Fourth-year English major Seychelle Steiner said she listens to trashy radio shows more than her fellow students might.
Steiner, like many Aggies, doesn’t actually live in the college town of Davis itself. Since her second year in college, Steiner has been commuting daily to classes from her home in Sacramento.
“I have an 8 a.m. discussion, so I wake up at 5:30 in order to get everything ready, get breakfast and leave at 6:45 in the morning,” Steiner said. “ Yes, I’m on campus really early, but I do that in case there is traffic or an accident.”
Since much of Davis is occupied by college students, many community members are not aware of the large student population that does not live locally.
“To me, Sacramento is so close, so it’s not that big of a deal,” Steiner said. “I don’t think there should be any judgment against commuting, it’s more curiosity than animosity. I think people are curious about how it works.”
Students may live outside of Davis for many reasons, including for financial and medical issues, job commitments and personal preferences.
“For me, the main benefit would be financially,” said fourth-year English major Cameron Taylor, who has been commuting since his first year. “Davis is a really expensive city, comparatively speaking.”
Driving from Shingle Springs, near Folsom, Taylor commutes to and from UC Davis about an hour each way, depending on the traffic situation.
“The actual commute is not great and it takes a lot of getting used to. I don’t think people realize how much an hour-long commute twice a day takes out of you,” Taylor said. “During my freshman year, I’d get to school and I would be exhausted, but at this point, it’s a lot better.”
In high school, Taylor’s parents gave him the option of living at home while attending UC Davis for four years, or living locally and going to community college before coming to university.
“I don’t regret it, because getting out of college and looking at my finances, I am so much happier,” Taylor said. “[But] I think I might have missed something about the college experience spending most of my time away.”
Although the definition of a ‘college experience’ varies amongst students, many agree that the social aspect of being at a university constitutes a large part of it.
“I think that your academics and studies are very important in college, but it’s also good to make friends and get involved in student organizations,” said second-year economics major Sharanya Balasubramanian. “Making it a point to get to know people in your classes and people that are interested in the same things that you are interested in is also a big part of college life.”
Balasubramanian recently started commuting from Rancho Cordova this past September. She said the 25-mile distance from campus was a large transition after a year of living in the Segundo residence halls on campus.
“Initially it was very weird to see my friends once a week and not every day. You really have to make an effort to set aside time for friends,” Balasubramanian said. “Before, it wasn’t a conscious effort, it just kind of happened. I make an effort because I don’t want to fall away from college life.”
Without having the freshman residence hall experience, Taylor said he has made friends just by being aware of students around him.
“Being open to interacting with people is important. What really helped me was to be receptive to other people talking to me,” Taylor said. “Try to be spontaneous.”
Steiner said she has found the most success making friends with similar-minded people in her classes.
“I have lots of friends within my major; especially with the small workshops I do in creative writing and honors,” Steiner said. “I’d rather get to know people that way because we have common interests and it kind of works out.”
For Balasubramanian, commuting has made her value her time more, specifically when it comes to managing her academics while maintaining her social life.
“As a commuting student, I do spend a couple hours on the road everyday, so that makes me realize I have less time to do school work,” Balasubramanian said. “Commuting has made me more focused and efficient, and I try to waste not as much time anymore.”
By living away from Davis, many student commuters face less distractions than a college campus generally brings.
“If the student is more focused on having friends, but also really interested in having good grades, commuting is awesome because it forces you to have the time to do that,” Steiner said.
Overall, those who commute feel their reasons for doing it outweigh any negatives.
“I really like having accessibility to school and friends here [and] having my own personal space and having my family close by,” Steiner said. “I don’t have any complaints. If I did, I’d be living in Davis.”