Do you feel or have you ever felt like an outsider here at Castleton State College? Are you never really sure if you even like the college? If you answered yes to those questions, then you must be a commuter. When new students come to Castleton as commuters, many say that they feel out of place and not sure whether they fit in.
Take senior Adam Repash, for example, who played with his pen while reflecting on his life here at the college.
“I’ve been a commuter my whole time here,” he states, his eyes thoughtful behind his black-framed glasses. “I’ve had to schedule for time to commute. My life pretty much revolves around being here.”
Repash, who has to drive 45 minutes from Perkinsville, near Ludlow, says it was really hard for him to adjust to getting the feel of school and scheduling time. He usually spends his time in the library during breaks from classes.
David Blow, a communication professor, commuted to Castleton from 1985 to 1989 – and said he often felt detached from the campus.
“As a commuter, I didn’t feel a part of the college,” he stated.
His schedule usually consisted of going to class, then hanging out in the Campus Center lounge and playing pool with some friends until the next class, then going home. He said he did develop a social life and attended parties, especially during his sophomore, junior, and senior years and even worked on The Spartan during his four years.
But his freedom was limited during his last two years, when he had to live with his ill grandmother. In a regretful tone, he expresses his discontent with how his college life went.
“Looking back, I feel like I’ve missed out on the college experience,” he said. “I think it is harder for commuters to develop relationships on campus.”
Other students agree.
“It’s tough to get involved with campus life,” added commuter Mary Powers, who formerly lived in the dorms.
And fellow former dorm dweller, Terry Badman, now a commuter, concurred.
“Social life sucks,” Badman said. “You gotta keep up appearances.”
Some adjust better
Adjusting to the commuter role didn’t bother Shealyn Siliski, a sophomore, when she came here last year.
“Once I started all my classes I realized it wasn’t that bad. I hardly knew anyone in my classes so I got to meet new people,” she explained as she reminisced. “I wasn’t really worried about anything because when I started Castleton I had already gone to a much larger university so I knew what was going on.”
Courtney Gilman, a third-year student who came to Castleton from the University of New England with an open mind, admits that even though she knows she’ll never be as close-knit with the people who live on campus, she said she has no problem fitting in.
“Since I’m from West Rutland, I have a lot of friends here,” she said. “So, if all else fails, I have someone to be with.”
There are an equal number of commuters and on-campus students attending Castleton, according to Dennis Proulx, director of Residence Life and recently-appointed associate dean of students.
“We built Castleton Hall, and the three new houses strategically to bring up the number of on-campus spots to house 50 percent of our population,” he explained.
Commuter students can be found in various places across the campus including the Campus Center lounge, the Calvin Coolidge Library, the Academic Computing Center, or hanging out in front of the buildings. Although some would stay on campus for a while after classes end, most like senior Anthony Marscott are eager to go home.
“I’ll come here, go to my classes, work on homework, and go home,” he said in a calm and relaxed tone.
Marscott, who is always seen with his large headphones hanging around his neck and is recognizable by his mangy light brown hair tied in an unkempt ponytail and bushy goatee, actually started life at Castleton in the dorms, but decided to commute because of his living conditions.
Although he made a lot of good friends while living in the dorms, he had more of a desire to be alone because he is, as he states, “a very private person.”
Powers, a senior who is in her seventh year at Castleton, also lived in the dorms, specifically Adams Hall. However, and she hated the room she resided in.
“The dorm was too small and the cinderblocks made it feel like a prison cell,” she explained. “You can’t put two girls in one room with two feet of closet space.”
When Powers is on campus but not in class these days, she can usually be found in the library or in the Coffee Cottage.
Badman, an aspiring journalist, said he too disliked living in the dorms, even if there were some funny moments.
“As much as I love the smell of dried Jager-flavored vomit and picking on passed-out roommates, that’s one of the reasons that made me want to leave,” he said, smiling.
How to get Involved
Although the campus can be overwhelming for many commuters, there are ways to get involved and avoid being left out. First, there are specific programs during summer registration and orientation that center on helping commuters become more drawn to the campus.
There are also clubs that commuters are able to join. Proulx states that resident status isn’t a question when looking at leadership roles or club involvement.
“Our last two SA presidents have been traditional commuter students, Steve Vail and Tammy Latucca,” Proulx said. “Currently, our SA President Corey Gray is a commuter; however he has lived on campus in the past.”
There are also “commuter meal plans” being offered through Aramark that give commuters the ability to pre-purchase meals so they can use their IDs to access Huden Dining Hall without the need for cash.
In the Campus Center, there is a resource area known as “Commuter Central” that is devoted to the needs of commuters. Managed by Melissa Paradee, the coordinator of student activities, the area includes a computer, microwave, and other resources that commuters might benefit from.
“We provide rental lockers in the Campus Center for commuters to store books and other personal items during the day so that they don’t have to carry so much across campus,” Proulx said. “We maintain lounges with couches and chairs in each academic building where commuters, and others, can sit and study or spend time in-between classes to feel more at ‘home’ in our environment.”
Gilman is one commuter who takes advantage of this, as she is often found lying on the couch in the downstairs lounge of Leavenworth between classes, something on-campus students don’t have to do because they have suites to return to.
Rental lockers in the Campus Center can be signed out for an entire semester at a time for $5.
Lessons from the Wise
So what pieces of advice do new students looking to commute need to know from these veterans? Marscott offered some humorous guidance.
“Commute,” Marscott advises simply. “Save your money.”
However, Repash, Blow and Gilman lean more towards the serious side of things.
“I think prioritizing things is beneficial because it helps students balance the rigors of school, friends and driving equally, whereas students living on campus may not have to do something like this,” Repash states.
“I’d say get involved in as many things as possible on campus and cut the chord with high school,” Blow says, referring back to how he got involved with the newspaper. “Had I been more involved initially, I might not have felt as much like an outsider that first year.”
“I guess the best thing to do is to get involved on campus, because, obviously, you’re coming to college for a reason,” Gilman agrees. “So you’re passionate about something.”
Badman takes a humorous tone to a serious point.
“If you want to live off campus, you have to be ready,” he concludes. “Ready to pay what Mommy and Daddy used to pay. If you can’t afford to buy decent beer living in the dorms, you’re not ready to afford your own place.