5 Things I Learned Being a Commuter

My decision to commute as a college student was not easy. There were some pros – like not having to pay for housing; but there were also many cons- like not getting the “full college experience.” I remember thinking I would be the only one in my group of friends who didn’t go away for college. Three years later, I now realize I made the right decision. Along the way, I learned a few things which made being a commuter easier. Here they are:

The Best Time for Class

Traffic is always a hassle for commuters. Students who dorm enjoy the luxury of rolling out of bed and walking to class. If you are a commuter, it’s important to account for the possibility of traffic by waking up and leaving extra early. If you take morning classes, you must leave extremely early or you run the risk of getting stuck in the morning rush hour. On the contrary, if you take evening classes, you’re subject to the late afternoon rush hour. I’ve learned late morning and early afternoon classes are the best for commuters to register for. Yes, it’s in the middle of your day, but most of the time it’s worth avoiding heavy traffic. If your main goal is to avoid rush hour, ideally schedule your classes from 10AM – 2PM.

The Most Convenient Coffee Places

It’s practically a fact; college students live off of caffeine. You never know when you’ll need a little pick-me-up! That’s why it’s necessary to know where all the most accessible coffee stops are along your commute. It’s also vital they aren’t too far off your route or you risk adding more time to your commute and the possibility of traffic building up.

How to Efficiently Use Gas

The greatest downside to commuting is definitely having to pay for gas. Along with gas, potentially putting serious mileage on your car is another negative. The best way to save on gas and keep the miles down is staying on campus between classes. Even if you have a few hours before your next class, don’t travel all the way home and then all the way back. Use the time to get some work done at the library or go hang out with friends. You’ll quickly see staying a few extra hours on campus is worth it.

How to Make the Best/Easiest Schedule

With my senior year approaching this fall, I feel I have mastered schedule making. As a commuter, it’s ideal to be on campus as few days as possible. If you’re going to be successful with this strategy, you really must make those days count. Try scheduling more than one class per day. It’s easier to be on campus two days a week, taking a few classes each day, than being on campus 5 days a week while taking one class a day. You’ll save on both gas and time.

How to Use Your Time in the Car Wisely

You spend a lot of time in the car as a commuter. This may seem like wasted time, but there are several ways to efficiently use this time. Buying books on tape is one of those ways. You can buy whatever you like – fiction, nonfiction, educational or biographical – and listening to it while in the car increases your knowledge and keeps you thinking. Another great option is recording lectures (as long as it’s okayed by the professor) and listening to them on your way home. It’s a great way to pick up on things you missed the first time around. Reviewing lectures in the car is also a great study tool.

No one said commuting life was easy, but with things I learned from experience you can save on gas, make the perfect schedule and optimize your time in the car.


Commute with Kelly: Train Etiquette

I’m all for calling a spade a spade: your commute on the train will never be too exciting.  Exciting train rides just happens in the movies.

Your commute will most likely be a lot less like this:


and a bit more like this:

This is the NJ Transit section of New York Penn Station when all the trains to New Jersey were on stand-by.  Why did this happen?  The backpack I got pressed up against as the herd of cattle was shuffling into gate 3 knew more about why it happened than any of the humans did.  Once on the train, a conductor was explaining the problem.  Too bad the PA system is as clear as New York City air.

When I came upon this crowd after a crazy day at work, I just started laughing.  When problems come up, you really learn a lot about people, by their reactions of course.  I started laughing hysterically.  There’s nothing we can do about it and watching hundreds of people stare at a screen was just something I wasn’t expecting to see that day.

Some guys took the opportunity to talk up some pretty ladies.  Many males and females in their black suits were yelling on the phone.  Some people in their 20s were on their phones discussing plans with their friends.  Some were calm, others panicked.  It was quite a scene.

Aside from events like this, there is a lot to be said about people watching on the train.

When you get on the train, there are two options: sitting in a two-seater or a three-seater.  If you sit in a three-seater, you will never even end up speaking with the person sitting with you.  One person will be sitting by the window and another will the sitting on the aisle.  If the train is super crowded, someone will ask to sit between you and the outside person will get up to let the stranger into the middle seat as they voluntarily wouldn’t want to sit in the middle (unless you’re me and the person sitting next to the window was a really cute boy with blue eyes who gets on the same stop you do…).  Anyway, if you sit in a two-seater, you would think to put your bags on the inside and sit next to the aisle, but that’s not what people do.  They sit and lean up against the window with their things on the outside.  This just doesn’t seem safe so to me, so I always put my messenger bag at my feet.  In a two-person seat, you have a better chance of talking with someone.  I’m not sure why this is, but I have been training for three or four days a week for over a month now and this conclusion has not been disproved once.

It’s funny to see people pair up.  Sometimes it’s a Chinese woman sitting next to a young man in a suit.  Other times, a large man will sit next to a little guy.  It’s funny to watch some people walk past seats and sit next to me as if the blonde girl sitting in front of me wouldn’t be as good of a commuter companion as I would.  I always wonder what goes through people’s heads.

Sometimes though, we all think exactly the same.  No one wants to sit next to the young girl spatting in a Valley girl voice about her day into her phone.

There are people to avoid on the subway too:

Although I haven’t talked to anyone on the subway since I don’t go often and when I do it’s a 10-minute ride, not the 30-40 back and forth from Jersey to the city.

I’ve met tons of people on the NJ Transit train though.  It’s funny how in the morning, the train can be so full of people but so deadly silent; but at the end of the day, New Jerseyans on the train seem to open up.

I’ve met a teacher from Pakistan who was going home to see his family after a day’s work who told me to write a book.  While I was writing an article on the train, I asked that man a question.  I must have been speaking loudly because the young guy in the seat in front of me answered.

I’ve spoken with a marketing man who was talking about his daughter’s hopes of studying abroad.  I told him he hit the jackpot of commuting companions as I told him everything he and his daughter needed to know about studying abroad in our 30 minute ride home.

I met a woman from the Phillapines yesterday who lives in Pennsylvania but was visiting friends in New York.

I talked with a blond girl about being a student and juggling classes and internships.

Some people make it clear they don’t want to be bothered as they stare at the window, sleep, put their headphones in or all of the above.  Others are engrossed in a book, which sometimes leads to a nice little conversation, especially when everyone’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  That is one hard book to read while you sit next to men in suits.

They say how much people feel alone in the mix of people in the city, but the other Tri-State area residents makes a nice little community atmosphere on the train.  It’s definitely something to appreciate after cab drivers and other New Yorkers walking around the city curse you off…