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Surviving as a Long-Distance Commuter in College

Updated on July 10, 2016

~Oops, where's my cell phone?

Of course, I have to give a personal anecdote. This Hub will be complete without it. So... I think it was during the spring semester (2010) that I had a rough start to the morning and got to school to discover that I had forgotten my cell phone at home. Can you imagine my panic? Here I am, an hour from home, I barely know anyone (because as a commuter I don't make many friends) and I don't know how I'm getting home because I cannot contact my mother.

Oh, and not to mention, I didn't have enough fare for the bus. Well! After a few classes, my panic subsided and I had a revelation. Thank God for Facebook! During lunch, I got to the computer lab, hopped online and sent a Facebook message to my mother. To make a long story short, my mother picked me up that day and I had an extremely boring day without the use of my cell phone. But on the bright side, I had no distractions during class.

There's No Room For Forgetfulness

The first year of college is not just tough for residents of the college, but also for commuters. I can't say it's even harder to be a commuter because, I've never been a resident so I don't know the other side. However, it is tough to be a commuter. There's no heading back to the dorms for a forgotten book, heading back to your room for a change of clothes or left-behind money.

As a commuter, when you're at school, you're at school and there's nothing you can do about the forgotten items at home. That goes double for being a commuter from somewhere that's an hour or more away from the college.

You dare not forget your textbook or your money at home as a commuter. Otherwise, you're doomed. You better check the weather forecast before leaving your home in the morning because if the rain comes and you have no umbrella or no jacket, then you're drenched for the rest of the day. Oh and as a commuter, forget about wearing stylish shoes, flip-flops or sandals. It's smartest to wear sneakers (or boots in the winter) because it's safest for unpredictable weather and travelling.

Make a Checklist

A good idea for any college student is to make a checklist of all the things that you will need for the day. From the text books, pens and pencils and even to hygienic essentials. A commuter should carry basic hygienic tools to school with them. This includes toothpaste and a toothbrush, a washcloth or hand towel, hand sanitizer (one of my best friends), hand lotion, a comb and brush (and female products if you're a female, obviously). A first aid kit may also come in handy.

For a commuter, you should also carry extra clothes - or at least underwear - extra socks, emergency money and never leave the house without your cell phone like I did.

Make sure you have all the books you will need for your classes that day. We probably all know how disastrous that can be.

Travelling Accessories

I say, you can always tell a commuter apart from a college resident by the bag they carry around campus. I was never ashame to carry around my big ol' bookbag on my back. It was sturdy and dependable. Be sure to carry a bag that can handle a lot of books. Some bags are pretty and all, but can they handle the weight?

A sports backpack or a heavy duty multi-purpose backpack won't let you down, as they're designed to handle a lot of weight and pressure.

Which brings me to another point: a bag on wheels is a great idea. I have not yet found the perfect, affordable bag on wheels but I hope I will. This is essential if you take a lot of classes like I do. For days that you have a light schedule, a trendy little over-the-shoulder bag will do the trick.

Another accessory that I've found to be very useful is a change canister or change purse. That's for the purpose of keeping all your loose coins when you're taking public transportation. For all those who lack your own transportation as I do, make sure you always have a lot of quarters and even dollars for buses and trains.

As mentioned before, sneakers and boots are ideal for walking around campus all day and for walking to the bus stop or train station. Don't be caught with achy or wet feet just because you want to be fashionable. I take comfort over fashion any time.

If you want to take your laptop to school with you, make sure you have a very secure and well-protected case. I'm always nervous about travelling around with my laptop but my bookbag is equipped with section specially made for my laptop. However, a separate case may be better (since I tend to forget my laptop is in my bookbag and then drop my bookbag beside my desk).

Carry an umbrella to school if there's any chance of rain, any chance at all. If the whether man says a 10% chance, I say carry an umbrella. If you don't want to carry an umbrella, then at least carry a hooded jacket, preferably one that's moisture-resistant, not a sweater that can be easily soaked through.

For those who want to save some money by carrying your own lunch to school, then you should probably purchase a lunch bag. Sometimes I prefer to stick my lunch into the front pocket of my book bag, just to avoid carrying around too many bags.

In the summertime or any hot season (depending on where you are) it's always a good idea to carry a water bottle that can attach to your backpack for easy access. Walking can really make you thirsty. In the winter, remember to bundle up. Carry gloves - preferably ones in which the fingers of the glove can detach, so handling money for travel fees is easier. Also be sure to wear a hat, scarf and boots.

Newark Penn Station (
Newark Penn Station (

Make Public Transport Your Best Friend

If you don't have a car like me, then there's no sense in resisting public transport. The bus and train will soon become your closest companion. Learn and memorize your bus and train schedule. You should also be familiar with the areas in the environs of your campus.

