Updated on November 1, 2019
From Pickle Sandwiches to Open Mics: Confessions of a Commuter Student
When I first started at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), I was not particularly interested in the traditional college experience. I’ve never liked being in crowds. I wanted a small and personal environment, and I didn’t want to live on campus. I was more interested in the school part of college than in dorm life.
Lots of people told me this was nuts, and I should take advantage of this time to live with my peers and truly experience everything that the traditional college life has to offer. I was worried I had made the wrong decision when I chose not to live in the dorms. It took me a while to adjust to being a commuter student and really figure out the tips and tricks to making the most out of college life while living elsewhere.
Now, in my last semester, I feel as though I’ve finally got a good system down. I’ve learned to always leave time for the unexpected delights of the morning commute. I’ve learned that the commuter lounge is a much nicer place than my car to take a break and eat my cheese and pickles sandwich (I alternate sweet and sour depending on my mood). I’ve learned that just because dorm life isn’t for me doesn’t mean I’ve wasted my college years. I found the right environment that allowed me to flourish as a student, and for me, that’s what the undergraduate experience is all about.
Most of my friends, at NDNU and other colleges, made the choice to live on campus, and I don’t know anyone who regrets that decision. Living on campus is a great way to have built-in friends in your roommates, and be more involved in college life. Being a commuter, I struggled with that aspect of college. It took me several semesters at NDNU before I participated in anything besides scrambling to find parking, attending classes, and going home.
That all changed when my advisor suggested I sign up to work on The Bohemian, Notre Dame’s art and literature magazine. I was nervous because this was the first time I would be participating in campus life in any capacity, but I fell in love with The Bohemian immediately. Before I knew it I was tabling to get people to contribute work to the magazine, and attending the open mic night and the publication party. From there, I went on to be a tutor in the Writing Center and that allowed me to expand my social circle even further. These little ways of getting involved with the community have made my time as a commuter student much easier and much less isolated.
As a commuter student, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my college education feeling like I was missing out on something. As the semesters went by, however, I fell into a very comfortable routine. I learned how to be a commuter student and still enjoy all the fun that campus life has to offer. There have definitely been challenges to being a commuter student, and it might not be the right choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for me.
Olivia E. Smith is a senior at Notre Dame de Namur University majoring in English. She edited the university’s literary/arts magazine The Bohemian. Her blog Roses and Rambles deals with culture and women’s issues.
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