Another lengthy blog post I have been meaning to write is about my life as a commuter. As my previous post said, I am a non-traditional student. My husband and I bought our house three years ago with the intention of it being between both of our jobs. At the time, I was a teacher and he was a police officer. Well, now I drive to OSU and he drives to Wright State. We literally saved every dime we had to prepare for this time because we knew we would be living on a prayer. We were both full time students this past year with him working a part time job. Believe it or not, we never worried about money and everything turned out fine.
As a disclaimer, I really do not recommend commuting more than 30 minutes unless your circumstances warrant it. I genuinely do not believe this year of commuting impacted my ability to do well in school, but it definitely is not fun. I truthfully would have moved if I did not own my house. Owning makes the situation trickier because we have to downsize into an apartment, pay a lot higher rent than we do for our mortgage, and take the time to go through the process of selling our home.
My commute is about an hour and 15 minutes in good traffic. It takes me a little under 10 minutes to walk from my car to my building. In total, I commute just shy of 3 hours a day. Obviously I do not have 3 hours of time to “waste” every day, so I have to make that time meaningful. I use this time to listen to lectures or do audio flash cards. Thankfully an optometry student in the class above me makes Quizlet flash cards for nearly every class we take. I used to make my own, but it took way too much time. Quizlet has a feature that will read the card to you, which can sometimes be tough to listen to at 6am. I have found the flashcards are most beneficial for subjects that I have already attentively studied on my own first.
I missed one day of school in the spring and only two lectures in the fall, so I almost never need to re-play our lectures. Every now and then when I am sick of doing flashcards, I will play the audio to lectures in the car. I do not prefer doing this because pronouns become quite confusing. A professor will be explaining a concept using a picture and use “it” over and over, so you are lost with just audio. Also, the program the school uses to record lectures does not play on my phone. I have to download the lecture the night before, save it, and play it from my laptop in the car. It is kind of a hassle.
Commuting nearly 3 hours definitely comes with some sacrifices. While we study a tremendous amount in optometry school, if you are focused while studying, a typical weeknight only allows for 2-4 hours of studying if there is not an exam the next day. Most people spend a few hours a night watching shows, hanging out with friends, exercising, etc. I unfortunately have to sacrifice much of that in order to commute. I still have friends and still do fun things, but I probably get to do less. The thing I miss the most with commuting is exercising. I try to get my exercise by walking during the 10 minutes between classes and taking the stairs.
I still get to be involved in the clubs and attend meetings, but I have to plan accordingly. On days that I have a meeting, I go straight from class to the library or go to my friend’s apartment to study before the meeting. If the meeting does not include food, I have to pack both lunch and dinner.
If the weather is bad or I plan to study really late, I have stayed at my friend’s apartment. During the winter, I kept an emergency bag in my car in case I needed to stay the night unexpectedly. Thankfully, we did not have much of a winter this year. Much of my drive is country roads, so winter can be an issue.
The two largest challenges with commuting is planning and construction. It is exhausting sometimes to always plan when to come and go from school. Due to traffic and parking, I aim to be at school by 7am to get a parking spot. It is stressful because any sort of traffic jam can compromise your ability to be at your 8am class. If I have an 8am exam, I have to get to school even earlier. If I need/want to stay late at school, I have to pack breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I also have to make sure everything I could need throughout the day is with me. When to leave school is an ongoing challenge because traffic gets heavy from 4pm to 6:30pm. I am always debating in my head if I want to literally run to my car and risk getting caught in traffic or just stay at school the rest of the evening.
Construction is my other challenge. The major highway I take has been under construction since I have been at OSU, which increases the traffic problems. Since I drive country roads, I also get stuck behind things like grain trucks and tractors, which is frustrating. This upcoming school year, I am very nervous about construction because OSU is doing a huge construction project on Cannon Drive that may result in some major parking challenges. To accommodate, I have scoped out all my parking options, and I found an alternative route to school to avoid Cannon Drive. I bought a C parking pass last year and again this year.
The best way to deal with traffic problems is to watch the traffic online. I use http://ohgo.com/ to see what the traffic looks like before leaving school. I also check on construction projects using the Ohio Department of Transportation’s website https://www.dot.state.oh.us/projects/Pages/default.aspx.
While commuting is stressful and challenging, it has a lot of perks. For instance, I am sitting in my sun-room as we speak watching the hummingbirds at my feeder. I have oodles of flowers in bloom right now, and I hear nothing but nature. My house is very peaceful and quiet, which is great for studying and sleeping. I also enjoy getting away from the stress of school. I am a nature lover, and I love that I get to drive out of the city and into the beautiful countryside every day. I also have the benefit of a whole home with a beautiful yard for much cheaper than even a small apartment in Columbus. The other major benefit to commuting is time management. I know that my time is restricted more, so I am focused when I need to be, and I try not to waste time. Another benefit is the stability of my house. I don’t have to worry about finding roommates, leases, changes in rent, where to do laundry, etc. I also enjoy that my family is only 30 minutes away. Most students go stay with their parents over breaks, which is not usually conducive to studying.
Being a commuter is probably easier with a support system. My husband helps me a lot. He cooks, cleans, and does all the things that I often do not have time for. We usually take turns depending who has the most going on. Other commuter students live with their parents, which provides a similar support system.
One last thing, when I knew I was going to be commuting to school, I posted in our class’s Facebook page about commuting to see if anyone else was in my position. I was fortunately put in touch with a student in the class above me who commutes the same distance and has a similar background as me. She requested me as her little sib, so I have fortunately been able to get a lot of advice from her. A similar thing happened to me, so my upcoming little sib is a student commuting an hour, as well.
I hope to have answered most questions regarding commuting- for better or for worse! Thanks for reading!