Jennifer Imperial rises before the sun on most days.
The junior nursing student wakes up at 5 a.m., gets ready for class and then drives to her local train station where she fights for a seat on the crowded train. She then rides the Temple shuttle to the Health Sciences Center in hopes of arriving on time for her 8 a.m. class.
After a grueling day of classes Imperial is worn out – her only thought is to get home. Occasionally, if she has a meeting, she will stay on campus even longer, resulting in a 15-hour workday.
Such a heavy workload is common for many commuters – and Temple hosts carloads of them, which is a distinction of the campus. Factors worth bragging about? Many would agree, even the commuters.
Commuters say the lifestyle has both its problems and its advantages, including saving money, staying close with family and avoiding campus food.
But the flip side is a commute dependent on traffic and public transportation, as well as a lack of emotional connection to the campus, and even an inability to make friends can be burdensome.
“I prefer commuting over living on campus,” said Tunisia Meek, a junior English major. “I save a lot of money and don’t have to deal with any roommate problems.”
Besides saving money, living at home can provide better living accommodations.
“I used to live at Oxford Village,” said Derek Hahn, a junior history major. “I would spend about $500 a month for rent; the living space was not worth it. I eventually moved back home.” Hahn added that staying at home with family can be a good experience.
“I found living at home brought me closer to my family,” Hahn said. “Another plus are the good ol’ home cooked meals.”
There can be other stressful elements associated with commuting.
According to www.ecampustours.com, students may have problems “keeping abreast of important information on campus, connecting with other students and finding accommodations on campus in between classes.”
Sonya Clyburn, a psychologist at Tuttleman Counseling Services, said this stress can become harmful.
“Behavioral symptoms, such as avoidance, can influence and be influenced by stress,” Clyburn said. “For example, [students may experience] a loss of interest in fun activities, abuse of alcohol or drugs, and social isolation.”
Along with trying to stay connected and finding places to go during breaks, commuters also face scheduling classes according to rides and maintaining a social life and a job.
With days consumed by the time allotted to transportation, classes and jobs, it can be hard to find time to make friends or be involved in school functions.
“It’s so hard to make friends when you commute,” said Lynette Corsino, a sophomore psychology major. “I plan my day to be in and out. It’s difficult to make many friends or be involved.”
Friends at home and campus can create a schedule-balancing issue that many commuters experience.
“I am from Bensalem and I have friends at home and Temple that will want to hang out at the same time,” Imperial said, adding that she has to figure out how to be at two places at once.
Dealing with traffic or trying to get to public transportation is another downside to commuting that plagues many commuters.
“You have to take in consideration traffic patterns and public transportation schedules. It can be tiring after a while,” Imperial said. “If you have late classes, you worry about taking the train or subway late at night because it’s not safe in this neighborhood. And when I have late meetings, I worry about how I’d get home. Staying over at houses or dorms can be a hassle.”
The time gaps between classes can also leave commuters with awkward time slots and few ways to fill them. There is only so much Web browsing, chatting, lunching and roving around that can be done.
“I hate long breaks. I spend 20 minutes checking my e-mail at the TECH Center, but then I don’t know what to do,” Hahn said. “I can’t focus at school to get work done; I like doing that at home. I usually get sleepy and end up passing out on a couch at the Student Center. Let me tell you, they are not comfortable.”
John DiMino, director of Tuttleman Counseling Services, said it is important for commuters to make an effort to stay involved at any university.
“The key part of a traditional college experience is to feel connected,” DiMino said. “Especially at a large school students have to find out what group they belong in, whether that means in terms of a club or intramural team.”
DiMino said that everyone endures stress, both of the positive and negative kind. Positive stress can motivate or energize, while negative stress can have people feeling depressed, anxious or fearful of social interactions for a long period of time.
For more information on dealing with the stress of commuting, call Tuttleman Counseling Services at (215) 204-7276 or visit www.temple.edu/counseling.
Jessica Marcial can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.