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Friday, May 24, 2024

What is it like to be a commuter at UC Davis?

Students share their experiences as commuters


By SABRINA FIGUEROA — features@theaggie.org 


Running late due to packed parking garages and sleeping in your car during gaps in your schedule are just some of the many experiences in commuter culture. 

On an average weekday, 30% of UC Davis commuters drive, 19% ride the bus and 1% ride the Amtrak, according to a survey conducted by UC Davis. The commuter population is bigger than most would think, as 85% of people who attend, work or visit the university travel from somewhere off-campus.

Commuting may be a viable or efficient option for those who live close to campus — such as in surrounding cities like Sacramento or Woodland — and don’t want to fully move to the city of Davis. Or, it can simply be more affordable for students and faculty compared to living in on-campus housing or housing in the area. 

Braden Lee, a second-year mechanical engineering major, said that the major benefit of commuting comes from affordability. 

“I lived in Davis for my first year, and I haven’t really considered it again afterwards,” Lee said. “A pro of commuting to Davis is that living expenses are much cheaper than if you were to live in town. But the bad thing about that is that it takes longer to come in and out of campus.” 

As more people use their cars to get to school, the traffic in the area increases, potentially causing students to run late to class or even cost them their precious gas — which is not only expensive in California but also hurts the pockets of broke college students. 

Commuters tend to have to plan their schedules accordingly and ahead of time in order to keep themselves on track, according to  third-year biochemistry and molecular biology major Cynthia Ayala. 

“I have to plan out my schedule ahead of time,” Ayala said. “Say I have a class at like 4 p.m., I have to get ready at 2 p.m. to leave by 3 p.m., just in case there’s traffic or I need to find the hall or something. It’s an even bigger hassle when a class is at 8 a.m. and you have no other option.” 

Apart from the scheduling situation, commuters face a more serious problem in the potential for feelings of isolation from other students and a lack of school spirit. In other words, sometimes commuting takes away from the average “college experience that grants some reinvention, social life and freedom,” according to David Tzall, a licensed psychologist, in an interview with Her Campus.

“Building a social network and feeling connected to the college community can be more challenging [for commuter students] because they don’t live in the same space with their friends,” Tzall said. 

Tzall also noted that commuter students can experience mental health issues because of their off-campus status. 

“[Commuting students’ mental health] can certainly be impacted in a different way [than non-commuters’], but it can still be impacted nonetheless,” Tzall said. “A commuter student might feel more disengaged or isolated compared to those living on campus.”

Imran recalled how she feels excluded living off-campus. 

“Times where I don’t feel included are just in general,” Imran said. “A lot of people made friends in their dorms and whatnot, and I feel like I missed the opportunity entirely; that part was easy to see during [freshman] orientation especially.” 

Lee described how living off-campus has impacted his time at UC Davis.  

“It’s hard to make new friends,” Lee said. “Many of the friends I have already made were because of the time I lived on campus my freshman year. I usually feel included in the student environment the most when I participate in clubs. That’s the only way I’ve been able to make new friends.” 

A big part of commuting from off-campus or outside of Davis is also the fact that disconnection from students means feeling like you’re in isolation, according to Ayala.

“Honestly, I spend the majority of my time by myself, which isn’t necessarily bad because a lot of people struggle to enjoy their own company, and it was definitely something I had to learn how to do, but it still gets super lonely,” Ayala said. “It’s scary to think that my college years will be spent mostly alone, but sometimes you just have to make that sacrifice to get an expensive education.” 

Imran shared that the aspect of feeling disconnected and isolated from her UC Davis peers impacts the way she tries to get involved on campus and make long-lasting friendships. 

“As a commuter, I definitely feel like I need to overcompensate when it comes to being friendly at events and making an effort to talk or join leadership programs or clubs,” Imran said.

Although commuting can have both positive and negative effects on the individual, these students can always find ways to feel less isolated. 

“I think it’s still so important to not get discouraged or reject people who might want to be friends with you during classes. Basically, don’t be bitter,” Ayala said. “Join clubs, talk to random people when you feel comfortable, stay on campus for as long as your body allows, be kind and keep an open mind.” 


Written by: Sabrina Figueroa — features@theaggie.org 


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