My Take on Life as a Commuter

Richmond, Virginia
United States


When I first got the news that I would be attending Virginia Commonwealth University, I was overwhelmed with feelings of both excitement and anxiousness. I knew that VCU would be the college of my dreams, but that would mean that it was finally time to sit down and work out the details with my parents. Having immigrant parents is another factor that I would rather not get into, but that has heavily influenced my time so far as a commuter.

After speaking to my parents, I was assured that staying at home would be the right thing to do. I would be able to go to school at a lesser cost, have a nice home-cooked meal each day, and be able to “escape” from the urban environment. At the time, that was all I could really want during my time in college since I was not sure if I would be able to start doing everything on my own all at once.

The first three semesters were a bit tough to get into a set routine. I was trying to focus, taking 15 credits, and working. I believe that being able to commute and have my parents support my dedication to school has all been a part of a growing experience that I’m glad I have the chance to go through. However, although I would still consider myself to be an involved and dedicated student, I do still find myself believing that commuters do live a life filled with minor inconveniences.​

While living about 20 minutes away from campus did not seem so bad at the time, when making the decision to commute, I never thought about the number of incidents that would occur at the worst possible moments. These include: the traffic jams that occur on my way to school on the day of an exam, excruciatingly long library nights that keep me awake and on campus until 3 a.m., and the number of clubs and activities that take up so much of my schedule, in addition to working part-time. Aside from the late nights, my mom and dad never really followed the “you’re an adult at age 18” rule, as I religiously receive texts or calls asking where I am, who I am with, and what time I will be home.

With the bad always comes the good, however, and life as a commuter definitely has its perks. Being able to come home to a home-cooked meal and hang out with my family and dog after a long day of classes is like a sigh of relief. Additionally, I never have to worry about how to get around or simply go through the agony of walking or taking the bus to someplace I’d like to go to because I have a car. Lastly, my planning skills have grown over the years as well because, simply put, just taking the time to see a school friend some time when I’m not already on campus is a well planned out procedure.

Now, as a junior, I can certainly say I’ve learned a lot as a commuter within the past three years. I now have no need to pay the $200 parking pass because I’m aware that there is free all-day parking in Oregon Hill. And although I try my best to dress for the weather, this also means always keeping extra clothes or accessories in my car in case it’s cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon. Through the trials over the years, I have found myself in a position of being stuck between my love-and-hate pull-and-push for commuting. So if commuting is an option that you might be considering, I’ll leave some parting advice:

  1. Plan, plan, plan. As a commuter, planning out my days in advance is a crucial step that I can’t afford to forget because something as small as leaving a gym bag or notebook at home can make a critical difference on my days. I like to stay on top of things by using a physical planner for big events and my online calendar for detailed events like assignments or when I need to pay certain bills.

  2. Parking pass or not? For my first semester at VCU, I bought a parking pass and did not exactly find it very useful. I’ve found that from the major three parking decks on the Monroe Campus (Broad St., Main St., and Cary St.), there is free parking located within two blocks. Although some commuters prefer the convenience, it’s also important to understand that the additional block or two or walking doesn't make a big difference.

  3. Stay involved. Commuters can very easily fall into a state where they feel disconnected from the rest of the school or want to go home the moment that they get out of classes. This shouldn’t be the case! Find clubs and organizations that are worth the extra time on campus and dedicate yourself to staying involved.

  4. Thinking about working? If you’re thinking about working while in school, it’s important to try to find a job on or near campus. Your school schedule should impact your work schedule, not the other way around.

  5. It’s what you make of it! - Lastly, commuting will certainly be filled with pros and cons, but it’s important to want to continuously want to better yourself and learn from the poor decisions you might make as a commuter.

If you're commuting this semester, I hope you're doing well and staying on top of things!