How to Survive College: Commuter Edition

I know from personal experience that being a commuter in college can be really hard. The lack of motivation to get up and drive to school, the stress of finding a parking spot, making genuine friends, and eating on campus (especially without a meal plan) are all things that you constantly think about. It’s not easy to make a campus as big as Ohio State feel like home, but thankfully resources like Off Campus and Commuter Student Services (OCCSS) exist to help commuters feel more comfortable.

What is OCCSS? 

The Off Campus and Commuter Student Services office exists to improve the quality of life for off-campus and commuter students. The office is located on the third floor of the Ohio Union, which is without a doubt the best place on campus for commuters. OCCSS provides a commuter kitchen, which is directly next to the Sigma Phi Epsilon Commuter Lounge on the third floor (you’ll have to visit the OCCSS office first to get access to it), and lockers at the Ohio Union and the Younkin Success Center. They can also help students find housing, roommates, and provide services like Rideshare and Carpool that allow students to share transportation to and from campus.

How can OCCSS make commuting easier? 

Eating on campus

Eating on campus as a commuter is difficult especially without a meal plan because it’s harder to manage how much you spend on food during the academic year. Like I said, the Ohio Union is a great spot for commuters because it has options like the Union Market, Sloopy’s and Woody’s. Plus, it’s located along High Street, which means even more tempting food options. If you have classes every day and spend long hours on campus, it’s really easy to eat out frequently and form unhealthy eating habits, which does not feel great. Packing and heating up food from home in the commuter kitchen saves a lot of money, doesn’t take much time to do and is much better for your health. Campus Dining also offers a commuter meal plan, which is good for eating on campus 3-5 times a week using funding that’s added your BuckID account. 

Staying on campus

Although you might not have a room on campus, you can still feel at home. In my first semester, I often went home as soon as my classes ended, and I didn’t spend my time effectively when I went home; because I also wasn’t involved with campus activities, it made me dread being here. If you can, try to avoid scheduling/driving to classes during rush hour traffic hours–trust me: you will waste a lot of time sitting in traffic and it’s really not worth it. Instead of going home at 5 p.m., just find something to do on campus, whether its eating dinner, going to an event or getting work done. My favorite thing about the Ohio Union are the lockers because you can store extra clothes, books you don’t want to carry around, snacks, a blanket, etc., and they are available to reserve at the beginning of every semester; this makes remaining on campus more manageable. The commuter lounge is also a great space to do homework, take a nap, mingle with other commuters or just eat lunch. 

Making Friends 

Unless most of the friends you had in high school conveniently moved to the same college as you, it can be a challenge establishing friendships as a commuter. The biggest struggle for me was being comfortable staying on campus after my classes were over, and finding campus involvement. OCCSS hosts events during the academic year like a Cornhole Tournament, roommate fairs, the Scarlet Warrior Challenge and the Off Campus Living Expo. They also have a commuter mentoring program for first-year commuters which pairs new students with a mentor and includes monthly group events on campus and in the Columbus area. There are also a ton of other organizations on campus in general–pick the one you are most interested in and try it out, you’ll thank yourself later.

Ultimately, what I want you to know is that commuting doesn’t mean you can’t experience college the same way as others. I hope this was helpful and good luck, commuters!

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