When I tell someone I'm a commuter, most of the time they say something like, "Oh... I'm sorry."
I'm a freshman at Loyola University Chicago, and commute a half hour each way from home (with my parents) to school. Commuting from home was financially much more practical than living in a dorm and, coming from a semi-conservative household, it kept my parents happier.
For most people, the fact that I commute means I'm probably missing out on the "college experience". And to some extent they're right: I'm not getting the stereotypical "college experience" that's full of dorm parties, tons of new friends, and campus events all throughout the week. As an incoming freshman, it really bothered me at first that I wasn't living the college dream. But over the past few months I've realized that thanks to commuting, my college experience will extend so much further than just my school. My college years, the years that are meant for self-growth and expansion, will consist of so much more than dorms, dining hall food, and campus activities─all because I commute.
I've really come to enjoy that after a long day at school, I can come home, have hot food ready for me (courtesy of my under-appreciated mother), and be able to unwind without a single trace of school anywhere near me. I also love that I can stay involved within my hometown community because I'm not "away at college". Commuting allows me to maintain a distinction between my educational and personal life.
Speaking of my personal life, making friends definitely wasn't easy at first. Pretty much all of first semester my only friends consisted of a few high school friends and the girl in my calculus class that would commiserate with me over the difficulties of derivatives. However, now that I'm far into second semester, most of my freshman fears about making friends and being involved on campus have faded. I've realized that for commuters these things take a little more time. Just by taking my second round of classes, I've made so many more friends by being my cool, commuter-self and by devoting more time to study groups. Also, now that I'm much more familiar with Loyola, it has become so much easier for me to find the events I want to go to and find people that will enjoy going with me as well!
So you decided to commute. Now how the heck do you get to school? For me, commuting to Loyola is fairly easy. I only live about 30 minutes away from campus and I have a variety of different transit options. Driving seems to be the simplest, but parking is a whole other issue. Parking can become unbelievably expensive if you're not scrappy and creative. Using public transit in Chicago is its own monster.
Here's a mini-lesson on dealing with the CTA:
1. Never forget your UPass (the free train pass you get with your tuition). Guard it with your life.
2. Download the CTA Tracker on your phone. It makes waiting much easier.
3. Keep extra cash with you (for when you forget your UPass and 99¢ hash browns from the Dunkin Donuts under the el stop).
4. Keep your eyes and ears open. You don't want to get on wrong train just because you were busy not getting back together with Taylor Swift.
5. Check the weather and then dress for the weather (it's Chicago, you better be bundling up!).
Now that I've gotten a handle on switching trains and have found my secret parking spot, I feel so much better about commuting than I did at the beginning of the year. As of right now, I'll be commuting from home sophomore year as well. But who knows? An apartment in the Rogers Park area may be in my near future...(Mom and Dad, I hope you're reading this).
So for those of you that are iffy about commuting: don't be. Commuting is a great option!
Naveen is a pre-med freshman at Loyola University Chicago studying anthropology and marketing. Find out more of her perspectives by visiting her blog, The Red Line Life at LUC.
Do you have more questions about commuting? Do you think it is a good/bad option? Are you also a huge fan of the combination Dunkin Donuts/El stops? Let us know! Comment below, let us know on our Facebook page or tweet at us @Chicago_U.