#5 – Take the Initiative.
When Anabela Santos gives campus tours to prospective students and their parents, she is asked why she chose to live on campus. She has to tell them she is a commuter, and a very engaged one at that! Commuters can’t wait for the world to come to them. They need to take the initiative, she says. And she has certainly done that, serving as an orientation leader, as president of the Portuguese club, as a member of the student life committee, and as a student representative for a group involved in the Middle States accreditation process. Serving on the Middle States group was a “cool experience,” allowing her to see how much thought goes into the smallest details. Santos works hard in the combined psychology and applied behavior analysis program, but she says college must also be a place to network and have fun. “It can’t all be about work … (you need) balance.” She advises other commuters that if they don’t see something they want to do, they should take the initiative and bring it up with the Office of Student Engagement. “Knowing your resources makes getting involved a lot easier,” she says.
#4 – Go, See, Do—Get Involved!
Go, see, do—clubs, student government, tutoring, or helping professors. You need to do it all to make connections, says Anthony Guarisco, who graduated in 2015 with an accounting degree and was president of the accounting club. Yes, initially you may feel like there is a “divide” between residents and commuters, but once commuters get involved, that dissipates, he says. “I had a number of fun experiences and met friends I would not have met otherwise by representing the club at Accepted Students Day, club fairs and collaborating for events with other clubs. University life is a much nicer experience when you know people,” he contends. He also tutored students in accounting at the Academic Success Center where he met many students and staff. “It was a lot of fun to help people reach that ‘aha’ moment when they were struggling. It was satisfying to help people succeed when they thought they were not going to do well.”
#3 – Allow the New and Unfamiliar to Enter Your Life.
Some days Brittany McFarlane ’15 stayed on campus from 11 in the morning until 9:30 at night. As a commuter, she went to class, studied in the library and hung out in the Cougar Den. She always arrived 15 minutes early on campus and 10 minutes early for class. She says she focused on getting her homework done at the university so she could enjoy her home as a home. With a busy schedule as an education and English major, she still found time to be involved in activities including going on Midnight Runs to reach out to the homeless in New York City. Caldwell was the “most amazing, uplifting experience,” and she advises other commuters “to allow the new and unfamiliar to enter your life. You have to be willing to step outside your box.” As a commuter, “you figure it out” and it will be good.
#2 – Become an Orientation Leader.
Nicola Armenti ’15 became an orientation leader right after her freshman year. “I’ve always had leadership skills,” and this was just another way to develop those skills. “I met one of my best friends” through orientation, she says. Commuters should try to stay on campus, says Armenti, who received a bachelor’s degree in accounting. “Sit in the Cougar Den, go to the library and see what is going on, and then you will meet people.” Another good way to meet students is through your core classes, she says.
#1 – Simply Show Up.
When we spoke to Shyam Sharma, he could not wait to go to Archery Tag that night at 9:30. “I have no clue what that is. I’ve never tried it. I’m so excited.” The newly elected Student Government Association president says commuters have to try new things and attend events. “Stick around later at night. The more people you know, the better time you have.” He knows commuters who return to their cars to sleep in between classes, but he’s too busy being a part of campus life to sleep. In the SGA and as a student liaison for the Strategic Planning Committee, he meets students, faculty and staff. The bottom line? “Show up. Hang out in the Cougar Den, go to the library, have lunch on campus,” he says. And when you have a late-night event like Archery Tag, he says you can always stay in a friend’s room and get that dorm experience.