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Photo by: Oscar Herrera

With a university composed of a large commuter population like UH, it can be hard to pinpoint an experience with different threads. However, my story is just one of many when it comes to having your daily routine be at the University, but, coming back to your childhood home by night.

Here is my journey over the years as a commuter navigating the college experience.

Freshman Year

The one thing I remember about my freshman year of college was the fact that I didn’t have a car. It felt like high school except I had to wait until 7 or 8 p.m. to go home and my home was 30 minutes away instead of six.

A lot of my friends were dormers and lived together so I felt left out of the “full college experience.” 

I struggled a lot this year. I had started therapy and medication for my anxiety and depression but I still felt like I was faking it the whole time.

However, the one thing constant in my freshman year was writing for the Opinion section of The Cougar. Every week like clockwork, I wrote about whatever was going on at the time which not only helped with my journalism skills but my sense of purpose as well.

I went by a different name during this year as well and started using they/she pronouns. I was slowly figuring out who I was and what I wanted to do with myself.

Sophomore Year

Two weeks before school started, my dad and I headed into a Carmax dealership and split the cost of the down payment for my car.

This changed everything. 

As a Latina living with her parents about to enter her 20s, independence was a paradox in itself. Sleepovers were forbidden and going out two nights in a row was unheard of. Yet, I was expected to balance work, school and pay any bills relating to adult life.

With my car, however, a switch seemed to have flipped in my parents. In my first semester of sophomore year, I found myself straying off campus to head to coffee shops, restaurants and other fun activities that I wasn’t able to do my first year. In the second semester, I went to New York, Dallas, Austin, Chicago and San Antonio in the span of three months. 

I was coming home right after classes some days or staying until 7 or 8 p.m. but this time it was by choice and I didn’t have to wait on someone else to get through my day.

I had also become the opinion editor of The Cougar which came with a lot of responsibilities and growth.

Junior Year

As I enter my third year of college, I find myself settling more into my commuter life. I’m feeling more like a functional adult than the nervous, unsure 18-year-old I was in my freshman year.

My anxiety and depression haven’t disappeared but I’m able to handle it better and see the fruits of my labor. For example, this year, I became the managing editor of The Cougar. This is something I never thought I’d be able to do.

I still come home to my parents and I might continue to do so for the next few years. I don’t see any issues with it but I know that sooner or later, I’ll have to start pushing boundaries as I want to expand past my parent’s grasp.

Regardless, the life of a commuter comes with a lot of struggles but you’ll create your own rhythm within that life. You can’t pick the cards you’re given in life but you can assign them your own meanings and create something that is unique to you and your experience.

A commuter experience is just as important as “dorm life,” especially at a University where the majority of the population are commuter students.

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