When I was deciding about going to university, the debt was a big factor. If not the only factor. Did I really want to be thousands of pounds in debt for a degree- something my family had so far proceeded without?
Thankfully my love of learning new things won over my fear of finances. And three years later I’m glad I went. I’m also glad I commuted… People say university is about gaining independence as much as the degree, and despite living at home I still feel as if I have grown as a person. It was hard at times and may not be suited to everyone, so I’ve compiled what I believe are some of the pros and cons of being a commuting student.
Pro- As I mentioned – the debt. I took out loans purely to cover my tuition fees, which means that now I’ve left,I carry a debt of just under £11,000, whereas many of my friends face up to three times as much. Researching and applying for grants and bursaries also meant that most of my living expenses, such as books, bus passes and board money for my parents were covered.
Con- This was a big one for me – I sometimes (but not often) felt I was missing out. Especially during Freshers’ week. Although I went to a few events, my memories of it aren’t as colourful as those of my peers’ who opted to live in.
I made a lot of friends through my course but I was never as close to them as my friends were to their house-mates. It might sound stupid but I’d also get jealous at how grown-up they all seemed. They discussed rent, recipes and had no one to answer to. While I could join in about work and the odd recipe I knew, it would be a dividing line when my parents texted to see if I would be having dinner at home. It also meant that spontaneity wasn’t easy; you have to think about planning ahead, such as bus or train times.
Pro- It was surprising easy to still be involved in university life. During my time at uni I acted as a Course Rep (attending meetings and conferences) for two years, did a stint as a Student Ambassador whilst considering a career in teaching and volunteered at my Students’ Union. I acted as a mentor to local school children, took an extra language course and still went on department outings. Admittedly, sometimes a two-hour bus ride for a half an hour faculty meeting was annoying, but it allowed me to meet more people and really get involved in the community.
Con- Commuting was extremely tiring at first, especially on those 6am-start days when I didn’t finish class until 5pm and didn’t get home before 8pm – it was depressing. However, give it a couple of weeks and you soon adapt to it. Plus, the two-hour bus ride allowed me some time away from distractions to get all the course reading done; meaning I often had more free time than class-mates who lived in student housing but dragged the work out.
Looking back – there are many more positive factors about commuting than just these, and many universities have commuting societies which can make it easier to get to know and become friends with people in your position.
Commuting worked well for me, and organising my own routines and travel still gave me a feeling of independence. So if I was you, I’d definitely give commuting some consideration.