Commuter students bring in new perspectives to residential students

Celeaciya Olvera

Every student that graduated from high school has an important question to ask themselves, “What am I going to do now?” For some students, it may be enlisting into the military or finding a job. For a lot of high school graduates, they make the decision to continue with their education. Picking a college can be exciting but also challenging. And depending on what college you choose to go to, you may have to move far away.
Moving onto campus sounds both exciting and scary. Being a commuter college student, I often wonder what it would be like to stay on campus, not having to drive everyday back and forth between school and home. After being in college for almost a year, I have come to realize that commuter students miss out on a lot of college experiences, but they also bring new experiences to residential students.
When welcome week begins, we all get excited because we are getting the chance to meet new people and to experience new things. The first day of welcome week, we were assigned to groups with a leader to get us more comfortable with our new surroundings.
It was especially hard for everyone finishing high school and starting college in a pandemic. Whether we moved hundreds of miles to go to Augustana College or commuting, we had no idea what to expect. However, we were all excited to start something new.
We each had a chance to talk about who we are, where we were from, and what we plan to do during our time in college. Personally, I was timid to say “I grew up in the area.” I listened to the other people in my group discuss where they were from and a majority of them were residential students. Only one other was a fellow commuter. The feeling of jealousy consumed me in that moment for not having the freedom of living on my own.
While residential students have the freedom to be on their own, they also have more opportunities to get involved and to make new friends because they are always at college. It is harder for commuter students to always be involved with activities or groups that take place on campus, which jeopardizes opportunities for making new relationships with people.
Within the first couple weeks of first semester, I found myself deeply engaged with everything happening at college. But six weeks into the semester I saw myself pulling further away from the other students I had met to the point where I would only talk to a few of them either in class or a quick text. It was quite frustrating trying to maintain contact with people.
I had begun to notice by the end of first semester that although commuter students do not have closer connections with other students as opposed to residential students, commuter students bring different characteristics similar to students that moved farther away from their home.  
Having been raised in the Quad Cities I found myself getting asked questions about the area. Whether it was “What’s the area like?”, “Where did you go to high school?”, or “Where is your favorite place to eat and hang out?” I had never taken the time to realize that while I am curious about why people would move to the Quad Cities, they may be wondering why I decided to stay.
Residential students may have an easier time getting to class, may be more comfortable with the college campus and may have closer relationships with people than commuter students. But commuter students will always have that sense of comfort in their community.
I have come to realize that commuter students have a harder time maintaining relationships with other students but they do bring in a new side to residential life. We get the sense of comfort with the friends that we grew up with, we have our family that we are able to see.
Being in college during a pandemic has made me understand that just because commuter students do not move away from home to get the college experience of living on our own, that does not mean we miss out on everything.
I have learned that we all have come from different backgrounds and we all bring different perspectives that I had never thought of. By the end of my college experience, I hope to achieve a better understanding of how different people come together to build relationships.