Doing the “commuter thing”

20 Jan

I spent two years of college doing the residential thing. Looking back now, I think I actually preferred it. I didn’t have to drive to class in the snow. I didn’t have to scrape off my car in 10* weather. I didn’t have to leave an hour early to fight traffic and find a parking spot, and I was able to have “nap time” between classes. Man, I miss those naps. Why did I move back home, again?  Oh yeah, I guess I had my reasons.

So now, instead of doing the residential thing, I am doing the commuter thing. Commuting can be nice sometimes, but especially in the winter, it’s just a pain. As I sat in the campus center yesterday, sipping on ice tea from Starbucks, reading up on the latest issue of Redbook (I may or may not borrow magazines from the bookstore when I don’t feel like reading other things…like homework), and sulking because I arrived 30 minutes late to class because of parking problems, I realized that maybe I should focus on something more positive.

I am sure many of you are considering commuting, or already do commute to school (or work). If I am discouraging you from commuting, don’t stop reading yet. As a commuter on campus, there can be a lot of down time between classes. Although I get frustrated with it sometimes, other times it’s not bad at all, and I have a few tips to make the experience worthwhile:

1. Don’t let yourself go hungry

It’s an obvious thing, a girl’s gotta eat. Sometimes it’s hard to have regularly planned meal times if you have back to back (to back) classes all day long. It can be an exhausting process, and even worse if your stomach is doing the talking in class, instead of you. Instead of rushing to the vending machine or food court between classes, bring snacks, and bring ones that make sense. You might feel awkward with spoon in hand, eating a cup of  yogurt,  while working out math problems on the chalkboard, and your professor might not appreciate you chowing down on a veggie sandwich filled with peppers and onions (your classmates won’t either, believe me). My go-to snack is a Z Bar (from the maker of Clif bars).

They come in yummy flavors, are easy on the sugar and calories- so no annoying sugar crash later, and have easy clean-up. But, if you’re like me and have a three hour break between classes, do eat lunch. After awhile too many snacks will leave you feeling unbalanced, no matter what they are. I pack my lunchbox in the morning and carry it with me throughout the day, so I always have a couple of snacks and a lunch on hand. When you’re walking around campus and studying all day, you will need your energy. Food is good.

2. Find your sanctuary

For you literal types, I don’t mean go find a church to rest in. Although, now that  I think about it, that could be pretty peaceful too. What I do mean, is get to know your campus. Campus can get pretty crowded throughout the day, and if you have any type of break, you might feel like being by yourself for awhile. I had a class in the Art School building two years ago, and stumbled upon its library when I needed to use a computer. I found that it was super quiet, and very peaceful compared to my school’s main library. Whenever I needed a place to study or be alone with my thoughts, that was my go-to spot. Now I’m more prone to land in Barnes & Noble in the campus center, but that just may be an excuse to buy Starbucks (as I did during my sulk yesterday, what a coincidence). My point is, if you have a favorite place to go, you won’t feel like you’re aimlessly walking around during your breaks. It kind of gives you somewhere to be, and we are creatures of habit anyway, right?

3. Bring something to do

So, you’re on a break at school and have plenty of stuff to do, right? Wrong. After an hour or two of doing homework, you’re going to want a chance to relax. If you’re not close enough to a computer lab to update your blog or catch up on Facebook, you’re even more out of luck. This is when “bringing something to do” comes in handy. It’s kind of like when you were little and your parents told you to pack a bag of things to do in the car. It made the time go by faster. Well, this will too.

What do I put in my bag? My nook and iPod. I can’t go wrong with a book and some music at my fingertips.

4. When the going gets tough (aka when the commuting gets to be enough)..check out your online class options

I’m half kidding/half serious about this one. As much fun as the drive and day at school can be, sometimes I just feel like staying home. A perfect compromise to this is taking an online class. Only after exploring my university’s course catalog, did I realize how many online classes are offered. I’m now enrolled in two, which means I only have to drive to campus two days a week for my other classes. Even better, during my breaks at school, I can do homework for my online classes from any computer, making the most of my time on campus. This option allows me to save gas money, and I can take 6 credit hours a week in my pajamas. Can’t argue with that.

5. Pack lightly and forget the “cute”

One perk of living on (or near) campus is that you don’t have to carry ALL of your books around all day. You may remember this photo from my “I’m ready to be done with school” rant.

Unfortunately, as a commuter, I do have to carry all of that to school (and sometimes more) in order to be prepared for class. After three years of wearing a bookbag that went over one shoulder (I believed this to be the “cute” look), I finally had to give in and buy a backpack with some support. I have a bad shoulder from a previous injury, and the bookbag ended up making my injury worse. Now I try to only carry the books that I absolutely need, and if necessary, leave some books in my car and make trips back and forth between classes. Walking around with 40 or so extra pounds everyday might seem like a good workout, but it can also result in neck, shoulder, and back injuries. That’s a good workout gone bad.

With these five tips you will be a happier commuter in no time. Or, if you really do follow my advice, you will drop an on-campus class and add an online class so you can sit in your pajamas until 2 pm. To each her own 🙂

Do you have any commuting tips? Where is your go-to sanctuary in the midst of a busy day?


2 Responses to “Doing the “commuter thing””

  1. Sruthi January 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I take the metro to work everyday and have about an hours commute. I either listen to music or read some book.

  2. perfectionisnthappy January 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    I think reading a book makes the time go by so much faster…I wish my city had a public transportation system, then I could do homework on the way to school instead of driving…Indiana should invest in a subway system…I’ll tell them to get on that…

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