The Tales of a Commuter Student

“WAKE UP SWIG!!!” are three words I never heard my freshman year, and boy was I hyperaware of it. At this point in junior year, I often hear people reminiscing over the good ‘ole days of freshman year when they lived in Swig and had not a care in the world. #CantRelate.  

See, I was a commuter student my freshman year. Yes, I dared to lived at home with my family during my first year of college- and I lived to tell the tale.  

The decision to commute was not easy. I came to Santa Clara to be close to my family and because it is a great school. I had always wanted to go here, but when I received my admissions packet, I barely got any scholarship money. I had to decide at that point between living on my own at a school hundreds of miles away, or going to Santa Clara and not having the typical “college experience.” I decided the day before my enrollment deposit was due to come here.  

To be completely honest, I hated it. I hated the school, I hated my classes, I hated the activities I was involved in, and I particularly grew to resent my living situation. I opened up a transfer application about a dozen times to the school I almost went to and contemplated dropping out of Santa Clara entirely. The reason for all of this was that Santa Clara forgets about commuter students. Plain and simple. The university caters to freshmen and sophomores that live on campus and brushes everyone else aside. The amount of activities that would advertise, “Bring your roommate,” or professors who would say, “Go interview people in your residence hall for this assignment,” only supports this point. My classmates especially did not make it any easier. People would constantly ask me what building I lived in, and when I would respond, “Oh, I actually live at home,” they would immediately say, “Really? Don’t you hate being that close to your parents? I know I would.” Each time the question was posed, I could actually feel the judgement radiating from their words. My classmates made it seem as though it was a tragedy to live at home and talk to my family more than once a quarter.  

 

After months of constantly feeling like an outsider or like I was doing something wrong by not having enough money, I desperately wanted out of this university. However, after talking to many of my high school friends over Christmas break that year, I realized that nearly everyone felt the exact same way. Even though I was the only one in my friend group who had commuted, many of them felt similar hardships in their transition to college, and most of them had also considered transferring as well. I realized then that the problems I was facing were only partially due to the fact that I was commuting. Most of my problems were from college just being a tough transition in general. From that moment forward, I decided to throw myself completely into Santa Clara. I figured the only way to resent Santa Clara less was to get even more involved.  

 

I applied to be a CF, a Community Facilitator aka Santa Clara's fancy way of saying RA, in January of my freshman year. The application process took what felt like forever, but by February, I had landed a role that transformed my college experience. Here was this perfect job that gave me free housing and an opportunity to live at school, adding no cost to my tuition. When I got the job offer, I remember feeling proud of myself because I finally had control over my college experience. At the start of sophomore year, I would finally have a normal answer to the question, “What building do you live in?” because I had earned my spot in that room. I still lived close to home, but now with the added advantage of independence and my own room on campus. It was the perfect situation for me, and I don’t regret for a second applying to the job.  

However, looking back on it all, I regret how I let others made me feel about my freshman year living situation. Even though I am glad to be on my own now, I realize that I also had a great situation in my first year. Yes, I was judged for my decision and I was constantly reminded of my financial status, but I let that overshadow all of the great things that I got to do when living at home. For starters, I got to see my family every day. I am extremely close with my siblings and my parents and I didn’t have to sacrifice those relationships like some of my friends did when they moved away. At times when I would be really stressed or I needed advice from the people who know me the best, I had my family right there and it was freaking awesome. Also, I didn’t have to eat Benson food because I got my mom’s cooking every single day. For many people, that’s enough to make someone want to leave campus altogether. There were so many great things about living at home and I wish I hadn’t spent so much time feeling guilty about enjoying those things.  

If I had one piece of advice for current commuters, it would be to find a happy medium between the two poles. On one end, go ahead and dive into Santa Clara and get involved in all sorts of things. It’s harder to meet people when you don’t have a dorm, but it doesn't have to be impossible. I made a lot of friends before becoming a CF through Greek life and other clubs, so I know you can do it, too. But on the other end, enjoy living at home! It’s honestly fudging awesome to sleep in your own bed every night and get to experience your mom’s cooking, so soak it all up. Don’t let other people make you feel bad for your address when commuting can actually be totally awesome.