The life of a first year commuter student is the toughest, most difficult thing imaginable. Now that I have your attention, the first sentence is a major exaggeration. I know it’s an exaggeration because I just completed my first year at Ryerson as a commuter student, and it was definitely not as hard as it seems.
My commute from Mississauga to Downtown Toronto takes me nearly an hour and a half one way, so I can sympathize with all my fellow commuters! Shout out to all my Markham, Scarborough, Oakville, Newmarket, and Brampton commuters (pretty sure I’m forgetting a few places). But before I get sidetracked, the first order of business is to congratulate you if you’ll joining the Ryerson Ramily come September. Coming to Ryerson is a decision you won’t regret and you can take my word for it!
Unlike your other university choices, you won’t be living in residence. You, like me, will be making the dreaded commute to school from wherever you live and that makes you a little nervous. You want the “traditional” university experience while living at home. By “traditional” I mean going to cool parties, school pride at sporting events and finding your place on a large campus. Just because you’re a commuter student doesn’t mean you will have a drastically different university experience than someone who lives on campus.
Come September, a large portion of the experiences you’ll have will depend on you and your efforts. Remember, just because you aren’t living on campus, doesn’t mean you’re any less a part of Ryerson than someone who does!
I created a list of tips I wish someone had let me read before my first year at Ryerson, so hopefully it will help ease the transition as a commuter student from being a high school senior to a university freshman.
1. Get a Locker!
Once you receive your Ryerson email address, get in touch with your Program Administrator to check where students from your faculty are allowed to have lockers. Locker availability varies from program to program so make sure you have the correct building before you claim a locker. Your locker will serve as an on-campus storage unit for everything from books to gym shoes. It is a hassle to shuttle books, notebooks, and whatever else you plan on brining to and from campus. A locker will be a perfect place for you to leave things so you aren’t left with a sore back at the end of the day.
2. Attend Faculty & Program Events
The general assumption is that commuter students have a difficult time getting involved with on-campus activities. I’m here to tell you that is a big fat lie! Just because you aren’t living on campus, doesn’t mean you’re any less a part of the Ryerson Ramily. The best way to get involved with your program is by attending events and workshops hosted by them. The first of these events will be Orientation Week! Throughout Orientation Week you will get a chance to meet people in your program and begin to develop friendships with people you’ll see for the next four years. The more events you attend, the more you can network with students and faculty from your program. If you’re really feeling brave, get in touch with your Program Administrator and enroll your contact information into the faculty volunteer database. Anytime your faculty or program needs volunteers for events, they will get in touch with you.
3. Make Your Commute Time Count
In a perfect world, you will use your commute time to catch up on course readings and look over class notes. Luckily you aren’t living in a perfect world and last night’s Netflix binge might have taken its toll. If you can’t muster up the strength to review notes on your commute to your 8am class, don’t worry. It might be helpful to catch a nap and reenergize before your long lectures. Your travel to campus does not necessarily have to be spent doing readings or sleeping; maybe you want to do some leisure reading or catch up episodes of your favourite show. The point is to give the time a purpose and get something accomplished. Once your semester is in full swing and the workload increases you may not have the time to watch those shows or take those naps. Using your travel time appropriately will help you maintain your sanity through a tough semester.
4. Choose Your Schedule Wisely
Whether you are riding the subway, bus or GO Train to campus, it is going to cost you both time and money. If you only have one tutorial or lab scheduled for the day, contact your Program Administrator and see if you can attend the tutorial or lab on a day you already have classes. Explain to your Program Administrator that you’re a commuter student and traveling to campus for a single hour-long class is demanding. Program Administrators are very understanding and will try their best to move your inconvenient class to another day, but sometimes switching class times is not possible. If you are stuck without options and are forced to commute to campus for an hour-long class, suck it up!
5. Don’t Sit In The Same Spot During Lectures
This tip is not only useful for commuters but first year students in general. One of the drawbacks of being a commuter is that you are dependent on whatever transit system you use to get to campus. Most of the time (with the exception of the TTC) transit systems are dependable and get you where you need to go on time, but sometimes trains are cancelled, busses are postponed and you need a friend’s notes to catch up on lectures. The more friends or acquaintances you know, the better chances you have of catching up on missed notes quickly, and the best way to make friends is to never sit in the same spot twice. Don’t get comfortable sitting in the same spot during lectures because you are most likely going to run into the same people. If you sat in the back last week, move to the front this week and introduce yourself to the people beside you. Not everyone you meet is going to be a friend or even an acquaintance, but the more people you meet the better your chances of making a reliable connection to get lecture notes from.
[Preview Photo by Wylie Poon]