Student Life

Surviving college as a commuter student

Having grown up in the Montreal suburbs, I’ve always felt like living at home while going to McGill would guarantee that I’d be left out of the “college experience.” Thankfully (sort of), my first year was during the height of COVID-19, meaning there wasn’t much to miss out on. But as the years went by, and as I now approach graduation, I’ve had the time to reflect on my choice to stay at home. Here are some tips on how I made life work as a student commuter. 

The “college experience” isn’t real 

The most important part of coming to terms with living at home during my university years was unlearning the belief that a college experience looks the same for everyone. I grew up thinking that to enjoy my degree, I would have to live minutes away from campus and that this was the only way to go to activities after class, sports games with my friends, and parties on weekends. While it’s true that living within walking distance of all the McGillians I know would have made this easier, I was still able to have a lively social life while living from home. While it might take a little more effort to go out, living off campus doesn’t have to dictate your social life. 

Commuting is still free time

Initially, I wanted to move out, largely because of my daily one-hour commute. It was hard at first, and there have been nights when I’ve gotten home frustrated after being stuck on public transportation for hours. But just because you’re in a moving vehicle for a while doesn’t mean that you’re wasting time. Think of it as time you put aside to do something that isn’t school; personally, this is why I picked up knitting. The more time I spent commuting, the more I looked forward to it: It was time I would spend reading, discovering new music, or practicing a new language, creating a much-needed buffer between my academic life and home life. My time on public transit is something I now cherish. 

It makes financial sense

For a lot of student commuters, staying at home is often a way to save money. It was for me. Moving out isn’t just about paying rent—there’s also the cost of utilities, getting groceries, doing laundry, and other miscellaneous bills that quickly pile up at the end of the month. Having a part-time job while being a full-time student isn’t an option for everyone, and neither is financial support from your parents. Living at home can be a good way to keep some money in your bank account while in college. However, while this made sense for me, it might not be the case for everyone: Being able to live on your own might be worth all the money in the world. It’s about what matters the most to you, and saving money mattered for me.

Your roommates are people you’ve known all your life

There’s certainly an element of comfort in coming home from a rough day at school to a supportive and caring family. Finding the right roommates isn’t always easy, and as a people-pleaser, the thought of sharing a home with someone I don’t get along with makes me nervous. Being able to come home to people who know me and who I can feel comfortable being myself around was extremely important in helping me cope with the stress of my academic life. I have to admit that I’m very privileged in my living situation and that not everyone is as close to their families as I am. But if you like where you are now, why should anything change?

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