So, you're a commuter student, are you?

Have you ever thought about the struggles the commuter students have to overcome on daily basis?

Rebecca Williams
9th December 2021
Image credit: geograph.org.uk @David Dixon

“You commute? No way, me too!” says the student next to you in the lecture theatre, right after they’ve just explained how they sometimes catch the Metro into university from Jesmond. Yet, in reality, they don’t commute in the same way that you do.

Hidden amongst the masses of students who have travelled far and wide across the UK and the globe to attend university are the students who chose to go to the university ‘right on their doorstep’ – or rather, more than a few Metro stops away.

These are the students who wake up at 06:00 am, and probably again and again every five minutes until their next alarm goes off at 06:30am, to embark on the long journey (and by long, we sometimes mean more than one hour) into university after making our way through our sleepy morning routine.

It’s no secret that living at home is often a choice made based on financial, or personal reasons. Yet despite the money saved and those promises of washed clothes and free food, the struggle is real. In fact, the commuter lifestyle can be as precarious as that of the #StrappedForCashButLivingTheUniExperience student. Of course, the living out experience comes with various challenges, but it is often perceived that commuter students have it easier than those who have moved out simply because they live ‘rent free’ (which, I might add, not all of us do!), or because some of us may have less responsibility when it comes to maintaining a household.

It is often perceived that commuter students have it easier

One such challenge is the stigma that is attached to being a commuter student. One student who regularly travels into the university, often on a journey that takes roughly one hour, expressed concern that commuter students are “underrepresented” at university, particularly in societies. Often, the commuter lifestyle is not considered when societies meet, and commuters face criticism for not staying out late when they need to catch the last Metro home, or if they are unable to attend certain events due to the challenges of public transport. There are plenty of times that commuter students have been called out as “flakes” for being unable to attend socials due to the dependence we have on public transport. Of course, public transport is not always an obstacle to commuter students, and we are aware that taxis are available to use if we miss the last Metro home. However, it is not always possible for commuter students to just get a late taxi back, or drop everything and travel in at a moment’s notice because living further out of town means taxi prices go up quite quickly. The commuter lifestyle actually involves much more planning than this.

Image credit: negativespace.co

Of course, the commuter lifestyle is not completely without flexibility and there are plenty of perks to being a commuter student. We’ve already mentioned those extra pennies that can be saved up, meaning we can afford to spend a little bit of extra cash on club or society socials when we are able to make it. Also, living with our families means we are easily able to stay in touch with our parents and other relatives, so we don’t miss out on family gathering as much as some students may do. Given that we are also from the area, we happen to know a lot of the cool places to hang out and recommend to our classmates. Commuter students contribute to the diversity of the university. Is it time that commuter students had better representation at universities?

Here’s a few things that commuter students can relate to:

  1. “Can you get bread and milk on your way home from uni?”
  2. “Delays due to low rail adhesion” – don’t get me started with this one…
  3. That awkward moment when you catch eyes with your fellow Metro passengers…
  4. Feeling like the luckiest person on earth when you get a seat at rush hour…
  5. Lunch? Check. Laptop? Check. Books? Check. Keys? Check. Chargers? Check… the list goes on.
  6. Oh, and finally, let people off before you get on, thanks.
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