Photo Credit: Student Voices
Being a commuter highkey sucks
Reem Baghdady, Associate Opinion Editor
Growing up, I loved watching movies like Sydney White and Accepted. I was a naïve Egyptian girl living in the very small and newly developed city of Doha, Qatar. Where I lived, life was monotonous and understimulating; you couldn’t get anywhere without a car and the only places people would spend their time were in overpriced malls, mainly to get away from the scorching heat. To me, the experience of being at a North American university was something magical — people my age would live in little communities together, have the freedom to do whatever they please, make lifelong friends, and fall in love. In my eyes, university was a rite of passage between childhood and adulthood — “the best four years of your life.”
What I soon learned was that this ideal university experience is entirely dependent on living in residence. It just isn’t the reality for commuters. I know this because I became a commuter this year after living in residence last year. And the difference is palpable.
So, as a commuter, I write this article….in my head. A lot. I write it when I catch a glimpse of the blue lights of my bus arriving early at the stop and I immediately sprint to catch it, only to be stampeded by the teenagers getting off. I write it when I finally get on the bus, only to be launched forwards by the jerky movements of the vehicle. My coffee spills everywhere and I write this article once more as I ashamedly take my seat, struggling to simultaneously take off my jacket and bag.
I take out the readings I had printed out so I can get work done on the commute because, as a U of T student, there’s simply no time to be wasted. Perhaps for those who have been commuters all their lives, this is simply another Tuesday.
For me, I look back fondly on the days when I was able to roll out of bed and attend my classes. The times when I never had to walk more than twenty minutes to get anywhere I wanted. I never skipped a class, even on evenings when the snow fell profusely, and I had to pull my boots out of the white blanket it created on the ground in order to take a step. Still, it was easy. Now, I calculate how long it will take me to get anywhere; I consider the possibility that my bus will arrive early and I’ll have to wait for the one arriving twenty minutes afterward. I consider the possibility that the subway train will be delayed or slow for no apparent reason. All this mental math is, of course, all part of a well-rounded university education.
In the winter, I imagine the added hassle of taking off a bulky coat, gloves, and scarf once I get in transit, only to put it on again once I arrive at my destination. I imagine lugging my backpack and gym bag along while stuffing my wet, printed readings into my bag. That will really tie the experience together for me.
Other than these inconveniences and time-wasters, the commute even affects my academic decisions. I no longer solely consider prerequisites, degree requirements, and personal interests when picking my classes. Now, I avoid night classes and try to schedule my classes on the same day, to mitigate the stress of the commute and to be as efficient as possible. These are all bothersome aspects of being a commuter student, but the worst part is the loneliness.
I exert a lot of effort into ensuring I attend social events on campus (the ones on the days I commute for class, of course) and being involved in clubs and my college extracurriculars. None of it, however, compares to living in residence. Meeting a new person once at every event, collecting their Instagram handles like I’m adding it to a Pokémon collection, and then never seeing them again does little to mitigate loneliness.
In residence, socializing is made incredibly easy by talking to people during mealtimes when they’re not working or during early morning breakfasts when it’s too close to class time to start any schoolwork and people are too fatigued to do so anyway. My fondest memories in residence are usually spontaneous. Such memories include sitting down for meal times and waiting excitedly for your friends to come in, getting a collective dose of motivation and camping in Kelly library for six hours surrounded by books and coffee, or deliriously lounging in common areas after a day of hard work. The spontaneity and the very feeling that you could go anywhere and do anything on a campus that is safe and belongs to you and your friends is unmatched. Instead of going days on end without talking to my friends as I do now, being in residence meant impromptu hangouts. These impromptu hangouts included knocking on each other’s doors and attending the late-night school events that I no longer have access to as a commuter.
For some of us, our university years are not the best years of our lives. For some of us, our university years are the loneliest year of our lives.