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Four misconceptions about being a commuting student

by BA (Hons) English student Sarah A

Commuting can be enjoyable and incredibly productive, particularly if it is a lengthy commute. You could utilise your time by listening to thought-provoking podcasts, such as Amaliah Voices, and even reading relevant books that appear on your reading list.
— Sarah A, BA English

My commute generally takes one hour, but this is not at all discouraging or daunting to me. As an English Literature student, I have a fair bit of reading to do. I capitalise on my time commuting to make it as productive as can be, both intellectually and spiritually.

People have a tendency to not factor in their commute when calculating their day, but I have learned not to do so. For instance, you may plan six hours of studying in a day, but you can use your time commuting as time studying. As I am now approaching third year, my university experience allows me to give a few words of guidance. Here are four misconceptions around being a commuting student:

FACT: commuting can be expensive

One thing I did not brace myself for was the overall cost of transport. London is separated into zones, and within this there are different modes of transport such as over-ground, underground, and national rail. You may find yourself taking a combination of these. However, when one route is compromised you have to take another route which comes with added costs.  In some cases, it becomes cheaper to use monthly zone travel cards, and in other cases pay-as-go oysters are more cost-effective.

Aside from the back-breaking cost of travelling with an Oyster card, there is the added cost of cabs you will take home. From late-night study sessions, to events that linger on until the last train has gone, you may find yourself taking a cab home quite frequently. One thing I find that has cut my cab cost in exam season, is staying the few extra hours and instead of catching an Uber at 3am, jumping on the first train of the day instead.  If this is not possible, then sharing rides homes with friends who live relatively local is a good alternative.

Despite this, commuting is definitely more cost-effective when weighed up against the cost of moving out. Yet, it remains imperative to thoroughly research your transport options and it is worthwhile avoiding travel cards that include zone-1.

FACT: commuting can be productive

Commuting can be enjoyable and incredibly productive, particularly if it is a lengthy commute. You could utilise your time by listening to thought-provoking podcasts, such as Amaliah Voices, and even reading relevant books that appear on your reading list.

Listening to podcasts or reading books for your course helps get you into study mode, and I have found the way I spend my time in my commute dictates how productive I am when I get to the library.  Reading course-relevant books during commute makes writing essays easier as your mind has already begun to explore relevant ideas whilst listening to podcasts eases your mind into that information-absorbing, inquisitive, and focused state of mind required for efficient study sessions.

Though some days doing absolutely nothing on the train can be also be productive, as it is important to give your mind some time off to recharge. Anything that contributes to sustaining your mental health is productive.

FICTION: commuting students are less independent

It is not necessarily living on your own that makes you more independent: instead, living alone forces you to learn skills that you have been neglecting. You should not wait until you live on your own to learn basic life skills. For instance, it is important to learn how to pay bills and become financially responsible even if you do live with your parents: independence and living at home should not be mutually exclusive. Living in the comfort of your home does not negate your responsibilities within the household, such as washing the dish that you use, and you should remain equally as respectful of the people who share your space.

Domestic skills and financial responsibility do not come as a care package with moving out, my beloved. Learn to season your food, put that paprika on your chicken, and get it together! Campus living students (who have shame) will learn these life skills as they are thrown in the deep end and thus become more independent, but being a commuting student should not fool you into enabling dependent behaviour.

FICTION: commuting limits your university experience

On some days, being able to crawl back under your covers with ease the moment a seminar ends sparks jealousy in the hearts of commuting students. Any hour-long commute will easily erase that thought from your mind. After spending extortionate money on travel, commuters often feel obligated to stay the day rather than go home straight after lectures and seminars to get their money’s worth. This unwavering loyalty to the wallet has made a lot of commuting students more active on campus as a result.

Although you do not have the convenience of living on-campus, rest assured that this does not have to detract from enjoying student experiences and society events. It only changes the convenience of having a home closer to university. Most of the students I have met at Queen Mary are also commuters, and we still enjoy our university experience such as visiting culture night, pan-African society events and joining sport societies, despite our hour-long commutes.