That is the question. I chose the former. It’s a challenge that requires a strict sleep regimen, proper time management skills, and careful planning of each quarter’s class schedule. As I enter winter quarter of my second year, I have grown accustomed to this routine, and convinced that the misconception that commuting as a “horror” is one that needs to be disproven.
I have heard countless tales exaggerating the restrictions of commuting, such as minimal social interactions that hinder friendships and networking opportunities, constant exhaustion or a feeling of disconnection from the Anteater community. However, with time and proper scheduling, a commuter’s experience will not differ significantly from that of an on-campus student.
I’ve had the opportunity to commute and stay on campus for a few days, allowing me to determine the drawbacks and benefits of each situation. Speaking from personal experience, and observations of fellow commuters, we seem to thrive and develop as active members of the Anteater community in spite of our strict routines.
While living in close proximity to UCI eliminates the need to rush and allows one to wake up 30 minutes before class and not be late, the recurring distractions prevalent on campus leave little time for self-reflection. With opportunities to amuse one’s self for hours at a time — the ARC, UTC, the Spectrum, or the beach- introspective examination is limited.
Cristina Elizarraraz, a fourth-year political science major, has been commuting for four years. As she thinks back on her UCI experience, her years of tireless dedication have led her to the realization that “commuting just gives you more time to reflect on yourself and understand yourself on a deeper level.” With the ability for an individual to separate themselves from the university’s population and the time available to study, develop a hobby, or think on the train and bus, students begin to identify areas of interest that are not influenced by their surrounding peer group, but rather based on their sole desire to learn more.
In addition, with less time to spend at school, the significance of on-campus memories become more meaningful.
For instance, the times I find myself on campus longer than usual, eating dinner with friends or attending a concert, the events hold a deeper value because they do not occur as often. Such rarities are reserved for friends who, in spite of my limited availability, strive to maintain a strong relationship throughout the year.
Campus residents may advise commuters to live closer to gain the “full college experience,” but in actuality, our resolve to travel to and from home and school provides limitless opportunities for future advancement and development. After all, the money saved throughout each quarter brings about the possibilities of studying abroad, the placement of a down payment on a long-term asset like a car or house, or even the funding of a potential start-up.
The approximate cost for a quarter’s worth of commuting, assuming a three-day schedule, is equivalent to a month’s worth of rent. Students, in order to meet astronomical rent costs, are forced to take out loans or get a job, but those of us living at home are able to minimize our expenses to the purchase of a train ticket, a tank of gas, and possibly an occasional snack. Meals and living payments are taken care of with family assistance, relieving the stress of such advanced preparations. The elimination of future liabilities and current worries allows one to focus solely on their career aspirations.
There are, however, a few drawbacks that I will admit to. Due to strict scheduling, I don’t always feel as though I’m an active member of the Anteater community. Efforts made to join clubs or on-campus organizations often go unrewarded, particularly since an extra five minutes on campus can result in an hour’s delay of returning home due to the train schedule.
Scheduling necessary classes or organizing work schedules around the train is oftentimes difficult; some lectures or discussions are held at inconvenient times in the evening. These times make it impossible to catch even the latest train.
Commuting, however, isn’t as bad as it seems. I currently work on campus and my employer is incredibly considerate and flexible with my working hours, allowing me to work remotely. My classes are spaced out in order to allow for recuperation from the previous day’s commute and the bonds that I make with fellow classmates often lead to a friendship that goes beyond the quarter’s end.
In actuality, the aspect that makes commuting difficult lies in the inability for others to comprehend that there is a rather large group of us that choose to live at home instead of on campus.
Lilith Martirosyan is a second-year business administration major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.