Mis-commuter-cation

Flash back 47 years. UC Irvine was first established by the Irvine Company as part of a planned community. It was designed as a commuter school meant to serve the local community. Yet, despite accusations that UCI has remained a commuter school that lacks diversity and an exciting surrounding area, by 2012, UCI has brushed off its former identity, much to the happiness of its almost 22,000 undergraduates.

First, rather than the previous trend of only accommodating students from nearby areas within Orange County, the number of native Northern Californian students who choose to become Anteaters has steadily increased. Though there are still more SoCal-ers at UCI today, UCI’s friendly atmosphere, excellent programs and sunny location have attracted Northern Californians to the UC Irvine community. Northern Californian students are obviously not commuters. One thing that has made this possible is another steadily increasing aspect of the UCI community − the availability of housing.

Though UCI has offered first-year housing to incoming freshmen since its opening in 1965 (Mesa Court opened that year as well, and Middle Earth just ten years afterward), students were generally forced to disperse themselves throughout Orange County after their freshman years until the opening of Vista del Campo in 2004.

Designed especially for continuing students, VDC allowed for many students to remain in close proximity to UCI and the neighboring community, and retain their Anteater pride. This continued with the opening of Vista del Campo Norte, an even larger set of apartment complexes, soon afterward, followed by Puerta del Sol and Camino del Sol in 2010.

By 2012, it is common for a student to be able to live in university-owned housing for his or her entire four years at UCI. Though there is still only a two-year on-campus housing guarantee for all incoming freshmen, the availability of several housing communities for students after they complete their freshman year at UCI has developed the student population’s current status as a tight-knit community and decreased the number of students who commute to campus.

Finally, University Town Center, the somewhat recently renovated shopping center across from campus, was not always as exciting as it is today. UTC features restaurants, a grocery store and even a movie theater. These recent additions to a shopping center that is walking distance from campus have made Irvine itself a more exciting space. It has made Irvine a more popular destination for socializing − whether it be at Yogurtland or the very popular Cha for Tea, munching on chewy pizza from Ray’s or waking up with Peet’s Coffee. These modifications to UCI’s surrounding area have made it more than just a place where students come for classes. The changes have made UCI a place where students remain, socializing over teriyaki bowls and boba until the late hours of the night.

With the decreasing number of commuters, award-winning new housing options and a convenient shopping center across campus, UCI has embraced an entirely new identity, much to the happiness of its undergraduate population.

Eli Heller is a third-year literary journalism and art history double major. He can be reached at hellere@uci.edu.