I'm a Commuter Now: Reminiscing About Being On-Campus

Before I began college, I always dreamt of having an on-campus lifestyle. No one in my family had ever gone to college before and stayed on campus. The only person who even went to college was my mother, and she did it online. I’m proud of her for that, but I always knew I wanted something more.

Being a first-generation American Latina, it’s been a dream of mine to set new bars in my family. I wanted to have the whole college experience. That included meeting new people, living away from home and staying in a dorm my first year. It was hard convincing my mom to let me go straight to university rather than community college, but it happened. What I’ve always seen in movies was about to become my life. 

I began my freshman year living in Brandt, a freshmen dorm on West Franklin St. It was the best year of my life because there was always something to do. The very first morning I woke up in my dorm in Richmond was iconic for me. I woke up as late as I wanted and my parents weren’t there to tell me to get up and make my bed. I could go out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights without worrying my parents would say I already went out one night. Most of the time they wouldn’t even let me go out at all back home. That’s what happens when your mom is Salvadorian and your dad is a police officer, you live like a bird trapped in a cage.

Living alone was so new for me, it was awesome. I got to grow individually as a person and I learned some lessons along the way. Living in a dorm was great because you get to meet people and it was a five minute walk from campus. However, it did also have some downsides. One thing was that you had to be sneaky in the dorms to do "hoodrat" things with your friends. Luckily, my floor had the most chill residential assistant there was, so we never got caught up in any messes.

Another con was only being able to have two guests at a time. This meant no parties and having to inconvenience your roommate by getting them sign your friends in for you. The last bad thing about living in a dorm was not being able to have pets. It’s actually not a bad rule, considering the flea population in Richmond. However, I felt like they should have made an exception for my suite mate, who decided to smuggle in a baby kitten via duffle bag. It was awesome waking up in the dorm and having a little kitty snuggle up in my bed.

Even though there were some downsides to dorm living, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. It gave me a lot of experiences I wouldn’t have encountered if I had lived off campus or commuted.

My sophomore and junior years of college, I lived off campus. It was awesome to have absolute freedom and being able to throw a party. My place was a fifteen minute walk from campus, but it was a great way to lose some weight without realizing it. The only downside was the fact that we had to deal with mice, flea infestations (even though we didn’t have pets), black mold and horrible maintenance people. Having a house means a lot here on campus and despite the city problems, it was a great experience. There I truly learned what living on my own was like, it was definitely pricey, but I’m glad I went through it.

My senior year has turned out a little differently. Many things have changed for me, and I have decided that commuting from an hour away was best for my case to save money. Being a commuter is completely different from living on or near campus. Every time I get out of class, I get this pit in my stomach when I realize I can’t just walk home anymore. Instead, I walk to a parking garage and brace myself for the hour-long drive ahead of me. I can no longer invite my friends over to hang out after class. I can’t even wake up in Richmond and go to coffee at Lamplighter in the morning. It is a complete change from being in the city all the time to going back to the suburbs.

Living in the suburbs isn’t what I wanted, but I’ve realized that I got to do everything I wanted to do already. I’ve spent enough money in the city, and now it’s better that I’m able to save it. Being able to cook in a nice kitchen with all the ingredients available is also a plus. Living at home can be tough, especially with my parents, but it’s nice to be able to see them often. I remember I would go months without seeing them. Now, I get to eat my mom’s gourmet, healthy dinners every night.

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