By Heather Derenick
An alumnus of my university, who was a commuter student like me, said that those who spend the majority of time on campus are not really commuters at all, but rather “resimuters,” commuters who are in every way like a resident except aren’t given a room of their own to sleep in.
If you want to save money, or live at home for other reasons, being a commuter student at college is not only possible, but it can be a great experience.
Being a commuter wasn’t my first choice. In fact, I was a resident for a semester at a different institution before finances caused me to move back home and go to a closer university. Before the semester started, I began to ask myself the questions: What would I do and where would I go between classes? How would I meet people? Was I going to feel a part of the university community?
After a few days of wandering aimlessly around campus feeling lost and alone, I decided I needed to find a way to make the university my home away from home.
In high school, I was always involved in clubs and sports. I was constantly busy and looking for ways to develop my leadership skills, and I wanted my college experience to be the same. I needed to get involved on campus so it just wasn’t a place to attend classes. I was pleasantly surprised that Scranton had a club for commuters, The Commuter Student Association (CSA), which allowed me to engage in leadership opportunities, discuss mutual concerns and ideas about the commuter lifestyle, and create a peer network.
My college experience really took off once I got a work study job, which allowed me to meet residential students, faculty and staff members. I started to stay on campus more and utilize resources the University had to offer such as The Student Forum, a shared space with computers and study tables, the fitness facilities, and the study rooms. Doors opened to new experiences, conferences, volunteer opportunities, and academic and sports clubs. Having friends in the dorms meant that I could spend the weekend on campus, have somewhere to sleep and people to go with to the events and social gatherings.
My commuting experience is a positive one, but many commuters aren’t this lucky and instead have a negative attitude towards commuting and may even hate their college experience. Luck had nothing to do with my success. Rather, I took advantage of the resources and networking opportunities by stepping outside my comfort zone to get involved.
Here are five things I’ve learned that may help other commuter college students make the adjustment and have a positive experience:
1. Stay on campus – It might seem like a no-brainer to go home between and after classes but don’t. Use your time on campus to hang out with friends or visit professors. You can’t meet new people if your home sitting on your couch.
2. Get involved – Join a club, organization, or sports team that you’re interested in. If your school doesn’t have one that interests you, start one of your own. Being involved not only gives you a chance to meet people but also gives you a connection to your institution. Also be sure to check your email, posters around campus, bulletin boards, and school newspaper for events.
3. Utilize campus resources – The Commuter Student Association was my path to getting involved. Use a resource like your student forum, fitness facilities, or study rooms to stay involved. You will also save money, cutting out the extra expenses of a gym membership and gas money.
4. Get a job on campus – You should take aa work study or non-work study job instead of one off-campus. You will earn spending money and you’ll be more able to socialize.
5. Step outside your comfort zone – Whether you’re outgoing or shy, you need to be able to talk to peers, faculty, and staff. No one knows you’re a commuter unless you tell them, so don’t feel that you will be treated differently because of it. Invite friends who are residents to go to a mall or restaurant that they probably never heard of because it’s not right next to campus, or bring them back to your house for a home cooked meal.