When it comes to a college education, there are certain stereotypes that exist about the college student experience. Large universities often tout those cliches to entice students to live, work, and play all while earning their degree on the same campus.
My first semester at GGC, I had a class at 10 a.m., thinking it gave me ample time to drive from my current residence, which was 20 minutes away from campus, park, and get to class on time if I left the house at 8:30 a.m.
By the time I arrived to campus that day, I wasted what felt like an hour driving around the various lots, trying to figure out which building I needed to be in, which lot was closer, and of course, trying to find a spot. This led me to the 3000 lot, a large, wide open parking lot near the residence halls. It was also a half mile hike to campus.
On that warm August day, I faced the momentary humiliation of showing up to class in a sweat, huffing, and puffing while also shouldering my backpack with my laptop and notebooks.
For a 9 a.m. class, if I want to get a good parking spot — and good means not in the gravel or a mile from my classroom — I have to be on campus no later than 7:30 a.m., though I live only 10 minutes away from campus. So even when I’m planning my classes, I’m usually trying to fit parking time into my time table.
This is the commuter life. Arriving barely on time or far too early, burdened by the supplies for the day, knowing that no relief would come until you finally make your way back to the car, toss in your bag, and turn on the AC.
UGA’s website claims they have over 7,600 resident students in their 22 residence halls. UGA also has on campus family housing, graduate apartments, and townhomes available for rent.
By comparison, inner-city Georgia Tech’s website reports that they offer 40 residence halls, with 98 percent of freshman and 48 percent of all undergraduates choosing to reside on campus.
GGC only offers enough residence space for 1000 students, deeming itself a commuter school by that fact alone. The college hosts some organizations to encourage student life participation, but there are no fraternities or sororities offered.
GGC staff and administrators attempt to encourage students to live on campus or at least actively participate in campus life activities, but the lack of space and accommodations for resident students means that the college is classified as a commuter school, similar to a technical college.
In commuting, students not only face the challenges of transportation, such as buying a car, repairs to that vehicle, and fuel, but they face the challenge of time as well. Time has to be regulated carefully so students can arrive on time for class, activities, meetings, as well as plan for their lives back home, outside of school.
Despite the frustrations, being a commuter student made me feel like an adult for the first time.
For resident students, they’re eased into the “adult” life with closely regulated hours for curfew, room checks for contraband and cleanliness, roommate drama that is almost akin to fighting with siblings back home (save it’s with a stranger), and limited food options since most dorms don’t have a standard kitchen space.
Doesn’t sound much like being your own person to me.
Meanwhile, I live off-campus in a one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend and two cats. He works full time, while I attend to classes and activities all day. At different times during my college career, I’ve also had the added fun of juggling a part-time job as well, needing to drive my way from campus to work to home day after day.
Even if I feel like I’m living out of my car at times, living off-campus still begets me more freedom than my residence counterparts can enjoy. I can drink, since I’m of legal age, and it’s my home. I can have my pet cats, I have access to a washer and dryer inside my pantry as well as a full kitchen. Aside from avoiding making a total wreck of my rented living space, I live by my own rules.
Despite the weird scheduling, the driving, the parking, the day to day grind, I have more freedom than most students, able to grow as an adult and actually feel prepared for life outside of college. Sometimes I’m not sure dorm dwellers could say the same.