The struggles of commuting

My commuter life

At times during my undergraduate career here at Case Western Reserve University, I felt like I was living a double life. This is mainly because I am a commuter student and have been since my first semester. I live in Brook Park, a suburb of Cleveland right next to the airport, and depending on the day, it can take me between 20-40 minutes to get to campus. I have never really felt like a college student because I have a vastly different life from people who live on campus. It can be frustrating, though, because I take the same classes as people that live on campus and should still feel like a part of the CWRU community.

According to Division of Student Affairs, a commuter student is “a student who generally does not live in a residential dorm and either drives, walks or uses public transportation to get to school.” Many people live in apartments close to campus and are therefore considered commuters, but there are also many people, such as myself, that live at least a 30-minute commute away from campus. This commute can be rough, especially in the winter when even the Healthline buses get stuck in the snow. I typically have to wake up at least three hours before my first class starts just so I can quickly eat breakfast and get to the train station on time, in case there are any delays, as there often can be on the Red Line. Not many of my peers have been able to fully realize how difficult it can be to navigate the public transit systems in Cleveland, especially when I don’t just use them to hang out downtown, but to get to school.

I normally take public transportation since driving can also be a hassle with the innerbelt bridge construction and the added snow delays in the winter. A parking permit is also a huge expense, more than $300 a semester. Personally, I don’t feel safe on public transportation late at night, so I am not comfortable staying late to participate in clubs or activities and study groups. I’ve had group projects for classes before where the group has wanted to meet late at night, but it is nearly impossible for me, as a commuter, to do that.

It is hard to live at home. Sure, there are certain comforts like having a washing machine readily available and a room to myself. But living with your parents and a sibling is difficult when they won’t stop talking and you have about 200 pages of reading to do and an essay to write after working a six-hour shift in retail. I don’t get home-cooked meals like people sometimes assume upon learning I commute. My parents are usually busy with their own schedules, as I am with mine, so we rarely have time to sit down and eat together.

Commuters seem left out even from the university. There is a commuter lounge, but it is in the basement of Thwing, and not a lot of people know about it. If they do, many people do not like to use it because it is constantly cold, especially in the winter time, and somewhat run down. Even with the new university center open and more space in the upper rooms of Thwing, the lounge is still in the damp and dark basement. Most commuters pass through it and only use it to eat lunch quickly. It is hard to form a community of commuter students when everyone is busy with their own classes and need to get back to their homes to go to their jobs after a long commute. Still, the closest friends that I will have from college are the people that I met in the lounge who also have long commutes, since I have only been able to feel accepted by them.

I made the choice to commute, and I don’t regret it because of the money I will save in the long run from not living in the dorms. However, I feel that commuter students should feel included in campus community and not be treated like outsiders. With Cleveland and its suburbs, there are bound to be plenty of students that live in the city rather than on campus. Commuting is the only option for many students, but that should not mean that they are not considered a part of the campus community or have the same opportunities that those who live on campus or very close to it have.

Abby Assmus is a senior and a commuter student. If you have any questions about commuting or what it is like to be a commuter, feel free to email her at