Taryn Allen | Clarion

To get through the horrendous busy work and immature drama in high school, I would often fantasize about what my life would be like in college. My expectations were typical and superficial, I assumed I’d reinvent myself, meet people left and right and live in the dorms. I even had a Pinterest board filled with “room-inspo,” However, that was not my reality.

Choosing DU was not a decision I took lightly. I knew the quarter system would involve a steep learning curve on my part, and the cost of attending a private school would be an investment that—as a first-generation student and the oldest daughter of three—meant I had to be at least 93% certain of what I was doing. No pressure. After much deliberation, sacrificing my dorm-life fantasy in exchange for a university with more opportunities for someone like myself felt like the right way to go.

Of course, my experience as a commuter student does not constitute what everyone’s experience will be like nor is this meant to disregard dorm life—my hope is that this will help other incoming commuters, who may feel secluded from campus life, realize that their situation is not a disadvantage at all.

Let’s start off the simple stuff that one may look over.

Coffee or anything that’ll assist you to stay awake will be your most loyal friend. This is especially the case if you end up with in an 8 a.m. (which will be an even earlier morning for you if you include travel time.)

Depending on how far one may be from campus, keeping yourself entertained or productive during your commute is key, in my opinion, for maintaining your sanity. Besides listening to a killer playlist, which The Clarion has many recommendations to help get that started; a good podcast is also ideal brain fuel that can also create great conversation starters. A simple Google search on “podcast recommendations” can help facilitate the search for something to match your interests. My personal favorites are NPR’s “How I Built This”—which focuses on innovators and their stories on how they’ve created their now famous businesses—and “Switched on Pop”—which analyzes pop music from a musicology perspective.

Allowing yourself time to get to campus is a huge stress relief that you’ll thank yourself for in the long run. I used to want to get to campus immediately before class and leave right after my final class. My schedule with class and my off-campus job was so tight-knit that I did not allow myself the time to study in the library, get some lunch or join a club. I was a recluse that first year and, honestly, it did lead me to doubt my decisions.

My sophomore year was significantly better because of the amount of time I allotted myself to stay on campus. I had the privilege of finding a job at DU which required me to understand the happenings of my university. I also joined The Clarion, which has been my best decision so far, for I reunited with my love for writing and journalism whilst meeting cool opinionated people with similar passions.

Doing that extra research to find something to be a part of and giving myself that time to get involved was a key way for me to remove any limits that I placed on myself to think that I was incapable to enjoying my time on campus.

For any student who is new to this experience, it’s important to understand that being a commuter is only a downside if one sees it as such. Classmates living on campus may not understand the situation—so if one automatically phrases it as a negative then they’re going to look down on the situation. This will consequently make you believe that being a commuter is a burden. But, honestly, there is no right way to have a successful college experience. It’s important to understand that, by commuting, you are saving roughly $12,000 a year, you’re finding your way around the city and you are granting yourself the gift of stepping back and not having to deal with classmates 24/7. Soon by junior and senior year, everyone will be doing some sort of traveling to campus and then you’ll be one step ahead of the game.