Advice to commuters from commuters

While it’s easy to get trapped in the MoHi bubble, a few souls commute to campus everyday. Whether it’s for convenience, to experience what it’s really like to live in the city, or to avoid that petty bitch from your old LitHum class, there are many advantages to living in a different neighborhood.

But what about the struggles of living off campus? How do you deal with waking up well in advance to make your 10:10 class? Should you still make an effort to go to ~*sique*~ parties in Beta when you live 20 minutes away?

Here are what some of campus’s commuters have to say to anyone living, or considering living, off campus.

Emil Mella, CC’19 commutes from Columbus Circle

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What’s the biggest issue you’ve faced and what’re solutions to solve it?

Biggest issue is time and planning—the thing is to plan out with subway and bus time apps (I prefer Transit, which tracks them in real time) so as to time yourself and minimize delays. My commute can take 40 minutes if I'm not careful and that'll just take an unbearable amount of time every day.

What did you not realize would be a problem, but actually is, and how did you solve it?

I didn't imagine sleeping in would be a problem. I have friends who live on campus, and who have slept in but then rolled out of bed and gotten to class in their PJ's. I don't have that luxury. Sleeping in even a bit beyond my meticulous schedule generally means I'll be late or absent.

Is there any final advice you have for new commuters about hacking the commuting life?

Get used to irregular schedules, and try not to get irritated with putting up with less than your friends. Don't let it harm you, attend every social event as if you live there, and do your best to enjoy the greatest city in the world.

Dori Goodman BC’18 commutes from the West Village

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What did you not realize would be a problem, but actually is, and how did you solve it?

When I made the decision to commute I did not realize that the majority of people actually live on campus and that it can be a little difficult to maintain a social life and get the full campus college life experience when you do not live in the dorms or near campus.

The key is to definitely make an extra effort to see friends when you are on campus and to get involved in some things on campus that will still make you feel apart of the Barnard/Columbia community.

Do you have any final words to the new commuters coming to campus?

While there are pros and cons to commuting, I guess I would say a pro is that you have a nice separation between home and school. It's really nice to be able to leave campus for the day and leave the stress and worries of classes on campus.

Cary Chapman BC’18 commutes from Pleasantville

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What did you not realize would be a problem, but actually is, and how did you solve it?

It can be hard to know what to do about food—do you bring a whole day's worth of sandwiches and power bars? Do you sign up for a meal plan? I ended up bringing lunch most days and grabbing something inexpensive for dinner, or trying to make it home by a reasonable hour to eat there.

The issue with bringing multiple meals a day is it really weighs down your backpack, and if you have to do a fair amount of walking to get to your transportation, that can cause back pain throughout the semester. If you commute, it's essential to get yourself a locker. That way, you don't have to bring everything you need for the entire day around with you all the time, and you can store heavy books and such.

At Barnard, you have to pay a $3 deposit at the beginning of the semester at the Bursar's office in Milbank and bring the receipt to Facilities in Barnard Hall, where they will give you a locker and a combination. At the end of the semester, you can either renew your locker for next time or cancel it and get your $3 deposit back.  

What have you learned from your experience commuting?

It's a great option for some people, and it was what I personally needed to do as a transfer student adjusting to a new school, but depending on how far you live from school, commuting can be challenging and it gives you a very different experience than living on or near campus. I have no regrets about commuting for my first semester, but now I'm glad to be living closer to the school for the coming year!

Huber Gonzalez is Spectrum’s Associate Editor a rising sophomore at Columbia College. You can find him trapped in the MoHi bubble fantasizing about renting an expensive apartment in Brooklyn. Reach him at

Images courtesy of interviewees.


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