HU commuter students express their day-to-day struggle on their journey to campus. From traffic to roadkill, these students hit the open road to attend classes–even if five minutes late.
By Ashlye Silva, Contributor
“Uh-oh,” interrupted Brock Snyder, during an interview with Hannah Weaver.
Both are sitting in the commuter lounge in Loew-Brenn.
“Commuters are actually getting recognized?” he said.
The majority of students at Huntington University live on campus. Then there are commuter students, who travel from two minutes to over an hour to get to campus. Snyder and Weaver both agree that commuters can be “pushed to the side.” Commuters may drive all different ways or the same route, and what they see on a day-to-day basis is an aspect rarely touched.
More than 85% of students in America are college commuters, according to InsideHigherEd. About 70% of Huntington University students live on campus which means about 30% commute. Though the percent is higher across America, Huntington University has a smaller number leaving commuters and their complications unlikely to be recognized.
“I’ve almost hit so many animals on my way to campus,” said commuter student, Isabel Warren.
Warren faces many complications on her hour drive to campus. A few problems that she runs into are being late due to road conditions and coming face-to-face with animals.
She once saw a vulture on the side of the road eating an animal. She thought she was in the clear, but it came out of nowhere. Her heart dropped.
“I was so close to hitting it,” she said. “I felt so bad, even though I didn’t hit it.”
This happened again to Warren in the same location, except with a squirrel.
“When this happens I think and talk about it all day, especially if it’s before class” she said.
“About 90 percent of the men and women had trips of more than 45 minutes each way, putting them in the long-distance category for many parts of the world,” says Annette Schaefer in Scientific American.
Commuters can face sleep disturbances, fatigue and issues concentrating, Schaefer says. They can also experience back pain and headaches, depending on how far they drive, and whether or not it was stressful.
“Commuters who drive have it especially hard—bad weather, traffic jams and accidents all cause stress,” she said.
Isaac Barber, director of student success, is a resource for commuters at HU. He has received questions from commuter students and their parents.
“Last semester there were problems with the commuter spaces, and we had to restrict a lot of areas due to COVID-19,” Barber said.
There was confusion about which lounges are for commuters.
“We could use another lounge,” Weaver said.
Commuters often sit in the lounge, and leave once other’s start going in.
“Huntington has space for everyone, but I know that there’s commuters that still don’t feel that way,” she said.
Though commuters have their questions, Barber found that many students didn’t know who to contact when unsure of something.
“I actually care about students,” said Barber.
With a smaller commuter population, issues may seem less likely to be solved.
Commuter students may be less involved in activities around campus. Many do not know what is available to them.
“Luckily, as I’m doing more film sets for my major, I’m becoming more accepted as a commuter,” Weaver said. “I’m automatically involved in something.”
Weaver is running for SGA commuter rep for the 2021/2022 school year.
“A lot of commuters don’t know each other,” she said. “If I get this position I’d love to host a gathering to meet a lot of commuter students–then they can know who to go to if they have any concerns.”
Kristina Alcozer Garcia, a higher education professional and a dean at Elgin Community College, researches and coordinates off-campus and commuter students.
“A big bear isn’t going to spend a bunch of time chasing a small rabbit,” said Garcia in a Zoom interview.
With such a small commuter population, they are not going to be the main focus.
Commuter student Allison Sterling uses her car as her own lounge.
“I’m in my car a lot,” she said.
Sometimes when she has hours until her next class, she will sit in her car and watch videos.
“There’s not many of us commuters,” Weaver said. “When we meet new people, we try to welcome them in as best as we can. It’s nice to have a space that is just ours. I didn’t always feel like I had that.”
Weaver says that although commuters have their mishaps, there are really great things about being a commuter at HU.
“We have traditions,” said Weaver. “On Wednesday we go and get food, bring it back, and then watch videos or play games together.”
Commuter student Karissa Heiniger also sees the bright side of commuting.
“With the people in the lounge that do stick around,” she said, “it’s nice to get a lot of different perspectives. We had a commuter friend who lived in Huntington, and she would always tell us the road conditions, which was nice to have.”
Commuters are trying to find ways to improve the small spaces that they are given.
“One thing we are trying to get is a projector here in the lounge,” says Weaver.“Sometimes we have big gaps between classes and want something to do other than homework all the time.”
Heiniger said they are lucky to have the commuter lounge.
“We make a lot of memories here, and on our Instagram group chat called commuter buds.”