Being a Commuter Student is a Challenge

By Anjelica Enaje on June 26, 2013
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CUNY Hunter College, New York, N.Y.
Hometown: Ramapo, N.Y.

Before I knew about the stress of Metrocards, crowded subways, and finding affordable cafés to eat in, I used to think that New York City was a grandiose sanctuary for aspiring artists and writers such as myself.

The metropolis produced noteworthy literary figures such as Frank O’Hara, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edith Wharton (to name a few). The thought of becoming a New York-based writer shaped my decision to go to college in Manhattan. I would not have thought that the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for,” could apply to my situation. Stories about commuter students—the ones who do not live in dormitories— rarely surface in college discussions and testimonies. And that was one problem I had when narrowing down my options for the best post-secondary path: If I don’t want to live in a dorm, where else can I live that is close to campus?

Ambition drove decision
Back in 11th grade, I made up my mind to attend college in the city because of the “artist ambition.” I discussed it with my parents, and we decided that I would live in an apartment instead of a college dorm. I chose CUNY Hunter College in the Upper East Side. The area is very metropolitan, the epitome of New York City’s grandeur. I was looking forward to going to school in such a fancy-looking area, but there was one detail I overlooked: how to get there.

To make a long story short, we were unable to get an apartment during my first year. This meant settling for a two-hour commute from my suburban home to the city college, and back again. My daily routine included waking up at 5 a.m., driving through a bridge over the Hudson River and the New York State thruway, and taking two subway trains to get to campus by 8 a.m. for a 9:45 class. My mother would drive me to the city, whether or not she had to work (she’s a nurse at a hospital in upper Manhattan), so I adjusted my schedule to coincide with hers. We would arrive home by 8 p.m., and I would eat dinner and do homework until late at night; the maximum hours of sleep I had each night was four.

Experience teaches persistence
Yes, this was a dreadful situation. And yes, I questioned myself numerous times about my decision to go to college in the city. But do I regret it? No.

A Roman poet named Ovid once said, “Be patient and tough. Someday this pain will be useful to you.” If this experience has taught me anything, it is that one should keep persisting. It took a long while for me to adjust to commuting (I still don’t like it), but I know this will be temporary.

Also, the commute has not affected my academic performance: I read my assignments while riding the subway and during breaks in between classes. By the end of my freshman year, I had a 3.6 GPA, a spot on the Dean’s List, and a full-tuition scholarship. And I’ve been writing about my experiences through short stories, poems, and on my “city adventures/college” blog.

You would think that planning for college is easy, but once you begin to live the college life, there will be surprises. Always be prepared for good and bad things to happen. It may be scary, but it’s worth learning from what you experience.


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Anjelica Enaje

Anjelica Enaje

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