I haven’t posted in some time. Partly because I’m lazy, and partly because I feel like time breeds high expectations. That’s why Flaubert was actually doing himself an injustice by being such a goddamn perfectionist. What could I possibly write about to meet these high, nay, impossible expectations? Well, I don’t actually know and I finally decided that a dull post would be better than radio silence. So I’m going to talk to you about commuting. I’m going to talk about commuting because I commute (obviously), and this seems like a pretty good venting exercise (and also, secretly, so you don’t take advice from that bloke on your course who really hates his hometown).
So what is commuting (other than blasphemous to the average student)?
I’m talking about the former definition here (in case you needed the clarification). My commute consists of a five-minute car journey (or thirty-minute walk), a forty-minute train ride and a bus which should take twenty minutes but is typically about thirty-five. Quite a long journey to be doing twice a day, no? Well, believe it or not, it’s not actually that bad. And if you’re still reading at this point then you probably want to know why. But we’ll start with the facts: I’m a second-year English Literature student at the University of East Anglia, I commute via car, foot, train, bus, pedalo, and unicycle (okay, we can scratch those last two) from an enviably innovative and exciting Suffolk town (it’s not) into Norwich three days a week, twenty-six weeks a year. And now, you want the good, bad, and the ugly.
We’ll start with the ugly: my face after I’ve been crying for an hour or so. Just a disclaimer, commuting wouldn’t make a normal person cry (probably). But I, being of an anxious disposition, didn’t much like the initial upheaval. I hated everything about commuting to begin with: the cost, the time, the “isolation,” the potential detrimental effect it could perhaps-maybe-possibly have on my study. But again, the change would never have been seamless (me being me). So commuting wouldn’t have been all that ugly if I’d just pulled myself together (real talk). Though, you should know, there is the bad. And I’m being entirely pragmatic here.
Cost, time, inconvenience, missing out on that elusive and oh-so-necessary “student experience”, and the dreaded rail replacement bus. You’ll have to deal with all of this shit at some point or another. You need to decide, from the word go, what it is you want out of university. I’m hoping you want a degree—that’s the minimum. But what else do you want? Do you want to be president of three societies and social sec of five more? Do you want to party every weekend and sleep until the evening? These things matter because, chances are, commuting is going to take up a lot of your time and energy. And, unless you’re really skilled at juggling multiple extra-curriculars and your train service is really really good (hint: they never are), you will struggle. That’s not to say that you can’t get involved, a few choice societies and the occasional party, you’ll just need to be a bit more committed. And that goes for your degree too. There’s no rolling out of bed at eleven with some unnamed sticky substance in your hair. You need to get up and go, and I mean go. Being a commuter is no excuse for poor attendance and punctuality. You can expect long days, early mornings, and a crowded five o’clock bus. You’ll need the ugliest bag ever; because we all know that only the ugliest bags can carry a laptop, four novels, a flask, folders, a pad of paper, a water bottle, lunch (the list goes on).
But I’m not actually half as salty as I sound. How bad “bad” actually is depends entirely on your outlook. That is to say, there is hope. It goes without saying that financially, I am far better off. Yes, despite that 2.5% nationwide raise of train fare and that little itty sum of rent on the side. Because believe it or not, train fare and mum-rent combined is still a lot cheaper than real-world rent, bills, and food / Pepsi cost. I’m earning and saving. But Anna, you cry, couldn’t you earn and save in Norwich? Only if I got a job there, which yes works in theory, but I actually have a cat and a man I want to see more than once a semester thank you.
I’m also much happier. I have a wonderful life-degree balance which I found weighted very much towards the latter in the second semester of first year (and it drove me half mad—ask my flatmate). My social life is different, but not half bad. I don’t “club,” but I can’t say I ever really did. I visit houses, have a lot of lunches, dinners, and sleepovers. Which suits me just fine. I spend an inordinate amount of time in the library, and as might be expected, on the train.I am therefore usually ahead (because what can you do on a train when your data keeps dropping out anyway?). And my grades aren’t too shabby, thank you very much.
My conclusion? Halls were a great experience, and I’m glad I spent my first year being somewhere near something like a proper student. But commuting is viable, especially for second and third years. Long story short: consider the above and do what you think is best. Check the frequency and cost of your transport, trial it during peak time, and love your degree enough to keep on keeping on. And if you come around to my way of thinking? Get a backpack you can trust, a power bank, and headphones. You’ll be on your way. Quite literally.