Commuter Students Experience College Life Differently

Boston College was once a commuter-only school, but that changed with time. After World War II, the University wanted to have national appeal and reach, much like that of other prestigious colleges and universities in the U.S. Dormitories were built, and through the years the number of commuters dwindled rapidly.

Today, much of the undergraduate student life at BC is centered on the dorms and off-campus houses. Students sleep, study, eat, and socialize in the dorms. For many, roommates and floormates become best friends throughout college. On-campus living is a pillar not only of the BC experience, but also of the entire American college experience. This is not the case for all undergraduate BC students, however. What is commuting to BC like? How do commuter students live their college experience? Rosemary Kann, WCAS ’17 from Haverhill, Mass., gives The Heights her perspective on what means to commute to BC.

Heights: What made you decide to commute instead of living in the dorms?

Kann: I decided to come to the Woods School, and they don’t allow you to live on campus, so commuting was my only option. I commute from home.
Heights: What do you think is the best thing about commuting to BC?

Kann: I commute with my dad, and since we’re always in the car with each other, we have built a very strong relationship. We have grown closer. I think that’s the best part. I get to know my dad better than I would have if I lived away from home.

Heights: What do you think is the worst thing about commuting?

Kann: I don’t get to do as many college activities as I would like to do, because I only come here for classes. That is definitely the downside.
Heights: Do you feel isolated from the main BC community?

Kann: I feel slightly isolated, but I don’t view it as a negative thing. It’s a different lifestyle—it’s not the norm, but it feels normal for me.

Heights: Does this isolation impact your life?

Kann: I don’t consider it to have a huge impact on my life. For me it feels normal.
Heights: How do you bond with other BC students?

Kann: I work in the office of Residential Life and work there with other BC students, so that really helps me get to know other students and what they do, and make more friends than I usually would have if I didn’t work there.

Heights: Do you think you have enough time to participate in extracurricular activities and bond with other students?

Kann: I wouldn’t say that my commuting necessarily limits my time. I work on the weekends at another place, and that takes up most of my time. If I didn’t work there, I would be able to participate in more extracurricular activities.

Heights: Many people would say that in order to have a “true” or “pure” college experience, you have to live in a dorm. Would you say your college experience is not “true” or “pure” because you commute?

Kann: It’s definitely not the normal college experience, but it is a college experience. I am getting a vastly different experience than that of some of my friends, but I wouldn’t say it is a bad thing.

Heights: Do you feel your freedom is restricted in any way because you’re not living in a dorm?

Kann: Not necessarily. Since I’m an adult my parents allow me to do whatever I would do if I were not living at home. They would say, “If you were living away at college, it wouldn’t be any different so, you know … just don’t do really bad things!” [Laughs] And I wouldn’t anyway. But yeah, I don’t feel restricted.

Heights: Would you recommend commuting to other students?

Kann: Yes, if it is for financial reasons. But it is a big decision to make, because you would be living at home still. I would say that it’s definitely worth it, especially because financially it is a really smart decision. But if people have the opportunity to live on campus and go away to school, I would say that might be a better decision. It’s really up to each person individually and what works for each person. Everybody has different needs. Everybody has a different journey.

Heights: Do you give any advice to those who want to commute?

Kann: My advice would be to not give up on it. There are times when it’s a little confusing and slightly difficult, but it’s definitely worth it. I would advise them to be prepared for a different experience and know that just because they wouldn’t be living on campus or in an off-campus apartment, they are not limited. They can do whatever they want to do—where they live doesn’t necessarily have to affect that. Living at home can sometimes be a challenge, but living on campus with a roommate also has similar challenges, just based on people that you live with. Commuting is a lifestyle, and although it can be complicated, it’s a choice that you’ve made. You have to continue going and see what works for you

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

November 2, 2014