For many Castleton University students, everyday life is just like out of a movie; wake up in their dorm, next to their sleeping roommate, get ready, and walk across campus to their 8 a.m. class.
It’s the ideal situation for many students and what young people growing up envision when they think of college.
But for some students, that’s just not the case.
Whether it’s coming from their childhood home in Brandon or coming from the Rutland Apartments, a commuter’s day-to-day life is different from the typical college student.
“I usually wake up an hour before I need to leave and leave half an hour before my first class,” said Ariel Wade, a sophomore at Castleton and a commuter from Rutland. “If I have time between classes I sit in the music hallway and do homework.”
Wade has experienced both sides of the college experience. A former student at UMass Amherst, she transferred to Castleton and decided to commute from her home in Rutland to save money. As a Music Education major, she’s currently taking part in the spring musical at Castleton, which means her days run really late.
“When my classes are done, I eat my dinner and do more homework before rehearsal,” Wade said. “When I finally get out around 9 p.m., I head home and get there around 9:30 p.m. If I wasn’t planning on being called to rehearsal and they change the schedule, I have to drive home and back to get my dance stuff.”
“Commuters are shorter, always” theater professor Harry McEnerny said jokingly when asked if he notices any differences between commuters and students who live on campus.
McEnerny, the director of the musical Wade is in, says he doesn’t notice a difference.
“It’s hard for everyone to figure out their schedule, perhaps it’s more challenging for commuters, but I don’t know,” McEnerny said. “The expectation (in class) is the same, so I don’t look for a difference.”
McEnerny also said he doesn’t consider a commuter’s schedule when planning a rehearsal schedule, to not provide special treatment. But he does consider commuters when the weather is bad and will cancel rehearsal.
There are many other problems faced as well. Wade mentioned driving back and forth in inclement weather, and having to lug around two bags, textbooks and binders – and a cello.
Kaitlyn Clark, an Ecological Studies major, says the biggest problem for her is making a consecutive schedule that allows her to work two jobs, while also providing minimal free time so she doesn’t have to wait around.
So, what can the school do to help?
Perhaps provide lockers, or even just a designated area for commuters, both Wade and Clark suggest. A common problem commuters face is carrying things around, and nowhere to go, especially if they’re coming from the Rutland apartments, which means they have to rely on the bus and bus schedule for transportation, or if drivers can’t find close parking spaces.
And there are other things students can do to help commuters.
“Stop parking in the commuter lot if you’re not a commuter! The space is very limited,” Wade said with a giggle.
And what about missing out on the “average college experience?”
“Not really. I lived on campus my freshman year and I really don’t miss dorm life,” Wade said. “I don’t miss dining hall food and I don’t miss walking back and forth to my dorm.”
But both Wade and Clark discussed missing out on one thing.
“I do miss the social aspect of it though,” Wade concludes. “Like eating meals with people or hanging out in friends’ rooms.”
“Oh, but I definitely don’t miss wearing flip flops in the shower.”