Students Talk About #RUCommuterProblems
By Julia Motis and Tejal Sarbaugh
Commuting students at Rutgers-New Brunswick say they regularly face many issues that students living on campus do not.
While they might save approximately $11,000 a year by living at home, they definitely pay for it in other ways, such as parking aggravations, overloaded backpacks, rush hour traffic, and more, they say.
According to statistics from 2015, almost half of Rutgers’ undergraduate population commutes. There are about 22,000 commuters out of 48,000 undergraduates in New Brunswick.
The Raritan River Review got to talk to some of these students about their struggles. Here are their stories:
#RUCommuterProblems 1: Caela Lenhardt, a junior in Biological Sciences, lives at home and commutes to avoid on-campus living costs. Every day she drives to her classes, but Rutgers does not make parking an easy feat. She is only able to get a pass for one lot on the other side of Cook campus. Her choice is either to park there and take the buses everywhere, which adds up to an hour to her travel time, or to drive between campuses. To find ways around the parking difficulties, she parks in very obscure locations like this one. “I never know where I can park when I go to a different campus,” she said. “I'm always worried about being ticketed, no matter where I park.” She has gotten three tickets so far this year and cannot afford to pay another one. Caela is proof that parking is very inconvenient for commuters who rely on their car to get to classes.
#RUCommuterProblems 2: It’s that time of year when commuter Ray Zhang, senior in Accounting, has to schedule classes. His biggest problem is trying to keep all of them in the middle of the day. “I try to avoid morning classes because of rush hour traffic. I don’t like evening classes because events happen in the evening, and I don’t like getting home late,” he said. He also has to consider what campuses his classes are on and block out at least an hour for travel and parking. If he has to travel to different campuses, he has to set aside even more time for buses. This is a lot of extra time considering he only lives 10 minutes away, which is not the case for many commuters.
#RUCommuterProblems 3: This is just Colleen’s bag on a light day. Colleen, a freshman at Rutgers, commutes to school in the morning and stays until evening. Since she sticks to a budget, she packs her lunch instead of buying a meal plan. She likes the homemade food, but trying to pack a meal as well as books makes her bag heavier. If her lunch box does not fit, she carries it all day. “People stare at you a lot,” she said. “But you can recognize other commuters, because you see them doing the same thing.” She sometimes feels left out socially, since a lot of her friends eat at the dining hall, but she found community with the Off-Campus Student Association (OCSA), a volunteer Rutgers service whose aim is to help commuters and off-campus students stay updated in university affairs. Despite these issues, Colleen is enjoying her experience at Rutgers so far and looks forward to the next four years.
#RUCommuterProblems 4: Natalie Spangenberg, a commuting junior in Journalism and Media Studies, has a class at 9:50 a.m., but she’s here at 9 a.m., greeted by an empty classroom. She must leave her house at 8 a.m. to beat rush hour traffic and to schedule plenty of time to find parking. “I don’t like to be late, because it backs everything up,” she said. Natalie keeps a constant eye on construction and accident reports, since it makes commute time even longer. The worst part for her is getting up extra early to make a morning class and getting home late in order to work part-time after school. Needless to say, Natalie is avoiding morning classes next semester.
#RUCommuterProblems 5: As a commuter, Josh Sutter, a junior at Rutgers, has only two choices when it comes to gaps in between classes: find a place to study or drive all the way home. As a commuter, he does not always believe it is worth going home to fill in an hour or two in between classes. He does not mind studying on campus, but he wishes he could do it more often. Much of his time in between classes is spent travelling to different campuses. Additionally, his commute home takes away time he could be studying. “I would get a lot more work done if I had the library nearby. Commuting takes away a lot of this focus,” he said. The comfort of home can be both a blessing and curse in Josh’s case. While he is able to save extra money by living at home, he does feel a lack of academic focus when he travels between home and school.
Do you relate to any of these? Are there other struggles you face as a commuter? Let us know by posting to our Facebook or Tumblr, or post a photo response on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #RUCommuterProblems.