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Growing up in Sugar Land, Texas, almost everyone I personally knew graduating from high school and going to UH, chose to commute. So naturally, when I decided I was going to commute to this campus, I thought I was making the right decision.

Sugar Land is about 40 to 50 minutes away from the University – without traffic. With traffic, it’s about an hour and a half on a good day. I didn’t know this when I decided to be a commuter, and it was a harsh reality coming to terms with it.

My first semester freshman year, I would come home crying to my mom after sitting in my car, who I named Ruksana, for 45 minutes on I-610. I’d scream, “THAT’S IT, I’M MOVING ONTO THIS CAMPUS, EVEN IF IT’S IN MOODY TOWERS.”

Staying on campus till 7 or 8 p.m. waiting for traffic to die down felt daunting. On occasion, I would forgo sitting in traffic for sitting in the library’s little study carrels to watch bad reality TV.
But come my second semester of freshman year, when I was offered an internship at a non-profit, I started to see the value of this commuter lifestyle.

Instead of braving the traffic during the morning and evening rush hours, I would make my way to my internship in the morning, and then take my classes in the evening. I was able to pack my schedule in a way that I didn’t have to sit through traffic for 25 percent of my day, and I loved it.

I would use the extra time on hand between my morning internship and evening classes to explore what Houston had to offer. I got to stop by museums on student discount days, and check out coffee shops or restaurants I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Houston is not a walkable city, it’s a city made for drivers, and going about my college experience in this way has helped me learn how to make the most of that.

Being a commuter has also helped me build my relationship with my mom. My mother and I had our differences in high school, constantly fighting about my attitude and stubbornness.

Commuting meant that I was gone for most of the day either working or in class. But when I came home from school, my mom would likely be watching some sort of Pakistani show and I would sit there with her, watching along and telling her about my day.

That’s an experience I can’t exchange for the world. It’s made us closer than ever before, making us more honest, open and vulnerable with each other.

Ruksana is beautiful, but she’s a beat up Toyota Camry that needs an oil change ASAP. But she’s gotten me around Houston, been the location of some of my most dramatic traffic meltdowns and is the reason I can come home to my mom every day.

I’m very thankful to be a commuter now, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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