Opinion: College & Commuting

By Dara Boyle

College, a time in a young person’s life when they embark on a profound journey of growth and self-discovery… or a two-hour journey on crammed public transport, twice a day.

With Dublin’s infamous rent prices, large numbers of students find themselves unable to take the step of moving out and finding somewhere to live that’s closer to their college.  Thousands of students make the daily trek from Dublin’s bordering counties, and sometimes even further afield.

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(Source: Wikipedia)

According to data from the 2011 census, 15,966 students were travelling for between 45 and 50 minutes to get to college each day.  Some 18,711 were undertaking a journey that took between an hour and 90 minutes, and over 8,500 were making trips of more than an hour and a half.

I am a student who travels to the city centre from Navan and home again each day. This is by no means the longest commute faced by any student in the country, but it still entails a bus trip of around an hour and 15 minutes in light traffic, and up to two hours in rush hour conditions.  Some days I spend longer on the bus than in lectures.

Between getting up early, waiting in the cold for public transport and missing out on a lot of the social activities that make up so much of the classic college experience, it would appear that commuting is a lifestyle of many downsides and very few upsides.  However, there is nothing to be gained from moaning, and you know what they say – every cloud, and all the rest of it.

Commuting is cheaper than living away from home.  In this year’s ‘Cost of Living Guide’, DIT have provided an estimate of a student’s monthly expenses.  It takes into account a number of possible expenses, including estimated rent and utility bills as well as travel, food and social life-related expenses, among others.  Monthly costs for a student living away from home come to a total of €1,222.  By contrast, expenses for a student living at home add up to €766.

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(Source: Dara Boyle)

Data from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) presents similar figures. According to these estimates, students living away from home can expect to fork out €1,048 each month, while those travelling from home are spending a comparatively small €530.

Having less financial worries means, in turn, that you may not have to spend as much of your time outside of college working. This can leave you with more time to spend on whatever non-college-related activities you enjoy.  More importantly, however – at least in the context of this conversation – it can mean more time to study and work on assignments, leading to a less stressful, hectic college experience.

It can sometimes seem that all those hours spent trundling across the country on your way to college and home again are effectively lost.  It’s tempting to while away this time listening to music, staring out the window, and reloading your Facebook feed a thousand times.

However, these monotonous journeys could be seen as hundreds of combined hours of potentially productive time.  During your commute, you are stuck in your seat for the duration of the journey, so you might decide to study for an upcoming exam, make a dent in an assignment, or tackle that dull book you borrowed from the college library and haven’t read yet.

Sure, there are more comfortable environments to study in than jammed against the window of a bus or train carriage full of crying babies and people shouting into phones, but you may find it easier to focus here than somewhere with alternative things to do.

Another, perhaps ironic, result of living at home is that it can have a positive effect on attendance. Even as an adult, a certain level of accountability comes with living in your parent’s house, and having them constantly questioning why you’re at home so much can push you to get out of bed and head into college on days when you may otherwise have decided that whatever lecture you have that morning wasn’t going to have much of an effect on your degree.

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(Source: Geograph.org.uk)

Also, the fact that you’ve committed to the daily slog of travelling a long distance, can act as a motivator when the time comes to put your head down and get some work done. There is a sense of satisfaction to be gained from knowing you covered all those miles for a reason.

Living a long way from college tends to mean less adventurous nights out, meaning you will be in better shape in the mornings, and will be able to get up and out without feeling like you’ve just been exhumed from your grave and dumped on the bus.

Finally, having a long journey to make forces you into the habit of getting up early.  As the saying goes – ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.’ Sadly, commuting to college doesn’t seem to have endowed me with any of these three qualities, but there is certainly something to be said for developing the discipline to get out of bed on a pitch dark, cold winter morning.

Happy travels.

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