I spent my first two years at Rutgers dorming in Brett Hall on College Ave. I imagined living on campus for all four years at Rutgers: after two years in Brett, I would finish the second half of college living in a house on one of the College Ave side streets. Instead, as a junior, I live at home and commute to campus every day. While my situation this year is completely different from the first half of my college career, I wouldn’t change it.
Both commuting and dorming have their pros and cons. The biggest difference between the two living arrangements is the cost. I am saving a lot of money by living at home. My parents gave me a choice: live at home and study abroad or live on campus and don’t study abroad. The money that would have gone toward living in an off-campus house is now going toward my trip abroad next semester.
When I lived in Brett and had a class on College Ave, I would wake up 30 minutes before my class started and walk to the building. The best classes would be those in the Slounge (Brett Hall seminar room/study lounge) because I would just need to walk downstairs. Now that I have to commute, I have to wake up earlier because I have to factor traffic into how long the actual commute takes. This is one of the downsides to being a commuter. While dorming, I would wake up at 9:30 for a 9:50 class. Now I wake up at 8:20 just so I can walk into the classroom right at 9:50. For someone who hates mornings and loves sleep, waking up early is a struggle.
Speaking about sleeping, it’s very very difficult to take naps during the day. Not having a home base to go to limits the places where you can chill in between classes. On the flip side, this forces me to to work during the time when I would have been sleeping if I lived on campus.
The car rides to and from school are a good place to think, second to the shower. I’ll often think about what the day is going to be like or reflect on an event that happened the day before. I can also
scream sing as loud as my heart desires, which helps me relax or blow off some steam after encountering a horrible driver. In the dorm, I rarely had the opportunity to belt out a song because I didn’t want to disturb anyone. Even in my room, the walls are thin and my voice would easily penetrate the division.
In Brett, I had the same roommate for two years. She was fantastic and we got along really well. At home, I still have roommates — my parents. My parents are chill; I’m lucky in that regard. They don’t breathe down my neck nor do they constantly ask me what I’m doing or where I’m going. How your parents act really affects the dynamics of living at home. I talked to someone who was considering commuting, but after living at home for the summer, he realized that the idea of living at home was much better than the actual experience of living at home. His parents treated him like he was still in high school and did not give him the freedom he thought he deserved.
One of the hardest adjustments of being a commuter is not being able to see all my friends every day. There would be no need to make plans to get dinner or hang out because you are all in the same area and can just walk over to someone’s room to see if they are free. Now that everyone is spread out around campus, it is more difficult to hang out. Unless I’m lucky enough to be in a class with one of my friends, meeting up requires more effort. Schedules may not match up and plans must be made a couple weeks in advance. The change is so drastic, but you find a way to make it work if you want it to.
At the end of the day, though, nothing beats sleeping on your own cozy mattress after filling up on mom’s home-cooked dinner. Because I was able to live on campus, I made a lot of my friends in my former dorm. If you’re a first year commuter, never fear! You can easily meet people in clubs, class, or at SASHP events, like the coffeehouse or artists collective. There’s also the OCSA, the Off-Campus Students’ Association that holds many events!