There are plenty of good things about deciding to commute to college. But there are also plenty of bad things. One of those cons? Getting left behind in your hometown while almost all the people you know move on to different places. One day, you’re surrounded by the same people you’ve been going to school with for years and the next day – poof – you’re on your own.
I know how this feels and so I can tell you firsthand – it’s tough. When I was a senior in high school, I made the decision to commute to a college 20 minutes away from my house. Basically all of my friends decided to go away to school. Most of my friends from middle school and high school spread out all over New York and the rest of the country. Three of my good friends lived on campus at schools that were only about an hour away from my house, but my very best friend moved almost four hours away for school.
While all of my friends were busy settling into their new dorm lives, I was hanging out in the same bedroom I had grown up in. Their Facebook pages boasted hundreds of new pictures of their cramped dorm rooms, their new friends (who I was sure would replace me), their annoying suitemates. My Facebook page paled in comparison. I hung out with my boyfriend everyday, trying to fill the empty spaces they had left behind, while they went out and met people from all over the country. They would call me to tell me all of the exciting things they had done in their first week and then, their voices full of sympathy, say something like, “But how is it at home? Everything the same?”
Being left behind while it feels like everyone you know is doing something new is not fun. Even though I felt like commuting was the best choice for me, I was still insanely jealous of all the things my friends got to do. And never mind the jealousy – I was lonely! I had only my boyfriend left to hang with. I couldn’t have girls nights. I felt like I couldn’t call them whenever I wanted to, because they were constantly doing things and seemed too busy for me. I felt stuck. I was doing the same thing I had always done, while they were being adventurous.
As you can tell, my freshman year wasn’t the best. Eventually, I learned how to deal and make my own, unique college experience and it was really great. If you’re going to be dealing with the same thing come September, I suggest you read on.
After a year of being lonely and miserable while my friends were in college, I decided there was only one thing I could do - make new friends. I knew that I needed to branch out and meet new people. I started trying to be more friendly when I was at school. I’ve always been a really shy girl, so this was difficult, but I did what I could. I tagged along during commuter events to meet other commuters and became friendly with people I had to do group projects with. I joined the college newspaper and I added everyone I had classes with on Facebook. Slowly, I started to get to know some people from school.
When my boyfriend and I broke up, I got a new job as a waitress at a popular chain restaurant. It wasn’t until I got this job that I really started making new friends. I quickly became close with everyone I worked with. We started going out together almost every night and I was beyond thrilled. I finally had friends who didn’t live hours away from me in a tiny dorm room! With my new friends, I stopped feeling so lonely.
I also made an effort to visit my friends who lived at college close to my school. One of my best friends, Chrissy, regularly invited me to spend nights in her suite at a school only about an hour away from me. I practically became an honorary suitemate – I went to visit her and her roomies all the time. In fact, I got to know more people in her school than in my school. It was super fun. I was getting a little dorm room experience without, you know, living in a dorm room.
Hanging with my new friends wasn’t the only way I filled my time. Commuting left me more time to focus on myself. I worked really hard with school – when I wasn’t doing homework or studying, I was searching for internships in NYC. And when I wasn’t doing school stuff, I was working my butt off as a waitress, making tons of money and actually having a good time doing it.
So, here’s my message: while it might seem incredibly lonely to be the only friend staying home from school, it doesn’t have to be the worst thing in the world. Just because you’re not in a dorm room doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun college experience. I used my friends for their dorm rooms (they happily let me) and I expanded my horizons by meeting new people from work. I still went to parties and out to bars and all that fun stuff – I just did it knowing I could sleep in my own bed and have my mom make me breakfast in the morning!
To this day, when I tell people I commuted, they automatically feel sorry for me. They assume that I didn’t have any fun during my college years. Well, um, I totally did. In fact, those four years (okay, like, three and a half), were the best years of my life! I made commuting work for me and you can too. I found that being left behind can either make you miserable or it can force you into getting out of your comfort zone to find new things to do. Luckily for me, being left behind left me with tons of great experiences. And I wouldn’t trade those memories for any dorm room in the world.
Do you commute to college? Did you feel lonely when your friends went away? Are you thinking about commuting? Tell me in the comments.