The Truth about Commuting to College

The Truth about Commuting to College

Seeking higher education at a university can be the time where students experience some of the most stressful years of their lives but also the most fun. It becomes a trial period for many students before they have to face the reality of adulthood. However, not everyone is choosing to move out of their family homes at the start of their university careers. Instead of uniformed student accommodations, students are deciding to stay at home with their families or rent flats further away from town. The rise in student commuters could be due to the average debt for students leaving higher education rising by 13%, according to the Herald Scotland. The average loan balance for those who began repaying their loans at the end of 2016-17 was £11,740 – £1380 more than the previous year – according to Student Loans Company statistics.

I decided to talk with three students who have chosen to commute to University so that I could get a clearer picture of what it is like to be a commuter student.

Calum Henderson, 21
University of Strathclyde
Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire

Photo Credit: The Strathclyde Photo Club-           Yacine Benrahal

Calum has lived with his family all four years of his university career. He takes a 20-25 minute ScotRail train to get into the City Centre.

Was it your choice to commute to school or was it a family decision?

It was a financial choice, but I never really thought about it the first few years. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to me to live in halls at the moment when I’m still quite close to home, though, I am starting to think that I might want my own place.

Does living 25 minutes away from the city centre affect your social life?

It does make a difference, friends would need to tell me in advance. I have sometimes managed to get rapidly dressed and run for a train and get into town, but already the party is well underway if I am going to one, so it is a bit of a disadvantage.

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Google Maps

Has commuting made your life easier or more challenging?

It is not much more challenging. I am sure there are much more challenging commutes, like people who live in the middle of the countryside and have to drive in. I am still in the city, and I still have that connection which is pretty useful. It has made me think that I don’t really need to drive at all. I’ve not really even thought about learning how to drive in four years because I just think ‘I’ll just take the train’. So maybe that has made me a bit lazier and made my life a bit easier in a certain respects.

If you had the opportunity to move closer to University would you?

I think I would try to live with friends, the thing is, I just never had the school friends; they never studied here. When I was in Norway, what I realised was that I like [living on my own]. It depends on your flatmates how much you enjoy living in halls. If you live in halls with terrible flatmates, it’s not fun, but if you have good friends and good flatmates that would be very good, it would be the best of both worlds.

Lou Ramsay, 22
University of Strathclyde
Kelvinbridge, Glasgow

Photo Credit: The Strathclyde Photo Club- Suvi Loponen

Lou lived in Buchanan View for two years which are private student accommodations. After spending her first two years of college in halls, she decided to move to the West End of Glasgow where she lives in a flat with her flatmate. She takes the Glasgow Subway to University which is a 6-minute commute depending on when she catches the train.

What is your commute like on an average day?

I live just by Kelvinbridge subway station, it is a 6-minute journey depending on when you get the subway. So the thing about the subway is that if you time it right you only have to wait one or two minutes. In the morning, if it’s regular, it’s every four minutes, so it’s about 10 minutes to get into town, however, when it is not regular, it can be up to 15 minutes. It is also really annoying on a Sunday because it stops at half six. So, if I’m at work and I get off work [after half 6], I have to walk an hour home in the dark.

Do you prefer living where you live now or did you like living in the halls?

I liked living in halls because it was easier to walk in and I also had a different job that was in the centre of town that I could walk to in 10-15 minutes from home which saved so much money and it also meant I could sleep in later. But when I moved out of halls, there was much more freedom not living in halls.

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Google Maps

Was it your choice to move out of halls or was it a financial decision?

With halls it is not really living independently, you’ve just got a room. My former flatmate and I were just sick of living in halls, and we lived together for a year in halls. We decided to move out, and we wanted to move to the West End and be cultured, and there are all the newer, cool pubs, and his boyfriend lived in that area. It was also a nice way of being outside of town but still being in the city.

If you had had the opportunity to move closer to University would you move?

If I didn’t have to pay tax, then I would totally live in the city centre. My job is in the city centre so it would be easier, but rent prices force you to go outside. I am really lucky that I’m in the position to earn a certain amount of money, and I get my hours to be able to afford my rent and be able to live where I live. Otherwise, if I didn’t get that type of money, I’d have to move further out which I think would make my university experience even worse. What made my university experience better was living basically 10 minutes away from campus for two years.

Iqra Farooq, 22
University of Strathclyde
Linlithgow, West Lothian

Photo Credit: The Strathclyde Photo Club-           Yacine Benrahal

Iqra grew up in Glasgow but moved to Linlithgow three years ago with her family. She has always lived with her family during her University years. Iqra takes a 50-minute ScotRail train into University.

Was it your choice to commute to school or was it a family decision?

I think it was more my choice because the university I went to was so close to home anyways so, I mean, it would have been different if I went abroad and I experienced that type of lifestyle, obviously I couldn’t live at home then. But because it was such a close proximity I’ve always thought it would be easier to commute in.

Do you ever feel like you are missing out on university life or activities happening around campus?

Definitely, I think it was way easier when I lived in Glasgow, now that it has become a little bit disconnected. The train time cuts off a lot earlier than the rest, so I do feel like I miss out on that. I have considered moving closer as well, and if I were to go back and do university again, I definitely would have done it another way around and lived in Glasgow.

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Google Maps

What is it like living with your family as a university student?

I am quite lucky that I get on quite well with my family, so it would be different if we weren’t brought up quite close. Obviously, even my friends that live at home as well, we are all kind of getting to the phase now where there are disagreements, and we are kind of becoming our own type of people. So it becomes difficult when you’re under someone else’s roof.

Do you think living at home has improved your studies and helps you focus on university work?

Well, I am just one of these people that just can’t study in libraries. I get distracted very easily, so I think it’s easier for me to study at home and put my phone into the other room because I’m too lazy to stand up and get it. I think I’d be a much worse student if I didn’t have that routine at home. I am very easily convinced as well, I would be very easily convinced to go out all the time.

Each student has a unique experience and can find benefits and disadvantages to their current situation. These students make up a large group of 76% of UK students that travel to college according to the BBC. If you do find yourself commuting to University, there are ways to reduce your cost. The Glasgow Subway offers a Smartcard for students which allows them to travel all day for £2.80. Commuters who use ScotRail that are between the ages of 16-25 can get one-third off rail fares for £30 a year. For those students that live on their own but still commute, there are always ways to save money by looking for student discounts. Save the Student has produced a handy rent calculator here to make sure you are staying on track too. Where students choose to live is a personal choice that depends on financial situations, what is most important is graduating with a degree after four years.

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