I hope you are all well. I wanted to take the time today to discuss my experience of commuting to university. There are many things people picture when they think of a university student; knowledgeable, party animal, socialite and social butterfly. Something of which I am not. My university life will be experienced through the rectangular screen of my computer! It is often assumed that those commuting have chosen to do so because they are a mature student or a parent of young children. However, I am here to break that myth. I am an 18-year-old university undergraduate taking the first of three years of a Social Work and Applied Social Studies course while staying at home.
Why I chose to commute?
I have a very close relationship with my family, which was always a considerable factor in choosing whether to go away or not. For some people moving away can give them a sense of freedom and relief, but for me, thinking about it just led to panic and anxiety. Still, why commute I hear you ask? From a financial perspective, when you have one of the best universities for your course less than an hour’s journey from your house, why go away.
But on a personal level, I think the main reason I chose to commute was so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all the new possibilities and transitions that would occur and instead allow myself the space to concentrate first and foremost on my studying. I like the independent nature of being able to decide how much time I allow myself for socialising and studying all from the comfort of my own home.
Benefits of commuting?
The constant cleaning, the late-night partygoers, an inability to concentrate and the ease of burning a hole in your pocket! As expected, there is a financial element that is easier for a lot of commuter students to deal with, as for most, they only have to pay rent and bills to their parents, somebody, who will be more lenient than any other landlord. But aside from this, it creates a nice balance between tranquillity and business. The option for you to get involved and socialise is limitless, but sometimes you need to step away from all that and take some time each day just for peace of mind, something which I thought would be much tricker under a background of hustle and bustle within university life.
The commuting experience and community life
Before going to university, I was under the assumption that my university experience would have been much less exhilarating than those who lived in the halls. My how I was wrong! The University has done so much to make those studying from home feel welcomed and supported during this weird and interesting time. One amazing initiative was the virtual kitchen. This allowed those who were studying from home from different courses to get to know each other, much in a similar way as those living in halls.
Similarly, from September, we were all added to our kitchen’s and subject areas Microsoft Teams groups, where we could interact with fellow students before meeting them in lectures and seminars. These welcome schemes allowed me to feel very secure with my fellow students and not so worried about the prospect of making friends as a commuter at the university.
Personally, I would argue that those commuting have a better university life experience than others who are staying away. As a commuter, you get to choose the social events and sports activities you take part in. There is also greater flexibility of your work due to prior commitments e.g. caring roles. Overall, I feel that there is just a better organisational ability with staying at home than you would find at the university.
How to make commuting work for you
There are many ways in which commuting can be made easier. There are many ways to make a great study space at home. I personally, like making a designated area that is not used for anything else to do my work. It allows me to separate my social and private life from my studies as well as helping to keep me focused. Other benefits range from, parking permits, that give you peace of mind about parking, to great online services such as the library, Moodle and forums.
One thing that I found really worked for me was to set boundaries and rules with your family from the first week and involve them in the planning of these. For example, mark out designated times each day that you wish to study and what lectures or seminars you have when. This communication with your family is vital, especially if they are going to be your ‘housemates’ for the next few years. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to set time aside to spend with them or friends who aren’t from the same university.
The first few weeks can be very stressful and overwhelming, so its good to have a support system around you that you can tap into. Similarly, if everything is going well, don’t overload yourself, stick to the plans you make with your family and give yourself a break. YOU ARE STUDYING A DEGREE, AND THAT IS AN EXTRAORDINARY THING!
Tips, hints and tricks for commuters
- Don’t be afraid to email unit convenors. They are very quick at replying and a simple response can do wonders for your concentration and nerves if you cannot get a question or query out of your ahead.
- Tell your family and friends how you feel, do not worry if things are overwhelming at the start, this is normal and ask for help and support when you need it. There is a bunch of amazing support available at the University.
- Ask questions, this is the number one way to help engage with your course content and will benefit you in the long run.
- Experiment and explore. You are not expected to get it right all the time and you can only learn if you try, test out different methods of note-taking and listening to see which method works best for you.
- Set yourself a code or use shorthand to help yourself when in lectures and seminars so that you don’t miss out on any information.
- Ask your peers, they can be really helpful and this will help to build friendships within your course.
Until next time,
Stay safe and keep smiling,