From resident to commuter

With my senior year of college on the horizon, my friends and I decided we wanted to live off-campus. However, when things didn’t pan out with the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself having to commute from home in New York City.

Being an on-campus resident was fun during my first two years of college because all of my friends were on campus, as well, everyone lived close and we had more time to socialize while doing our work on campus. Also, with most of my friends on campus, it was much easier to set things up like outings and events we wanted to attend, and exploring the West Haven and New Haven area.

There were also many not-so-pleasant things about living on campus, such as rude resident assistants. There were some annoying and loud residents who lived on my floor. The washing machines and heat barely worked, and some of the dorms didn’t have air conditioning. The dining hall hours did not accommodate my class schedule times. The biggest factor is that it is so expensive to live on campus, thus prompting my friends and me to try to live off-campus for our senior year of college.

Ultimately, because of the pandemic, we decided to find our own options that were cheapest for everyone and the safest option depending on whether the campus closed for the fall. Then, I made a tough decision to commute from home — I say tough because I wouldn’t be able to hang with my closest friends who are living in the near West Haven area, and I would have had to take a leave of absence at my new job.

Upon making this decision, I had to move my classes to a set schedule that would limit my commute to less than three days a week. I tried to find classes that I was interested in that also fit my requirements so I can graduate on time. I also hoped I could find online asynchronous classes and remote classes, too.

Being from the city, I am not a seasoned driver, so relying on public transportation was the best option for me. I already knew the commute from traveling to and from school for breaks and I didn’t think it was bad at the time.

Now, on Wednesdays, I wake up around 4:30 a.m. to get myself ready to get on the 5:48 train from the Bronx to West Haven train station. My dad has work early in the morning, so he can drop me off. The morning train has no transfers, so it is an hour and 45-minute ride to West Haven, which is great because I have some time to relax before I really get my day started.

Wednesday is the day I see and talk with my friends in-person at the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). We are able to do work, collaborate on projects in our clubs and have some sense of normalcy. Since the food trucks started, we have been getting baked potatoes for lunch. I spend a lot of time at the CDI between classes and am glad that I have made connections with so many people in this space while I was a resident.

Wearing a mask for over 12 hours is another feat. It is not like I have a dorm or car to which I can retreat, so I can’t take it off. I only take it off when I eat.

After my class ends at 6:45 p.m., I take the 7:43 train and get back home around 9:30. While on the train, I catch up on work and assignments or I relax, listening to music and having my thoughts consume me as I am drained from the long day.

Being a commuter has taught me so much about being a bit more independent in my life. Upon seeing other people starting their commute at the same time as me, it has given me a lot of time to think about what my future would look like if I have to commute for a job. I also see the stark differences between city life in New York and suburban life in West Haven.

Commuting was not what I saw for myself during my senior year of college. However, I know I am not the only person who had to make hard decisions during these past months. I am reminded of how lucky I am to still be attending school and have all of the tools I need to succeed. I may not have the same exciting and cool experiences as before, but better times are ahead and I can’t wait for it.