Again, I must add a personal anecdote.

The first time I ever took the bus, I decided to take the 29 (no, the number is not important but I thought I'd mention it anyway). The 29 is just right outside of my campus, a simple walk downhill. The 29 goes from Caldwell, NJ to Newark, NJ, where I'd have to catch another bus, the 59, to another part of NJ (my home). Then I'd have to walk home.

My mother told me that I could just walk a few blocks down to the 71 bus that will take me to Newark Penn Station (where I can take the train home) but of course we children always think we know better than our parents.

So, stubborn me took the 29 to Newark where I was in an intimidatingly noisy and over-rushed crowd of people. I waited about an hour for the 59, which is apparently always late and when it finally came, I found out several stops later that it was not going to my hometown. Well, you can imagine my alarm right? The bus driver felt sorry for the poor, bus-ignorant 17-year-old and started telling me all where he could stop and transfer me to another 59. He told me that he would be stopping in another town that I was semi-familiar with but it was still pretty far from my house.

Of course I called up dear mother, who didn't say "I told you so." Instead, she told me to walk to a bus stop in the town I was familiar with and await another 59. Well, that was another hour late and when the second 59 finally got here, it was full.

I held on to the railing in the bus until there was an empty seat then I endured an extremely slow ride home with a crowd of annoying teenagers who couldn't shut up. The profanity and the overall misconduct was appalling. I can't even describe it to you. Some girl was arguing with the bus driver and swearing at him like nobody's business. It was ridiculous! I couldn't take it anymore. When I recognised the area I was in (my hometown), I pressed the bell and literally ran out of the bus.

Then there was a 45-minute walk home. So to summarize my trip in a few words: Worst 4 hours of my life! From that day on, I took the 71 to the train station and had a nice, relaxing train ride home.

My Word to Commuters

The moral of my story is, don't be afraid to be open minded to new things such as public transport. Be prepared for anything, expect the unexpected and keep being optimistic. Carry some entertainment such as an iPod, a portable video game or a book (or notebook and pen like I carry) so that when you're travelling home, you are sure to stay awake. Travelling home via bus and train also gives you time to do some homework and studying so it's not all that horrible. Hang in there commuters!

I hope this Hub has helped you or at least was interesting. Thanks for reading!


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    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Oh my friend goes to Howard in D.C. She's usually scared to walk the streets... But isn't it amazing how things change over the years?

      Thank you for the well wishes and the blessing!

    • CMCastro profile image

      Christina M. Castro 

      8 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

      When I learned how to commute in D.C. in my college years, the metro subway was just built new and seemed adventurous. Then when visiting my daughter at college in the same town, we had to walk the same locations and ride the same metro lines I did. I noticed that the transportation and the streets were more congested in the present time compared to my "college" days. You have done a very good job with giving pointers for those who are planning to be in a new town for school, and we all learn from our mistakes or forgetful times. Again I wish you a terrific college year, and may you travel at ease. May the angels of the Lord to be encamped around about you each time you step off that curbside. Peace.:o)

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Oh thanks Morgan. Good luck with the commute!

    • Morgan F profile image

      Morgan F 

      8 years ago from USA

      Great hub! I'll have about a forty minute commute to college soon so I totally know what you mean about forgetting books, wallets etc.

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Thanks, Ms. Audrey! Yeah, I'm glad you read this after our conversation. Haha. Perfect timing.

      Oh my goodness, walking at 5 AM through Seattle? How fun! :/ At least she survived it.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Super hub, Kim - goes along with our 'conversations' today back and forth! It is a crazy thing to have to do. My daughter while going to the Seattle Art Institute had to walk at 5:00 a.m. or so through the streets of Seattle from her apartment (they had no live-in dorms) to the school. We were a nervous wreck worrying over her. There were no direct routes - later she was able to commute on public transportation and then we got her a car so things were better but hard thing to do to get from here to there.

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Hey! What are you doing online? Haha. Don't answer that. Learning places IS cool. Thanks dear 'marvalous' one.

    • marvalousnj profile image


      8 years ago from Central Jersey USA

      Informative hub Kalto. All the best with your commuting in the future. Oh another good thing about commuting is that you learn places...that's cool!

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Mutiny: wifi hot spots? Really? I wonder if there are any on my commute route. That's cool. Thanks for the comment.

      LeanMan: you're so right about IF you get a seat. Haha. That's the downside of commuting.

    • LeanMan profile image


      8 years ago from At the Gemba

      I can see that the commute on public transport would be a great opportunity to do that last minute homework..

      If you can find a seat!!

    • Mutiny92 profile image


      8 years ago from Arlington, VA

      I agree. Public transportation is great! Many of them now are wi-fi hot points and students can get homework done during the commute!


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