Many NYU students dorm during the most unforgettable time of their life: the first year in college. They live through the typical first-year college experience — the mediocre dining hall food, the new roommate turned best friend or enemy and the sleepovers at friends’ dorms. They meet up with their friends at midnight or have late study sessions with the people who may one day be in their wedding — this is all due to the fact that they were able to dorm. None of them had to worry about traffic or train delays; they were able to use their spare time doing things they want, building relationships and creating memories. But, what about the small percentage of students who travel for sometimes hours to campus, the ones who do not have the luxury of simply walking to class?
Before accepting my spot at NYU, I attended Weekend on the Square. The atmosphere was welcoming — students involved in clubs, events, academics and dorm life. The welcome events at NYU all seemed to give students a cheerful perspective on their future life at NYU, which would have been great for students living a 10-minute walk away from class, but no one showed the reality that commuter students have to face.
It seems like NYU has tried its best in giving commuters spaces to study or to simply take a break between classes. Lounges like the Commuter Den in Lipton Residence Hall and the Kimmel Commuter Lounge have helped NYU commuters build communities among themselves. NYU puts on small events such as Commuter Appreciation Week, and bigger events, such as the Commuter Overnight Retreat, that give commuters a sense of self-importance.
Although NYU does its best to keep commuters happy, there is an unspoken divide between commuters and campus residents. Many feel disappointed to see that the divide between commuters and campus residents continuously isolates commuters.
Belen Serrano, a CAS first-year, said she feels excluded when other people talk about what dorms they are going to live in next year. The students would unconsciously cut her out of the conversation because it was something she could not relate to.
As a commuter myself, oftentimes I feel the same feeling of isolation. I came to NYU with the vision that I would have a typical college experience, but compared to my peers, it ended up being very different. For me, the college experience comes to a close at the end of the day, every day. Every day I wake up early to catch my train. I walk from class to class by myself. Afterwards, I buy food or eat whatever food I bought that day from home. I head to the library. I do homework alone and then head home for the day. There is rarely time to create those meaningful memories and friendships. If it wasn’t for the Commuter Overnight Retreat, I would not have made the valuable friendships I have today. Although I was able to attend, there are many others who couldn’t, leaving it up to them to make good quality friendships in a school of about 50,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
Commuting has given me a sense of independence and has taught me that being alone does not mean I have to be lonely. However, it’s an issue when a club I want to join has weekly events that end at 10 p.m., and it takes two hours to get home and I have an 8 a.m. class. Or when you’re on the subway and you get an email saying there is an interesting event in 30 minutes, or even when your classmate isn’t available to work on a project until 9 p.m.
Most commuters at NYU face more than just a divide with other students. Many not only commute from the other four boroughs, but within the tri-state area. These students pay a lot of money to commute to school daily. Currently, a monthly MetroCard is $121. Depending on your station, a round-trip ticket in the Long Island Rail Road costs from $9 to $13, around three times more than a MetroCard. While commuting may seem like the cheaper option, commuting ends up also becoming a financial burden.
It is because of our similar struggles that many have found consolation with each other. Commuters have been able to create their own community using the limited resources we have. Although that is a good thing, it furthers the divide. Instead, NYU should do more so we can all come together. The first year is crucial for students, and we should all be able to have a similar college experience. It is time for NYU to do more than just host events for commuters, to create a sense of community between commuters and on-campus residents, and to perhaps help commuters financially. So if you meet a commuter student, start a conversation, give them a meal swipe and be the change.
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Email Andrea Pineda-Salgado at [email protected].