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The Ultimate Game Changer: Why Having a Car on Campus Has Brightened My College Experience

When you first enter college as a freshman, you most likely will not be allowed to bring your car on campus (unless there is a pandemic going on and the rules are adjusted). My spring 2021 semester was just this, although last semester I opted out of bringing my car and relied on public transportation, walking, and occasionally picking up rides from students who did have a car on campus. All was good, and saving money on gas is definitely a bonus for me. However, bringing a car this semester has opened my eyes to a whole new perspective. Not only is having access to a car beneficial for the convenience, but it can literally save your mental health on a draining, stressful college campus.

I’m the type of person who drives as an escape. No destination, no plan, no one else in the car. Just me and my windows down, music blasting, and the scenery of whatever the given season is, glistening through the sun. I remember my senior year of high school. I had a huge technical mishap with one of my AP exams and was mortified that I would have to retake it. I instantly got in the car and drove, screaming to my music, while a torrential downpour came from my eyes. 45 minutes of driving, two Starbucks and Chipotle runs, and two phone calls from my parents and teacher later, I felt healed. I felt assured and I was ready to move on. Everyone has their outlet, their gateway to healing their emotion, whether it be anger, grief, or maybe just longing for the past. Being able to feel the air on my skin as I step on the gas and play my favorite artists is mine.

When I did not have my car last semester, I not only lacked the comfort of knowing that I can transport from point A to point B whenever I wished to, but I didn’t have an escape from the zoo that is my college campus. Last semester was an especially tough one to not have a car because of how restrictive campus already was. I was roommate-less, friend-less, and escape-less, quite literally and figuratively, due to the fact that the whole university was on lockdown for several weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even venturing downstairs to the basement of my residence hall to fill my Brita filter and socialize was a crime. It was a very isolating experience.

This semester — although campus life is relatively the same as what it once was — the idea of living the same class and work schedule every week, seeing the same people every day in your dorm, and even hanging out with the same friends every day all becomes consuming to your wellbeing. Yes, it is what you signed up for by attending university, and it is generally enjoyable or even just tolerable. But, it quickly becomes redundant. Having the option of going on a drive was definitely a game-changer for me this semester because of this redundancy.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, how we leave the comfort of our homes for college, thinking that we’re leaving the restriction and control our parents have put on us and entering a whole new world of freedom. In reality, leaving home means you leave the comfort of routine, and the comfort of having endless support (whether it be from parents or friends). For me, it meant leaving my only access to freedom.

I can’t help but compare my first semester of college in the spring of 2021 during a huge COVID-19 spike to the first initial lockdown of the pandemic, in the spring of 2020. In both situations, I felt detached from reality. I felt confined and limited. The main difference, however, was that at home in 2020, I had the ability to go on long drives with my friends or just alone, which occupied my time so I didn’t go stir-crazy. In 2021, I had experienced a huge build-up of work that equated to the same build-up of stress, and I would’ve heavily appreciated that same ability I had in 2020.

Not everyone cares about driving in college. Some people think extremely logically and can’t fathom the fact of using up unnecessary gas or having to pay hundreds of dollars for a parking pass. That is okay. It’s all about individual values. It’s all about how one defines their ‘outlet.’ For me, having access to long drives while the sun is setting and my favorite alternative bands are blasting on the radio is my outlet, and it could be yours too. It could quite literally save your mental health, as college tends to consume you.

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Rachael Dionisio

U Mass Amherst '24

Rachael is a freshman Communication/Marketing major at UMass Amherst. She aspires to work in the media after graduation and loves working out, chai lattes and shopping.
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