Whether they like it or not, commuters tend to be the black sheep of any 4-year college campus community. Since they don’t live on campus, they don’t get to experience the highs of grabbing a late night snack at the school’s snack shop and lows of having your RA “randomly” knock on your door after smelling the leftover weed you stashed after a party. While these two experiences may not seem as glamorous as what a first-year student might view on a current student’s social media page, it’s a part of the lifestyle that comes with living on campus. While some have the luxury of being a part of that, others don’t.
I’m a second semester senior and this is my second semester commuting from home. I can’t lie, it’s been tough. Aside from the pandemic that has without a doubt negatively impacted college students, I find myself looking for ways to still feel as integrated to the college community as I was my first three years. I was a member of a myriad of clubs and organizations that would hold weekly meetings as significant spots on campus but as the pandemic set in and I left campus, things changed. There was no sense of security due to the scarcity of club meetings, some going virtual and others not happening at all.
Then, I realized that this wasn’t an unoriginal thought, there are many students who share the same sentiments as I. Even more so now that virtual/hybrid learning has become the new norm. Our homes and dorm rooms have become our new offices and classrooms. How should someone who doesn’t feel connected to what’s happening at their school feel like they’re an integral part of the culture? First, you should not feel shame if you’re a commuter.
Commuters shouldn’t have to feel shame in not having the convenience to retreat to their dorm rooms post-class. Commuters shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable rejecting that flyer given to you on campus about a club that meets in the evenings. Commuters shouldn’t have to feel shut out if they’re only invited to “commuter-centric” events. We spend a ton of money on gas to even get to class, we should be rewarded.
As college campuses shift during this new normal, there inlies a new way to find yourself being a part of a new wave of shaping culture at school and a new way to feel seen. If there’s a club you want to join, let the club know that you’re interested and want to be a part of it in any way possible, whether that’s only attending meetings occasionally, asking for the meeting minutes, or volunteering for an event that fits in your schedule. Club executive boards tend to remember those who put effort into being a member. Not all residential students are too keen on attending weekly (I know, through personal experience). Another way to feel seen is to connect with people in your classes. Take that opportunity to introduce yourself to people and ask if they want to hang out. This doesn’t have to be in a “study-buddy” way but as a genuine way to make friends. They might even invite you to parties and events on campus that you might not have been aware of as a commuter. If making friends in-class is your only known avenue to get connected with the campus, take advantage of that.
Lastly, don’t feel forced to over-extend yourself. As cheesy as this is, you are a student first, so have that be the main priority. Figure out your schedule and then mentally, create a plan to reach out to people in class or through social media to find a few new friends. It doesn’t hurt to try. You never know who might be wanting to make friends outside of their own dorm suite.