“With my 5 year old brother here at home it would have broken my heart to go somewhere far away. So my advice is don’t feel pressured into leaving home if you aren’t ready!”

It was a time when everyone seemed to be leaving home and going out into the world all alone. Everyone except me. There are definitely both advantages and annoyances when it comes to staying at home, but I know now that I’m happy with my choice. Using some of my own experiences, I’ve thought of some tips for new commuters. Keep your head up – staying at home really isn’t as bad as you think.

For someone who had only been on a train maybe once or twice before coming to uni, the idea of commuting sounded like a nightmare. I had only heard bad things from everyone– the hour-long delays, the sticky crowds and no seats, and the danger of missing your stop. I get pretty anxious about being late, and I hate crowds, so it really was not something I thought I’d ever enjoy. The thing is with the trains, it’s different every day. There’s different faces, although I’ve come to realise there’s a lot of people that I see all the time. Whether I’m taking the journey in almost complete darkness (you have to love those 9am lectures), or in the blinding sunlight, I notice new things all the time. For example, on my train from Redhill to Guildford, there’s this one place where I see an abandoned sink. Why is it there? A question to be asked.

My secondary school was ten minutes away from my house, and I still really miss that – being able to go home and eat lunch or pick up things I had forgotten was so useful. But you can’t always be that lucky, I’m glad that I now have the experience to get on a train and go to wherever I need to be. Most days, I even enjoy the journey. With my overactive imagination, I usually throw my brain joyous ‘thought parties’ trying to imagine where people are going, and scheduling always does more good than harm surely… It’s wonderfully serene for the mind to have a bit of downtime on the rides back.

Time for a pro-tip: whilst it’s good to just relax on the journey, it’s also a really productive idea to do a bit of work on the train. If you’re fortunate enough to find a seat, it’s easy to do some reading or something similar whilst you’re travelling. Just wait till you know your route pretty well first. Even in my second year, I still feel like one day I might actually miss my stop.

Although I get home feeling tired, and it does of course cost quite a bit to commute, I think it’s a better deal for me than living on campus. Travel costs may be high but they definitely aren’t as much as it would be if I was renting somewhere closer. Living costs are lower too – I don’t have to go grocery shopping, I get food here at home, and there’s that perk of having free well-functioning internet. For me, I love being at home – staying in my own bed, seeing my family, and just being in my own environment. I never had to deal with saying goodbye to everything I knew to go off to some strange place where I knew no-one.

That’s not the same for everyone. Most of my old school friends couldn’t wait to escape their households and get as far away as possible. A lot of them loved making new friends and taking responsibility for themselves. But that just didn’t work for me. Something very important here; it’s not about what other people are doing, it’s about what’s right for you. I don’t live that far away from university, so I had that option to stay. With my 5 year old brother here at home it would have broken my heart to go somewhere far away. So my advice is don’t feel pressured into leaving home if you aren’t ready!

Making friends was something I had to do, living on campus or not. But it was so much harder to do because everyone else seemed to know each other. A lot of them were living together, or at least near each other. Add in the factor of not going to any social events and not being able to join any societies and you can see that I didn’t have any way in. There were societies that I wanted to join, but couldn’t because they all started too late. I would have been going home at midnight, and that did not sound appealing, not even for the Harry Potter society being an avid HP fan. If you are commuting, I’d encourage you to find at least one thing you can do in university that’s not a part of your course. For me, that was doing a Spanish class from 4-6. It was difficult, but I got to meet new people and learn some new things -I’m still not fluent. But I want to get there one day.

As for making friends within my course, it was helpful to find out who else was commuting. I met two great people who take the same train as me, and one whom I’ve never met before who lives just down my road! That means that I now have someone to walk with and talk to on those tiring rides home. Another piece of advice, just because you aren’t brave enough to just go and talk to people doesn’t mean you won’t make friends. I wore a band hoodie to university one day and met someone who got the fairly obscure reference I was making. We later found out we had an absurd amount of things in common. Sometimes it’s best to just be yourself and see who finds you!

My last point is a very important one; 9am’s. As I said, it is an absolute nuisance to commuters but no matter what you do, it is inevitable to somehow get caught up in a delay at one point. It happens. Simply skipping every early lecture you have isn’t exactly an option, and you definitely don’t want to have to sprint into class (it’s really embarrassing, trust me.) If you are already an anxious person, the best thing to do is to message someone in your class who can tell the lecturer you’re going to be late. When I’m really panicking I just email the lecturer themselves. They are always understanding about it, as impersonal they may seem at first, and I’ve had never had one yell at me for being late – well, not yet anyway.

Finally, I’d like to the last tip I can give all you commuters out there –mind the gap. Being at university and being at school or college are two very different things, and sometimes it can be hard to discipline yourself to do the work you have to do when you could just do what you want at home. As long as you’re committed to yourself, and to what you need to do, you’re going to be okay.

 Text by Jess Madanayake, illustration by Montserrat Fernandez