vegetables, pasta or rice to compliment our main dish. This leaves me with more time in the evenings to work on my homework or just relax.
- I am over prepared. If I forget something, I can’t just stop by my house between classes, so I need to have everything that I may possibly need for the day with me. I double check my backpack before leaving the house to make sure that I have all of my assignments, books, iPad and phone. My backpack is loaded with a stapler, scissors, highlighters, pens, pencils, Post-its, a snack, mints or gum, chapstick, bandaids and a water bottle. The trunk of my car has an umbrella and a variety of jackets and coats so that I am prepared if the weather changes during the day. Basically, if I need it, I have it.
These are the changes that have made commuting work for me. Making the choice to become a commuter yourself is not an easy decision. It may seem like you are giving up so much when you live far away from campus, but it can be done. The biggest downside is missing out on the social aspect of the college experience, but if you have great friends then that too will work out!
Any tips for commuters? Comment below or tweet @thamra.