Castleton sophomore Matt Herbst drives home to Connecticut every weekend, a 3.5-hour drive each way, sometimes through very bad weather and traffic.
It’s a choice that many other Castleton students make on weekends. They prefer to leave campus for a variety of reasons, but face missing out on campus social activities or opportunities to get to know their fellow students better.
A common theme for those students who hit the road each weekend is a desire to spend time with family members. Other reasons included wanting to spend time with high school friends, hanging out with their favorite family pets and spending time with boyfriends or girlfriends.
For Herbst, the big draw going home is to visit his 80-year-old grandfather, who he is very close to. His grandfather recently fell from a tree-stand during a hunting accident and is recovering from the injuries. Herbst said he also goes home to make sure he was doing OK.
“He’s doing fine now,” said Herbst. “He is on his feet and walking now. He had a cane and he is walking fine without the cane. He is pretty much recovered. I wouldn’t be at Castleton without him because he is paying for college.”
But that’s not the only reason he goes home every weekend. When he was in high school, he developed a strong network of friends he likes to return to see. He said he goes home about the same amount he did when he was a freshman.
But are there downsides to going home every weekend?
Herbst said yes.
As a computer-information-systems major, Herbst said he has made a lot of friends at Castleton. The students are very nice, he said, and he has met several people in classes who have become good friends.
“I haven’t met a bad person at Castleton,” he said. “Everyone has a friendly attitude.”
So, when the weekend comes around and he is in his car heading back to Connecticut, he sometimes gets calls from Castleton friends who want him to hang out or get together, but he has to say no because he is already gone. He feels like he is missing out on things sometimes.
Plus, he said “weather can be an issue.” On one trip home, he was driving and hit black ice and the car slid sideways. He was able to regain control, but it was a scary moment, he said.
Rebecca Miller, a senior business management major, used to stay on campus more when she was a freshman and sophomore because she enjoyed the social and party life. But now that she is approaching graduation and thinking more about what she is going to do for a job, she is not as into the weekend party scene.
So the Orange County, Vermont native regularly drives two hours home on Mondays, Wednesdays and for the weekends. She works part-time as a substitute teacher in her county, which is one of the main reasons she goes home during the week. But she also enjoys being back home because that’s where her boyfriend lives and she gets to see her dog.
“I’m not in the party stage anymore” Miller said. “Family is important to me.”
But like Herbst, she admits there are downsides to going home so much. The cost is an issue for her.
“Gas prices are ridiculous,” she said.
And she too said weather can be a problem, especially in the winter.
Some students at Castleton are trying to get more of their peers to reconsider going home on the weekends.
Sierra Boutin is a member of the Campus Activities Board, which organizes social and other activities for Castleton students, especially on the weekends.
For example, Boutin and other students organize events where students can get together to watch movies. A different movie is featured each week, and the board is working to get movies that have been recently released, such as “The Darkest Hour,” “12 Strong” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
The board also organized a mini concert, had a comedian perform and hosts Bingo and Karaoke events.
“There is always something new going on from week to week,” Miller said.
She also said she thinks that students may go home in part because they are not aware that all these events are going on. She recommends that students check their email more regularly, because they are all promoted through email.
But even if students do go home regularly on the weekends, people should not assume it is because they do not like their experience at Castleton.
“I love being here,” Herbst said.