Does commuting keep DU students apart?

For most college students, going to college means living on their own in the dorms, an experience that many consider an integral part of college life.  But for some students, living off campus might be the better option.  Although there is nothing disallowing commuter students from joining the campus social scene, is commuting keeping them from enjoying it?

Discoveries week

When you first start at a university, chances are you probably don’t know anybody.  This is especially true if you’re coming from an entirely different state.  The University of Denver’s Discoveries Orientation is not only a useful way to get used to the campus and how it works, but also a great way to meet and spend time with the people you’ll be around for the next four plus years.  Move-in Day, when students meet each other for the first time, is a great springboard into feeling comfortable and enmeshed in the social community.

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Phillip Rudyk juggling work and getting a ride home after his classes.

But for commuters, Discoveries Week may not feel as helpful.  Philip Rudyk, now a sophomore, is a commuter student who lives around 40 minutes away from DU’s campus (if traffic is minimal).  He enjoyed meeting new people during Discoveries Week.  But he still remembers how he felt as a commuter among a group of people who had already been living together for a couple of days.

“I do think that there’s that feeling of being an outsider sometimes,” he said.  “People, when you live in the same area, you get to be much closer compared to not living in the same area, so you don’t get to spend as much time [with them] as you want to.  So sometimes it does make you feel left out a little bit.”

Towards the end of Discoveries Week, DU does offer a meeting that is commuter-students-only, but depending on who you talk to, the meeting is either really useful or a must-skip.

“They basically just told us the same thing we‘d heard about all the safety stuff about partying and things, you know, so there wasn’t a whole lot of new information,” said Wesley Janson, a freshman that started at DU this year.  “There was no specific opportunity to get together to meet just commuter students.  Then it seems like everyone else knew each other because they all live in the dorms.”

Andi Schlut, on the other hand, another freshman who went to the meeting, had the completely opposite experience.

“I just found the opportunity to meet all of the other commuter students really helpful,” she said.  “I wish we had had more time to meet and talk with each other, but the information presented was useful and the staff we met were very welcoming.”

Day-to-Day

After the initial hurry of the first week, DU students begin to settle into their routines: going to classes, hanging out with friends, and meeting with the extracurricular clubs or groups that they may be a part of.

Keegan Heneghan, a sophomore who lives on campus, is the Vice President of the curling club.  As such, he has an obligation to attend the club meetings held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9 p.m.  But would he still be a member if he didn’t live on campus?

“H— no, dude, that’s definitely not worth it,” he said.  “It’s hardly worth the five-minute walk sometimes.”

Rudyk expressed interest in getting involved on campus in spite of his commute, but shared Heneghan’s attitude when it came to priorities and the reality of getting there.

“I did actually think about doing water polo,” he said.  “It was just, I have so much going, I have classes, I have work, and driving time, it just takes forever.  I just have to, you know, decide what I should do and what I shouldn’t.”  And this isn’t just the case for water polo.  Rudyk elaborated that the drive time factors into a lot of decisions he makes about other campus activities as well.

“Sometimes I got to think about how much it would cost, gas wise,” he added.  “But if I’m motivated enough I’d do it.”

So why live off campus, if it seems to be a barrier to some opportunity?  Schlut said that for her, it was mostly about having her family as a way to support the transition to college.  For others like Rudyk and Janson, it’s not always as easy a choice.  Janson said that for him, it’s a combination of choosing not to live on campus and being compelled not to by the extra cost of living in the dorms each year.  For Rudyk, the latter is the primary factor.

“Personally I would like to actually live here, I don’t really like to commute,” he explained.  “[Living off campus] is a necessity; it’s way more expensive. I’d need to be paying way more to live here.  Commuting is kind of the only choice I have.”

The Student Life offices, located on the third floor in Driscoll Student Center.

The Student Life offices, located on the third floor in Driscoll Student Center.

Services That Can Help

Commuting can pose extra challenges, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to work around them and get involved.  For Rudyk, who meets with a group in the chapel on Wednesday nights, that means occupying the time between his classes and the meeting.

“I can always find something to do, like homework,” he said.  “Or, I have a job here, so I would probably work.”

The University of Denver offers several resources through Student Outreach and Support that anyone can find and use if they’re feeling like they aren’t connecting enough on campus.  These services range from a contact to help find groups and communities on campus, or help with using and managing public transportation to help foster a connected and sustainable community.

One Response to Does commuting keep DU students apart?

  • Chloe Barrett
    Chloe Barrett says:

    Great article, Andrew! This is really well-organized and I think you did a good job incorporating quotes from your sources. I also think it’s awesome that you included a section about how commuting students can get more involved. You brought to light an issue that students living on campus don’t really ever have to consider, nice job!

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