Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Choosing to commute (not live in halls) during my first year was a choice I came to relatively late. I knew I was attending university in the town I had already lived in for four years and I knew I wanted to move out of home but for long-time halls seemed the only option.
My degree was offered to me in December and I had to put in my accommodation form by March. There was an underlying panic that I just couldn’t put my finger on during those intervening months until one night in late February it all spilt out. I remember turning around to my parents that night and saying- ‘I never wanted to live in halls, it just felt like what I had to do.’ Most commuters I eventually met had decided to stay at home or were already living in shared houses, both options that seemed equally scary to me. I had already spoken to my boyfriend and some friends about my options after year one and it appeared at some point, I’d end up living with them anyway. Flash forward a few weeks, house viewings and numerous tenancy issues between all of us it came to pass that in April only my boyfriend and I would be available to move at the same time.
I could write pages and pages about how stressful actually moving and coming to the decision of moving in with my boyfriend at short notice was but what stood out to me the most during this period was that I was going to University and would have no friends to share those scary first weeks with.
A year later and I can firmly say that choosing to commute was the best choice I could have made. I’m not going to lie, it definitely added pressures and stresses but for me I also found huge benefits. Firstly, there is a lot more awareness around the struggles that commuting students face now meaning there were group chats set up for first years not on campus. Immediately, this enabled me to connect with people who had the exact same worries as me and I knew wouldn’t already have embedded into a bubble with flatmates before I even could meet them! Yet, despite this, the social worry was still firmly there.
The first few weeks for me were hard. I didn’t have flatmates to go to fresher’s events with, instead opting for one pub trip with one uni mate and some friends from my pre-uni days and a single campus comedy night. I enjoyed them but I felt like I was missing out slightly (I wasn’t.) It was harder to engage with others as we were only doing introductory classes not proper modules at this stage. I remember attending a ‘pizza party’ organised by my course and sitting in the corner with another friend joking about how peoples eyes glazed over when they heard the dreaded answer ‘I don’t’ to the question ‘where do you live on campus?’ We were laughing but a few weeks later we admitted how hard it was and quite honestly how alone we felt.
Yet, once proper classes started, and I began attending society events more this dissipated. After the heady rush of the first weeks of term people began branching out and talking to me more. Soon I realised, just as I was nervous about not having people to talk to, they probably were too- they just had flatmates around them to cling on to. As time went on, I did make more friends, I did find people to speak to- I just (as did they) needed to wait.
Looking back, I’m glad I commuted. Not only was I lucky that I really enjoyed my journey (a 40-minute walk/ 20-minute bus ride) but it was the separation between work and life that I needed. It forced me to branch out and create spaces and communities at university, but it also gave me somewhere to go when it all got a bit much.
Commuting was by far the biggest choice I had to make around Uni, but it was also by far one of the best. It helped me feel safe, settled and happy, it let me know what works for me and I saw it do the same to many of my friends- not a bad choice all in all then?